REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 [2011]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 130 minutes | Release Date: July 15th, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director(s): David Yates
Writer(s): Steve Kloves / J.K. Rowling (novel)

“His name is Voldemort, Filius. You might as well use it. He’s going to try and kill you either way.”

Every story must come to an end and the saga of Harry Potter and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is no exception. Splitting the final novel of J.K. Rowling’s epic tale of wizardry into two films makes it so the words are given justice and very little is left out, but just as Part 1 lacked a complete arc, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is even less its own entity. To fully appreciate the last chapter, the two pieces must be joined—solitary legs needing the other to stand up straight—and when put together are easily as close to a perfect ending as one could hope.

Director David Yates—the surrogate father of the last four movies, including my favorite (Half-Blood Prince) and most reviled (Order of the Phoenix)—and writer Steve Kloves somehow found a way to give their audience 130-minutes of pure adrenaline that races by from start to finish. Everyone who chided Part 1 as being too much set-up, too much walking in the woods, and too little action should be happy to know that it’s conclusion is one huge climactic event leaving all breathless until the last spell is thrown. After a brief moment to mourn the loss of an old friend, the action starts with a bank heist, spirals through a roller coaster ride at breakneck-speed, continues on into a gigantic war between good and evil, and orchestrates a symphony of bloodshed and broken spells.

There are only three horcruxes left to destroy and the clues are much quicker to be deciphered from the start. The first allows us to watch Helena Bonham Carter’s underappreciated turn as Bellatrix Lestrange take a turn towards childlike innocence—her usual tumultuous insanity a rousing performance, aptly described by some as being akin to Heath Ledger’s unhinged Oscar-winning Joker—the humor of which cuts through the severity of the mission at hand. Filled with multiplication spells manifesting gold chalices without end, betrayal at the hands of goblins, and a soaring dragon ride, you’d be hard-pressed to imagine a more exhilarating search for number two. But Rowling has never been one to disappoint.

So, the second piece left of Tom Riddle’s soul is guessed at with the help of the tome’s most eccentric character, the loopy Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch). Her return is a welcome sight—as is that of countless others before the credits roll, including the almost forgotten Emma Thompson, with only Kenneth Branagh notably absent, the end of his story omitted during the films—and her first and only stand to seriously be heard an example of just how far so many of these children have grown in the face of certain death. Between she and Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), it isn’t simply the Three Musketeers at the front anymore; everyone pulls their weight and without them all would be lost. It is the return of a phenomenon long extinguished in the Potter filmic universe, however, that truly saves the day on this second leg of adventure. The House Ghost of Ravenclaw—Gryffindor’s John Cleese long since written-out—is sought and Kelly Macdonald serves her well.

The third brings us to the absolute end, its discovery and need of annihilation only available once Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) come face-to-face once more, death to one the only means of survival for the other. Everything comes full circle, from the love bond of Lily towards her son, the ability of Harry’s to see into the mind of his enemy, and the discovery of each piece to the Deathly Hallows. It’s a fight that lives up to its billing, the two on opposites sides of a decimated stone walkway, on their knees and emanating powerful streams of magic into a tug of war. And to get there, many must die—familiar faces and those of extras added to enlarge the scope of such a war. People you’ve waited to see fall will do so while others you hoped to see live happily ever after are cut down. What once was a cutesy look at magic has turned dark and gritty, its realism in the face of fantasy becoming its most desirable quality.

With any finale you expect second chances and revelations galore. Draco (Tom Felton) and Narcissa (Helen McCrory) receive one more opportunity for redemption in spite of their cowardly patriarch (Jason Isaacs); Aberforth Dumbledore (I almost talked myself out of thinking it was Ciarán Hinds) arrives to either step from his brother’s shadow or fall deeper within its depths; Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) and Professor Flitwick (Warwick Davis) rise to become the forces for good we always knew they must be capable of; and Severus Snape (Alan Rickman getting his time to shine) is left to prove his allegiance once more. No one escapes the fight and while its carnage does occur on the periphery as Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) race through, the scale of it and the stakes of it and never forgotten. But while Yates may hope to achieve Return of the King type scale—Alexandre Desplat’s sweeping score doing its best—the gravitas never do quite overpower the sense of fun within the danger.

Even though Deathly Hallows: Part 2 won’t be winning any Best Picture awards like Middle Earth, I won’t doubt a nod as far as craft is concerned. Eduardo Serra’s cinematography is again stunning and surprisingly unhindered by the unnecessary 3D conversion—its lack of motion blur and more or less subtlety a welcome sight. One can never deny this series evolved into a sure-handed project of professionalism and entertainment for all ages, despite beginning with a couple ho-hum, by-the-numbers family films. As the children got older and the danger more daunting, the creators never looked away from the inevitable sorrow necessary to cultivate the hope and glory of a wished for victory. Love above all else stayed the course and proved to be a driving force, its existence behind every bond Harry makes and crucial to his confidence and bravery not to run away. It’s the same love that cast and crew gave to make sure their work rose to the occasion and I can see no better way to cap off such a feat than what has been created to once and for all lay the tale of Harry Potter to rest.

[1] (L-R) DANIEL RADCLIFFE as Harry Potter and RALPH FIENNES as Lord Voldemort in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
[2] (L-R) DANIEL RADCLIFFE as Harry Potter, EMMA WATSON as Hermione Granger and RUPERT GRINT as Ron Weasley in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
[3] (L-r) JOSH HERDMAN as Gregory Goyle, TOM FELTON as Draco Malfoy and LOUIS CORDICE as Blaise Zabini in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure ‘HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2,’ a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Jaap Buitendijk.

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