Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Review)
Though it tends to focus on action more than characters, there is no denying that the final Harry Potter film is epic, thrilling, and emotional, ending the incredibly popular series with an extremely satisfying bang.
WARNING: This review contains mild spoilers pertaining to the end of the book and movie.
The Harry Potter film series spans ten years and eight films. It’s safe to say that the series, in both books and films, has defined a generation. Series fans remember reading the first book, devouring the second, and standing in line at midnight for the release of each book after. It’s a similar story for the film franchise, which has, before the final film, collectively grossed over two billion dollars total. Harry Potter is a juggernaut of a franchise, but at last, it must come to an end. The final film in the series, and the final chapter of one of the most fully-realized fantasy sagas to be written, is finally here.
Deathly Hallows: Part 2 picks up exactly where Part 1 left off, with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) paying their respects to the house-elf Dobby who died saving the trio. They must continue on with their mission to hunt down and destroy the last of seven Horcruxes, repositories into which Lord Voldemort (a terrifying Ralph Fiennes) has placed parts of his soul in order to be immortal. Voldemort possesses the Elder Wand the world’s most dangerous and powerful wand and the third of the three Deathly Hallows (the Invisibility Cloak that Harry owns, the Resurrection Stone, and the wand), which make the owner of all three the master of death. Time is running out for Harry, Ron, and Hermione, however, as Voldemort and his massive army of Death Eaters are prepared to take hold of Hogwarts School by force, and Voldemort will stop at nothing to kill Harry. Harry is, of course, aware that the only way it can end is with the murder of either himself or Voldemort at the hands of the other.
Most impressive about Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is how well the cast just clicks together. There has been only one significant casting change across the decade that these films have existed, that being Michael Gambon replacing Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore, after the untimely death of Harris after Chamber of Secrets. Everyone else has had ten years and eight films to grow together, and it’s simply stunning how well it works. These actors are their characters. Of the main trio, Emma Watson is still the best as Hermione, but the evolution of all three shows just how much these three have grown. Their chemistry together is nothing short of stellar. The cast across the franchise has always been excellent; a deep pool of talented British thespians give the films a great deal of class. Ralph Fiennes in particular brings a huge amount of menace to Voldemort. Several faces that had been getting reduced screen time in the past couple of films get a bit more this time around, providing closure and one more welcome glimpse of the characters. That said, the real power player of the franchise has always been the unquestionably fantastic Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. Those that have read the books know that this final installment holds a handful of massive revelations for the character. The long-awaited flashback that involves Snape’s true colors deepen and enrich his character magnificently, allowing Rickman to expand his range for the part he was born to play, shedding tears and finally showing vulnerability. It’s a brilliantly emotional scene, and watching Harry and Snape finally connect on this level was both crushing and beautiful. I wish more time had been spent with Snape in this final installment, but what is given is still handled as well as I could have hoped.
Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was a great film, but it was slow at times. Part 2 makes up for it completely, delivering almost nonstop action with only occasional stopping to advance the plot. The entire series has been building up to the final battle of Hogwarts, and David Yates does not disappoint, offering eye-popping CGI creatures, colorful flashes of magic, and massive explosions of fire and rock as the wizarding school gets ravaged by the final battle. This is in itself something of an emotional experience, since Hogwarts almost feels like its own entity; as a place of safety and happiness, watching it get breached as towers crumble and the Quidditch field burns is powerful. The pacing here is quite good, showing different parts of the battle taking place and then stopping for a few minutes to focus on the actual story.
Unfortunately, the movie tends to focus more on delivering a pulse pounding action picture than it does the characters, and some fans might be disappointed that certain characters are glossed over and only given brief glimpses. Clocking in at only 130 minutes (“only”. ha.), Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the shortest film in the series. I would have been fine with an extra 15 or 20 minutes if it meant spending more time with characters that we are likely never to see again. J.K. Rowling has created in her series some of the deepest and most memorable characters in modern literature, and it is part of why her series is as absurdly popular as it is: these are characters that we want to know intimately and spend time with. Occasionally, it feels cheap that this film robs the fans of those opportunities.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, though it skimps on some character points, is still one of the best films in the series. It’s tremendously exciting and is still suitably emotional, containing a finality that resonates through the entire film. At just over two hours, it moves quickly, but I still wish more time had been spent with some characters. It is a small complaint, since the rest of the film is so well-made. It’s a tough farewell here; Harry Potter has been in our lives for more than a decade. This final farewell, despite stumbling a couple of times, is still epic and emotional, and a fine send-off for the Boy Who Lived.
Score: **** (out of 5)
Rated: PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.