Midweek Movie Review - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

So, the end is finally here. The final Harry Potter film... until Hollywood decides to reboot the franchise or make a Harry Potter: First Class prequel. Anyway, cynicism aside, I’m pleased to report that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a fitting conclusion for the franchise, based of course on JK Rowling’s massively successful novels. I don’t think the film is the best Harry Potter adaptation, but it’s definitely among the better series entries.


I personally believe that watching Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2 back to back would lead to much more balanced and enjoyable viewing experience. This is because while last year’s Part 1 was heavy on character interaction and light on action scenes – in 2 and a half hours Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) managed to find and destroy just one single Horcrux – Part 2 is, for the most part, heavy on action and light on character.

This is a tad disappointing because you can’t help feeling that the action focus has detracted from the final instalment’s emotional impact at times. There is very little breathing space between fights as Harry and co. race to find and dispatch the remaining Horcruxes – magical artefacts ensuring the immortality of dark wizard Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) – before the final, highly destructive battle hits Hogwarts.

Similarly, the film refuses to dwell on the deaths of beloved characters – and there are several in this instalment. With a definite shortage of lingering close-ups, and minimal dialogue for supporting characters, the audience is often denied an opportunity to share in the good guys’ grief. The knock-on effect of this is a kind of apathy for viewers. For example, you don’t feel the full satisfaction of Molly Weasley’s (Julie Walters) big moment of justice – a highlight in the book.


This is not to say that there isn’t a lot of heartstring tugging in Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Snape’s (Alan Rickman) revelation wrings tears from the audience and the character alike, and there’s a wonderfully touching moment where Harry is surrounded by the spirits of all his nurturing parental figures, who offer their love and unconditional support from beyond the grave.

It’s just that Deathly Hallows: Part 2 starts off a bit flat footed before the emotional juices begin flowing. Be warned that this is probably the most serious of the Potter films, with little in the way of humour to lighten the mood. Even Deathly Hallows: Part 1 had the Polyjuice Potion shenanigans in the Ministry of Magic to squeeze out some laughs (my Part 1 review here).

In terms of performances, if Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was essentially a Hermione showcase, Part 2 belongs to Harry, and Radcliffe does some very good work carrying the movie. Matthew Lewis as traditionally timid, incompetent Neville Longbottom also gets his moment to shine. Of course, being the final movie, many famous faces return as Hogwarts teachers and wizarding world figures, and it’s fun to play "Spot the British Star" even if their characters are very much confined to secondary non-speaking roles.


I’d recommend Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 for anyone who has been following the franchise over the past decade – regardless of whether they’ve read the books or not. For the record, one of my non-reading companions regards Deathly Hallows: Part 2 as the best of the Potter flicks because of its large-scale battles (a first for the franchise) and its mature tone, seeing as all quirky elements (e.g. Azkaban's Knight Bus) and cutesy, child-friendly material (Dobby the House-Elf) has been excised.

My final lingering gripe is that Deathly Hallows: Part 2, as the shortest of the Harry Potter movies, could have done with an extra 10 minutes or so of running time. Presumably lost scenes will be restored for DVD, because there are several issues in the theatrical cut that are dealt with so dismissively – Lupin and Tonks’ child, Dumbledore’s troubled family life, the Grey Lady's grief – that they feel pointlessly included if you don't have a reader's knowledge to fill in the plot blanks. And even then, as a Potter fan, these throwaway references are hardly satisfying.

Comments

Telur said…
I have to say I watched it and was very disappointed in the movie. It was just action scene upon action scene. I probably should have done what you mentioned and watched the previous one again right before seeing this one. When some of the characters died I had no time to even feel anything before being thrown back into the next action scene.
Tara said…
Haven't watched it yet. Not exactly running out to see it but as I recall, wasn't the final book like that? Took them forever to find one horcrux and then things just started speeding up? Almost as if her royal hackness realised she was running out of space perhaps?

When I do see it I'll see if you're being too harsh ;) For now though...I don't know if things like Lupin and Tonks' kid matter much, and maybe not even the Grey Lady's little bit, but throwing away the queer old mans story is a bit confusing.
Kate said…
I really enjoyed part 2! I think it's one of the best films! For the most part I found part 1 really, really slow and boring.
MJenks said…
Just from your review, it seems as though it follows the book fairly well. The first half is terribly dragging, but the second half is where all the excitement and magic appears, and even in the story it felt rushed.

I have appreciated how the last two films have had less goofball antics in them and been a touch more serious. This is a "war" we're dealing with here, even if it is fantastical and originally geared toward children.
Pfangirl said…
Thanks for commenting, everyone. I'm looking forward to the day we can watch Part 1 and 2 back to back to balance the final story out. And yup, as Tara and MJenks said, that's more Rowling's fault than the filmmakers.

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