So it all comes to this. 10 years and 8 films. Harry Potter has finally come to an end, the most successful film franchise of all time is hanging up the robes, shelving the spell books and saying goodbye to the array of fans who have stuck with it through thick and thin. Without any doubt, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 has got so much to live up to that the weight of expectation could easily crush it. This is the film that has to round off all the loose storylines and bring a satisfying conclusion to a hungered audience. It also has a brilliant 1st part to live up to.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was a fantastic film and a really interesting development in the Potter franchise. It completely avoided Hogwarts and was filmed in a much more indie spirited manner. So does Part 2 live up to the expectation? Put simply: yes it does but by no means is it perfect. It is a flawed work but there is still so much in it to admire and love.
The film continues where the last part left off, Harry still on the search for Horcruxes with Ron and Hermione in order to destroy Voldemort who now has the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand ever created. The darkness is growing, wizards are dying and the resistance held up by the last members of the Order of the Phoenix is getting weaker as the grip of evil limits communication. At Hogwarts however, Dumbledore’s Army is still keeping strong against the power of Snape (who is now Headmaster of the school), by hiding away a small band of loyal supporters.
Meanwhile, the people against the Dark Lord are quiet, unable to speak out for fear of death as the Death Eaters patrol familiar ground. All this heads to a spectacular attack on Hogwarts as Harry returns to find and destroy the last of the Horcruxes, leading to a showdown against Voldemort whose power is simultaneously growing and weakening. If you don’t comprehend the last paragraph then you shouldn’t be seeing this film. This is the end of the franchise and 2nd part of a larger film, you should not be seeing this film if you have not seen the previous ones as it will make no sense.
Part of the joy of this is that by now, it is entirely dedicated to the fans who have been with the series from the start. It holds no bones by introducing all the characters and long exposition, it gets on with it. I’ve seen a lot of people, especially critics, complain that the film makes no sense and that it is a failure based on the fact it doesn’t set things up for newcomers.
Any comments about it not making sense are invalid and rather ridiculous. The film’s purpose is to finish off a story, not start one up again. With that in mind, as a conclusion to a whole story and the whole legacy of Harry Potter, it is entirely satisfying. It concludes itself succinctly, with one definitive ending and in a decent runtime. It moves at a quick pace and has not an ounce of flab on it. Of course, it has the bits from the book which do detract from the overall action and climatic, but within the film they are interwoven into the drama and allow the narrative to push forward to reach that satisfying finality.
At the film’s beating heart is the balance by the filmmakers to both please the fans and make an exciting ride. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, they have combined both of those needs perfectly, by allowing them to feed into each other.
In the acting department, everyone brings their A-game. This is the first time I haven’t had a problem with Daniel Radcliffe. He does a perfectly decent job here and it’s is best outing yet. In Part 1 he was good but still a little shaky, here he is a lot better and his performance is quite respectable.
For the most part, he is a stoic presence, allowing his face to do most of the acting and not saying much, which is arguably a more difficult task than verbalising it. But then again, Radcliffe has never been brilliant at talking. The rest of the cast are strong as well, including a late strengthening for Neville, who becomes pretty much the hero at the end of the film.
The adults by now really know their characters very well and know exactly what they are doing. Jim Broadbent is there for around a minute of screen time but his presence is definitely felt due to his confidence in the role. The film also gives Alan Rickman a chance to shine. He gets the superb backstory and the opportunity to really layer and deepen his performance. He was always fantastic at that bored drawling voice but the humanity is now there.
Every technical aspect is amazing, this is a stunningly beautiful film. The textural cinematography by Eduardo Serra is gorgeous, keeping the same grim look set up by last two films but using that gloom to create a mood that is just perfect. Alexandre Desplat‘s original score again bests the work done by John Williams but also intelligently interweaves themes and cues from the previous movies. The production design of the destroyed Hogwarts is breathtakingly epic and the CGI is better than ever. One feels that by the time Oscar comes round this may sweep the technical categories.
After having ignored the Potter franchise before for its stellar work now is ideally the time it needs praise. That or some kind of special recognition award as it has been a very important part of cinema. That being said and as said earlier, this isn’t a perfect film. In fact, it’s far from it. There are a couple of glaring errors at work.
Be warned, the next two paragraphs contain spoilers.
For all the spectacle they throw at you over the two hours, they manage to botch the King’s Cross resurrection scene for two reasons. One, they green screen the actors onto a hideous white version of King’s Cross (that actually isn’t King’s Cross, it’s St. Pancras) and it looks supremely tacky and cheap. And two, Dumbledore looks exactly, and I mean exactly, like Gandalf the White. It’s like they aren’t even trying to hide it anymore. Dumbledore appears in a vision to Harry and is dressed entirely in white robes. He is a spitting image of Gandalf.
The epilogue is also just a bit silly, the aged actors look fairly ridiculous with the CGI aging process and it unfortunately just looks a bit naff. The excuse for Ron is simply to give him a serious paunch and more facial hair, while Harry is left with sideburns and a back combed quiff. The worst is what is done to Malfoy, who is simply given a wispy goatee beard and looks like a drug dealer. It is frankly laughable and did reduce a lot of the audience into hysterics. The aforementioned issues are the only two errors but they are fairly glaring errors in key scenes. Whether that is product of rushed time or just not enough ideas I’m not quite certain, but they are flaws none the less.
End of spoilers.
Despite the issues I had, there is still an awful lot to enjoy in seeing the conclusion to such a beloved franchise. Everything is in there you could hope for as a fan. We learn the truth about all the characters and the story is brought to a satisfying conclusion. This 8-film parable of good and evil has finally drawn to a close, a fantastic legacy left behind on the face of history.