Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)

Directed by David Yates. With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael GambonRalph FiennesAlan RickmanJohn HurtHelena Bonham CarterTom FeltonJason Isaacs (hello!), Maggie SmithJim BroadbentDavid ThewlisRobbie ColtranGary Oldman.

(SOME SPOILERS AHEAD)

Watching this film in a packed theatre with some of the most excited audience I’ve ever had the pleasure to sit with, was as much part of the experience as the film itself. The tension was clearly palpable: cheers,laughter, sniffling and sobs from the crowd seemed to accompany the soundtrack all at the appropriate moments, and yet it was in the most intimate and quiet scenes where you could feel how much the audience was with this film: you could have heard a pin dropped for how quiet everybody was!

For many fans (and let me get this out now: I am one of them), this is much more than just another film in the franchise: it’s the it’s the end of an era, or simply  the end of a journey which lasted for over 10 years (14 if you count the first book, back in 1997).

There are no precedents like this in movie history (the closest thing it can be compared with is the end of a long-running TV series like Friends, for example). There’s a certain poignancy that comes with it, because, as we all know, this is the last one EVER. There will not be any other Harry Potter, no matter what.

The film clearly knows all that and consciously plays to it, tapping into our deepest-self, reminding us about this journey we’ve taken and how we’ve grown up with it. But we are certainly not alone: these films themselves seem to have grown up too: this isn’t your normal dull blockbuster like Transformers, with idiotic one-liner, explosion-galore and music plastered all over (I was actually surprised to see how much restrained the music was on this film, but just carefully used only when it was really needed), this is more of an emotional roller-coaster. It might not be completely appropriate for your average kid (some of the images are pretty strong and after a while I lost the count of how many dead bodies of students I saw…), but if you’ve seen the previous ones, you should be prepared for this too (and if you haven’t, I must ask: what on earth are you doing here?!).

The previously-unknown David Yates has slowly been able to find his own voice with the latest 4 of the 8 instalments, by combining the sense of magic the first 2 films had, the darker tone introduced to us by Afonso Cuaron (with the third episode) but also that more grown-up approach to the story, which has been brewing and growing with each chapter (and book of course).

In fact Yates has also been one of the bravest too, as he has found the courage to actually hack to pieces the overly-written source and actually make a better film (clearly after book 3, no editor would dare to tell JK Rowling to cut anything out). In this last “Deathly Hallow”, he was able to basically stretch the final battle over the course of the whole film, making it seem greater and more epic than it’s ever been in the book (In the end, box office aside, it really did pay off to split the movie in two parts).

Considering the incredible amount of expectations which a film like this can carry and, consequently, the almost impossible task of bringing everything to a close, HP 7.2  does a really good job! Yes, of course there will be some disappointed people, but I think the disappointment will come from the fact that secretly each of us would like this story to go on forever and, no matter what, you can never please everyone.

There are flashbacks and cameos from pretty much every single member of the cast from the previous instalments (I think only Kenneth Branagh was missing), some of whom are unfortunately relegated to just a couple of shots and a single line (there are time where you just wish they had a whole spin-off movie about Snape, as Alan Rickman deserves a lot more screen time). Maggie Smith however manages to make the most of her little screen time and makes up for the fact that she wasn’t around in previous “deathly hallow”. She most definitely steals the show with her “I’ve always wanted to do that spell” and with that smile that carried both pride and embarrassment at the same time, so cute that you just want to hug her and ask her to be your grandmother.

The film is a real feast for the eye. The special effects are the most detailed on any Harry Potter (fair enough it’s been 10 years since the first one!) and actually I have to confess the 3D conversion was probably one of the best one I’ve seen in a while and although it’s not quite the same as actually filming in 3D it makes me rather curious and hopeful for the forthcoming Star Wars saga.

Unfortunately nowadays we are so used to see big battles with thousands of CGI-rendered extras, that focussing on those alone would certainly lead to some disappointment. Once again the film knows this and decides to concentrate more on the emotional aspect of the story. Don’t get me wrong, the big action scenes are there (in fact, the whole film seems a big action scene!), but as a fan it’s the most emotional moments in the film that stick with you: the death of some of the characters, the overdue kiss, the flashback sequence with Snape and most crucially the moment where Harry is ready to go and die and says goodbye to his friends. I must confess that had be too. Credits to that trio of those not-so-kids-anymore (Radcliffe, Watson and Grint) who this time clearly show how much they have matured as actors.

Daniel Radcliffe is at his best here: he has a clear understanding of his character as his face shows not just the loss of innocence but also a deep maturity in the acceptance of his fate. Emma Watsons shines with a freshly newly acquired spontaneity: the moment where she kisses Ron is followed by a smile which feels so real that could almost be mistaken for an outtake. And obviously Rupert Grint who’s always been the best of them all and can now relax in his role of ice-breaker with his funny comments in the most tense situations.

As always, if there are faults in the film they are mainly to do with the original source itself and, in this particular case, with the overly long and convoluted plot. Still to this day I have some problems in telling you what a deathly hallow is what its purpose might be… and I am a fan who has actually read all the books and seen most of the films more than once!! I can only imagine what the average viewer will make of it). At some point I almost had no idea what was going on anymore as horcruxes, crowns, snakes and plot twists all got mixed up in my head. Did it matter? Not really… to a degree.

And yet, even though I knew that the stakes were high and I could follow the rough plot (well, I mean, it’s clear enough: good vs evil), I still couldn’t quite grasp exactly how could Voldemort be killed or how was Harry Potter able come back from the whited-out King’s Cross (In fact that was also the biggest let-down of the book as far as I am concerned: it would have made a lot more sense if Harry had died. What a brave and powerful ending that would have been).

On the whole the film is a success. It’s hard to see how it could have been better: it can be argued that some of that sense of magical wonder that some of the previous instalments had, was probably lost here, as it gave more space to its three main characters. The very final scene was unusually underwhelming for these types of films and is a clear example of that as it decided to concentrate more on the faces of our three main characters rather than letting itself go by showing us perhaps an aerial view of the Hogwarts Express leaving with a possible rousing them from John Williams. And yet, Spielberg did manage to do both things in ET, by giving us the unforgettable image of the spaceship leaving a rainbow-like trail but also finishing on a tight close up of Elliot’s face, thus creating on of the most emotional ending of any fantasy film ever!

But these are just small quibbles: either you go with the film or you don’t and I certainly did.

Considering what a massive commercial machine Warner Bros is we must be so thankful for the way the franchise has been handled (it makes me shiver to think that actually Spielberg wanted to shift it all to America… Thankfully somebody had the courage to tell him off for once). Producer David Heyman is obviously a man of heart, who cares for his fans and set out to make the best films he could ever make, playing on the strengths of its (let’s be honest) not-so-perfect source and in the end making it an even better product.

In the end this film must be judged with that same heart and not so much with the brain, taking in consideration the series as well as this ending.

And you know what? My heart can’t stop saying “I just loved the journey, thank you so much for it”.

8/10

 Read my review of Part one

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19 Responses to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Review

  1. Glenno says:

    Nice one. I’ll be there Tuesday midnight!

  2. Cory says:

    To give you the kings cross explanation. When voldemort took harry’s blood in goblet of fire (that made dumbledore have a look of triump in his eyes when harry told him in book 4 of this), voldemort tied his and harry’s lives closer together. Harry was, of course, a vessel that, unknowing to voldemort, and to harry himself, contained a fragment of voldemort’s soul, so as long as that fragment existed within harry, he could not die. Voldemort, on the other hand, had, through harry’s blood, some of harry’s power, including the charm that lily inadvertidly placed on harry since the very beginning of the story. That intensified her protection that we learn about in book one, and voldemort, having harry’s blood coursing through his veins, and sustained by that life force, was keeping harry tethered to the earth as a sort of anti horcrux.

    When voldemort casts the killing curse, he uses the elderwand, a wand that had chosen harry as its master, so it is not going to kill its master, so it killed the only thing in harry that was not truly apart of harry: voldemorts soul. They both get knocked into limbo (kings cross), and harry choose to go back.

    In the end, dumbledore had hoped voldemort would take something from harry to regenerate his body so that it would protect harry, because dumbledore, even before chamber of secrets, suspected voldemort had a horcrux, if not more, since he still existed after the diary’s destruction. What dumbledore had not planned was that harry would gain a second line of defense in the elder wand, which he planned to go to snape.

    It is subtle, but it just takes a while to work out. the elder wand is not stating expliciately, but it does kind of make sense… where as dumbledore does talk about in the books that voldemort tethered harry to the earth and to life by taking his blood, and redoubling lily’s protection.

    • moviegeek says:

      Wow… Thank you very much for that !I had worked out about 80% of that but missed the wand bit.
      I’ll be forever in your debt…

    • Very well said. And yes, I never thought of that Dumbledore was actually trying to save Snape from Voldemort by asking him to kill him (Dumbledore) instead of being killed by Draco. But of course, something else happened. Draco managed to disarm Dumbledore before Snape could kill him. So yeah, that makes sense to me now. I have never read a book like this that will make you read it over and over and yet you still have a lot more to learn and discover. It’s like a big giant puzzle! That’s why I’m a fan!

    • Marvin says:

      “the elder wand, which he planned to go to Snape.”
      Dumbledore did NOT plan the elder wand to belong to anyone after he died.
      Snape would never really beat Dumbledore, Snape killed him because Dumbledore wanted him to, the elder wand would remain loyal to it’s never beaten owner. The plan of Dumbledore was that the might of the elder wand would be gone after he died, which went wrong when Draco disarmed him(The wand became loyal to Draco)
      (If you think killing someone automatically means beating someone, you are thinking the same way Voldemort was: The wrong way.)

  3. peterpi says:

    Nice review. I appreciate it.
    From the beginning of the series, I could see great arguments either for Harry sacrificing himself in order to kill Voldemort (ala Data in the last TNG Star Trek movie), or having Harry live. I think JK Rowling could never make up her mind, so the whole King’s Cross segment of the book was Rowling eating her cake and having it too, in my most humble opinion. Come up with any explanation of Voldemort, shards of soul, Harry as a horcrux, etc., you want, and that’s what it boils down to. Of course, she isn’t the first author to kill off a character and resurrect him/her. And I have never figured out what that screaming baby was symbolic of..
    A long while ago, a newspaper editor told me that HP2 read like HP1 so he told me to give up on the series. I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve had wondeful hours of enjoyment. Oh, sure, maybe it doesn’t qualify has Great Art, and she borrowed ideas. But everyone who came after the ancient Greeks, Babylonians, and Chinese has been using ideas created by people long dead, so that argument is a loser. Rowling created a world and sucked me in. And for that, I will praise her. She deserves every pound, franc, dollar, shekel, yen, and ruble she’s earned.

    • gingerpaul99 says:

      You forgot Galleon :P

    • Lesharo says:

      I’m not sure if you’re trying to be clever and I’m missing the joke or not, but I’m responding anyway. I can’t tell you what “that screaming baby was symbolic of” but, I can tell you what it was. That was the bit of the Dark Lord’s soul that was in Harry. Forgive me if I missed the point of that line of yours.

      • moviegeek says:

        Believe I wasn’t trying to be clever at all… In fact quite the opposite. I was very quite dumb. I did suspect that it was Voldemort, but I was seriously a bit confused about the whole process which made Harry immortal… I’m not the only one I must say. I saw the film twice now, with different lots of people and they were all as confused as I was (if not more actually. But actually on a second viewing, after reading some of the answers of the readers of this blog I was a lot clearer). Most people thought that the reason why Harry was alive was because he had the protection of his parents… Or even because he had the stone of resurrection… The whole wand issue going from Dumbledore to Draco is just a bit confusing and explain rather quickly with a line at the end. Don’t take me wrong, I did like the film,well I did give it an 8, didn’t I? But I do think that if you take a sample of 100 average people coming out of the cinema, most of them won’t be able to tell you why Harry didn’t die (even some of those who did get the the wand was Harry’s could still not quite explain how did that have anything to do with him not dying and being able to return from the whited-out Charing Cross

  4. Kaley says:

    I liked the movie but was a little disappointed in how it was different in many ways to the book. I much prefer the book and hopefully when the movie series gets remade one day in the future (trust me, it will), it will be done better and be more like the book. David Yates has once again failed as a director. He should’ve gotten tips from Alfonso, who did the 3rd film (brilliantly, I might add).

    • moviegeek says:

      I don’t really see how this series can be re-done in the future. It might all the re-released again, maybe in 3D, but I think we can be happy with the way it is.
      Books and films are a different type of media. What works on the written page doesn’t necessarily work on the screen and viceversa.
      Yes, there have been some painful edits in the translation from the JK Rowlings books, but most of them were necessary. In fact there have been a lot of improvements too and I truly believe the versions we eventually got could not have been better (especially for the latest instalments).

  5. Mithriel Maiden says:

    Why does everyone praise the Prisoner of Azkaban (the movie) so much, I found it a great disappointment compared to the book. The third book was my favourite but I think the third movie is my least favourite.

    • moviegeek says:

      The Third movie was the first one to be actually “directed”. The first two were basically faithfully adaptations of the books but they didn’t have any direction. There was no imprint, no personal take, no style. Anyone could have been the director and it would not have made a difference.
      Afonso Cuaron was the first of a new breed of “brave” directors who realised (thankfully) that in books and films are two different media. Yes, the 3rd book was one of the best, and the third film is not necessarily the best one, however it was after that one that the critics started to look at the HP films not just as a money-making machine.
      He also gave it that slightly grittier and darker tone that wasn’t quite there in the book yet, but that was going to influence great part of the sequels.

  6. Viper says:

    I cannot believe you tagged Alan Rickman on your article, but only contained a single phase “the flashback sequence with Snape” in this review article (I refuse to call it a sentence). You did not even mention Alan Rickman in the article!

    This film and the whole Harry Potter series is not revolved around the Trio, without Alan Rickman’s character Severus Snape, there is no Harry Potter story; without Alan Rickman’s acting, the Trio, especially Harry’s acting would be much worse off.

    Please give credit when credit is due.

    • moviegeek says:

      You’re absolutely right: Alan Rickman does deserve to be mentioned, just like all the other British Stars that crowd the series. I think I did mention him in my review of the previous film though, and I didn’t want to repeat myself.
      However I do hear there’s a campaign to get him nominated at next year’s Oscars. Let’s wait and see.
      The reason why I mentioned the trio is because, while Rickman has ALWAYS constantly being very good, they were actually dreadful in the beginning (cute, but dreadful!) and on this one I thought they did pretty well.
      As far as the tagging system is concerned, most of it happens automatically to be honest.

      • Viper says:

        Thank you for your quick response.

        As an Alan Rickman fan it is already annoying to only see him in glimpses at nearly all the Harry Potter films, David Yates has came on record saying they originally had “The Prince’s Tale” more Canon like, but felt he had to cut it to pieces to show the emotion – means even less screen time for us and the Oscar.

        I am not sure if this change make the film more emotional, because I would imagine Rickman is capable to convey it even with the Canon material.

        I believe Judi Dench won an Oscar with 9 minutes of screen time, here Rickman got even less.

        • moviegeek says:

          Rickman has been deserving an Oscar for a long time… I’m sure we’ll be seeing his name up there soon enough.

  7. Lovely review. I agree with you on a lot of points. Stripping aside the “confusing” plot (I agree that it’s confusing for people who haven’t read the books or haven’t read them often), it was a beautifully-made film. In particular, the balance between silence and a beautiful score written by Alexandre Desplat was fantastic. It wasn’t shot badly, either. Even though I’m a mega-fan, and there were things I didn’t like or didn’t compare to the book, it’s hard for me to find something wrong with the film. As a huge Snape fan, Alan Rickman DOES deserve that Oscar. Everyone did fantastic but other standouts were the trio (seeing them grow up into fantastic actors as well as people has been magical), Matthew Lewis, and I’d even argue for the Malfoys.

    Great review!

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