Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Review
Before I start the review, I should warn everyone that while I have a great deal of respect for J.K Rowling’s book series, I’m not its biggest fan. In fact, in many ways I enjoy the movies more than their written counterparts. I have several problems with the last book in particular, but as a whole I definitely enjoyed reading the series (Prisoner of Azkaban being my favorite). If you can forgive my tastes, hopefully we can find some common ground in enjoying a very cool universe. With that out of the way, here’s my review for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2:
Note — Minor spoilers for the film, but nothing the trailers haven’t revealed. If you wanna go in totally fresh (as in, you haven’t read the books), you might want to read the review later.
The final Harry Potter film is a difficult one to review, as it must be considered as both a book adaptation and a finale to the films that have come before. What we get in the film is an adaptation that, on the whole, capitalizes (and even expands upon) the drama in the book while staying true to the characters as they’ve been defined in past films. The cast is at their best in the film, having completely grown into their roles. The feeling of finality is ever present, but despite the amount of relationships built up over the course of the last seven films, the focus is on wrapping up the storyline rather than saying goodbye to the characters. Honestly, the relentless pace isn’t bad at all, as the narrative feels tight and focused. However, for those hoping for a series of goodbyes akin to the end of Return of the King will feel very disappointed. Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a two hour and ten minute battle for survival… and as such succeeds.
While many characters get their chance to shine, the audience is always centered on Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s story. Sure, new material does exist (a fair amount, actually), but it serves to smooth out the transitions between set pieces. Much of the exposition that plagued the pacing of the book has been removed, which is a positive or negative depending on your view. Those of you hoping to hear more on the subject of Dumbledore’s family history will find yourselves sadly disappointed, as the focus is very much on the present. The film is about Harry: his goals and what he needs to accomplish them. Fortunately, Harry’s struggle is highlighted very well, with his desperation and urgency at an all time high as he frantically searches for the courage and means to save his friends. Snape fans need not worry though, as he is not only given his due, but also a slightly expanded role from his all too brief appearance in the book. The film still hits the same major scenes from the book, from the exciting raid on Gringotts to an otherworldly conversation between old friends. For those fretting the lack of history, however, know the film’s singular focus allows the narrative to expand in a critical area… the Battle of Hogwarts.
Taking up a vast majority of the film, the battle has a great deal of wonderful character moments and even strategy that I don’t recall seeing in the book. The tactics present on both sides actually create a constantly shifting set piece that allows for the maturation of drama that builds to a visceral crescendo. Almost every aspect of the final conflict is given new depth, with special emphasis on the final duel between Harry and Voldemort. Their relationship in relation to the horcruxes is given slightly more intimacy and interplay than in the book, which might upset stalwart fans of the novel’s groundwork but ends up working quite well as a dramatic device. While my memory of the book may be rusty, Harry and Voldemort’s confrontation seems greatly expanded in length and geography, feeling like a lightsaber duel from the original Star Wars movies. The result is a personal and exciting battle between hero and villain that shows both characters at the height of their skill and emotional intensity. Daniel Radcliffe and Ralph Fiennes play off each other very well, hitting every beat laid out before them.
The film isn’t quite perfect, however. A lengthy interlude in Ravenclaw tower in particular drags the pacing down in an otherwise taut narrative and a few key scenes don’t quite make the transition from book to screen as well as they could have. For a finale, the important players are given a resolution to their stories, but a few secondary characters would have benefited from a more concrete farewell rather than simply fading into the background. Oh… and the epilogue… well… the less said about it the better. For a film that will no doubt move many to tears, the last scene might also instill unintentional laughs. It’s a sour note to end both the film and the series on, but a similar debate rages on the same scene from the book. I won’t spoil it for those who are unfamiliar with the book, so I will simply let you judge for yourself. Lastly, for those of you who had problems with any parts of the book, well, many of them still exist in the film, so there are a few magical technicalities in the narrative that lead to a few head scratching moments (most notably the climax of the story), but taking them out would have meant changing too much of the original story.
Overall, it’s hard to call the Harry Potter films anything less than a success. Not one bad movie stands among them and they have grown in maturity and technical prowess with each installment. Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a very good, but a not quite perfect ending to a franchise that grew up along with its fans. While many of the faults don’t belong to the filmmakers, but rather the source material to which they’re beholden, it’s commendable how well they did their job. The cast and crew crafted an epic and emotional send off for the characters that will leave most of its viewers satisfied. For the best experience, I recommend watching Deathly Hallows Part 1 right before going to the theater, as Part 2 doesn’t quite sit as its own film. Deathly Hallows really does play like one movie split into two halves, so just a piece of advice to keep in mind. Overall, even though it has a few minor problems that drag the film down from greatness, it’s very hard to see either fans of the books or sole followers of the films leaving the theater unhappy.
Oh, and Neville Longbottom is a bad ass. It needed to be said.