Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
What It Is
Mainly, it’s the end. The end of Harry Potter’s adventures as a child and teenager, anyway. Ten years after Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) met at Hogwarts, they’re now leaving for good. While they had been forced out in The Deathly Hallows Part 1, now, in Part 2, they return in order to save the school and then find their own lives — apart from it.
Directed by David Yates, the movie includes scenes of quiet self-reflection and rambunctious action. As much as Harry is coming to terms with his fate in the long struggle he’s waged with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), he’s also facing how (that is, the best good thing to do may be an act of utter selflessness, rather than more and more sacrifice by his loyal cohorts), he is also figuring out what it means to be “chosen” or “special,” and so, sometimes burdened with the expectations of others. When Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) appears briefly and magically to pronounce him a “brave, wonderful boy,” Harry is already stepping from boyhood into adulthood, sorting priorities and imagining futures.
He comes to this state via a series of events and efforts to shape events — some more successful than others. As the movie begins, Snape (Alan Rickman) is running Hogwarts in a harsh and dictatorial fashion and the students look unhappy indeed, marching in formation, heads down and hopes dashed. Harry, Hermione, and Ron, meanwhile, are sort of still mourning the loss of the house elf Dobby in the last film, and definitely still looking for horcruxes — the pieces of Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) soul he has stashed away in objects, planning to bring them all together and so consolidate unstoppable magic powers.
As “you-know-who” now wields the Elder Wand and monitors their every move (being increasingly connected to Harry’s thoughts and feelings), the trio enlists the help of the hook-nosed warlock Griphook (Warwick Davis), who leads them into the bank vault owned by Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). (This bit of escapade is initiated by Hermione’s ingenious disguise as Bellatrix Lestrange, occasioning some shenanigans and some charming display of Hermione’s wonder at what a grown-up woman’s body feels like.)
As in the previous film, the searchers spend a good amount of time outside Hogwarts, granting a welcome view of how wide the world can be — as well as how narrow and strange, a notion reinforced by a brief visit with Dumbledore’s dour brother Aberforth Dumbledore (Ciaran Hinds). When their journey necessitates that the three split up, each finds a part to play in the saga’s culmination — as does the frankly delightful Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), whose spunk surprises even himself.
As usual, the movie seems determined to include cursory appearances by characters more elaborated in the books, for instance, the Malfoys (their allegiances as shifting as always), Hagrid (still stolid and still Robbie Coltrane), Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) or Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith). This determination to check off everyone crowds the last scenes with brief glimpses of sad and worried faces. But it also reminds you that the stakes for Harry have never only been his own. He’s been battling to save loved ones, and cherished ideals, and also magic as a force for good, after all.
If the last hour or is overtaken by epic effects — stomping stone soldiers, flailing death eaters, yet another skittish ghost (Kelly Macdonald), panicking students and a pack of wild-haired warriors — and the sequential showdowns between Harry and Voldemort start looking like light saber clashes, the point is made that this is Harry’s story, that he’s complicated, both noble and fallible, and that his mistakes and instincts have led him to a sense of resolution, a capacity for forgiveness as well self-understanding.
Why It’s Fun
With or without the 3D (I saw the 2D version, so as to have access to as much on-screen light as possible in this frequently dark story), the final half of the final chapter of Harry’s saga is punctuated with lively action scenes. Harry and Dumbledore’s stroll through something like an afterlife is less compelling than the earnest conversations among Harry and his friends: as they’ve matured together, they have come to share convincing rhythms, of speech and gesture.
The various evocations of Harry’s growing up process — his conversations with other adults, his increasing capacity for empathy and selflessness — may not be “fun” in the usual sense, but they are rewarding. They also make the excessive battle scenes — with explosions and fires and anonymous scared faces — look silly by comparison.
Who’s Going To Love It
Of course, the loyal fans of the franchise are by now pretty much wired to adore each precious piece, from J.K. Rowling’s books and Warner Brothers’ movies to the toys and the amusement park rides. (And at least two new possibilities appear in this movie: a roller-coaster underground-cave-rails excursion, leading to the bank vault, and a trip atop a dragon, this time to exit the vault.) These viewers will feel rewarded by the last film’s wrapping up of loose ends.
What To Be Aware Of
Some of the violence is quite grim, especially the apparent death of Harry Potter. Some of the imagery is disturbing, as when Harry sees the part of Lord Voldemort that has for so long lived inside him, a red, raw, fetus-like creature curled up and dying as the young wizard observes.
In addition, the film includes at least three death scenes that have emotional consequences. In a flashback, the infant Harry witnesses his mother’s demise, as does a very distraught Snape, a moment that helps fill out the complicated interrelations among Snape, Harry’s mom, and Voldemort.
And two present-day scenes focus on the loss of beloved characters, namely a Weasley twin (Fred, played by James Phelps) and Snape. The first scene is rather reduced to two or three shots, showing the grief felt by Ron, his mom Molly (Julie Walters), and surviving twin George (Oliver Phelps). The second is more protracted, as it leads to plot revelations concerning Snape’s history with the Potters, but begins and ends with the sight of Snape, collapsed, and Harry’s visible upset.
An abused dragon — chained and bloodied — earns Hermione’s sympathy, and she frees it, though not after its pain is made visually explicit.
Very chaste kisses, to indicate the paring off that will lead to the wizards’ marriages and children, noted in an epilogue.
6 out of 10
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, John Hurt, Jason Isaacs, Matthew Lewis, Kelly Macdonald, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, David Thewlis, David Bradley, Jim Broadbent, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, Ciaran Hinds, Gemma Jones, Dave Legeno, Miriam Margolyes, Helen McCrory, Nick Moran, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Clemence Poesy, Timothy Spall, Natalia Tena, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Mark Williams, Bonnie Wright
Studio: Warner Bros.
US Premiere: July 15, 2011
UK Premiere: July 15, 2011