Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Review
And now here we are at the end, and my eighth cinema review of the Harry Potter series for this site (Plus one DVD review, of Half-Blood Prince, which is my preferred review of that film.) The books were published over ten years, and it is just a few months short of a decade after the first film that this final instalment appears. A decade is a substantial chunk of the life so far of the films' primary audience, not least that of the principal cast, one of whom (Emma Watson) was all of ten when she first played her role. Now the makers and the cast have to move on to other things. To what extent Radcliffe, Grint and Watson – not to mention other young actors such as Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis and Evanna Lynch – will make an impact in other roles remains to be seen. Also, whether the novels are being read and the films being watched in twenty years' time or not, is a question for posterity, but it's hard to deny the effect that the Potter saga has had on both the publishing and film industries.
Deathly Hallows is the second-longest novel, but contains much less redundancy than Order of the Phoenix, which was able to be boiled down into the shortest film of the series up until the present one. So Steve Kloves's adaptation splits the book into two films, breaking about two-thirds of the way through. This is a strategy that the makers of the forthcoming final Twilight film, Breaking Dawn, will be following, with results unknown at the time of writing.
As I said in my review of Part 1, I suspect most – though not all – of the viewers of the films are familiar with the novels. It's a different anticipation: not what will happen (which was the anticipation of those reading the novels at publication pace) but how it will happen on screen. Not so much the novel on screen, though there's some of that. We can't expect the whole novel on screen, given that these are two-hour-plus films rather than miniseries, but something that is at least faithful to our own mental pictures of the book. To the spirit of the book, in short. And that is what we get.
Part 2 begins with a pre-credit reprise of the final scene of Part 1, Voldemort recovering the Elder Wand, one of the three Deathly Hallows of the title. Meanwhile, Harry, Ron and Hermione are seeking the remaining horcruxes, without which Voldemort cannot be defeated. If the first part spent a lot of time with the central trio, as a kind of wizarding road movie, Part 2 has the big action setpieces: the raid of Gringotts Bank near the beginning (with Hermione in disguise as Bellatrix, Emma Watson in a wig looking not unlike a younger Helena Bonham Carter), leading up to the Battle of Hogwarts which dominates the last third of the film. The use of 3D may give herpetophobes a few nasty moments, and as before parents of younger children should be aware that the 12A certificate is well earned.
As before, many of the distinguished supporting cast are little more than cameos, though it's good to see Warwick Davis being given a double role (as Griphook as well as Flitwick). Helena Bonham Carter, a standout in Part 1, has less to do here, but Geraldine Somerville (as Harry's late mother, no doubt one of the most thankless roles in the series) does finally justify her casting here. As you may have noticed from the cast list to your left, certain deceased characters do make reappearances as ghosts or in flashbacks. Given the most complex character amongst the adults, Alan Rickman stands out, though as I've said before his casting gives Snape more charisma than the peevish weed of the novel has.
David Yates, making his fourth film in the series, keeps up a strong pace. Photographed by Eduardo Serra, the film is visually quite restrained, without the colour washes of Half-Blood Prince or the animated sequence in Deathly Hallows Part 1. A word for the production design, the work of Stuart Craig in all eight films, and a continuing standout.
So, it ends here. Is this the best Harry Potter film? For its visual flair, I would have to give the nod to Alfonso Cuarón for Prisoner of Azkaban. I've argued that the Potter films have exhibited a remarkable degree of quality control over such a long series: while some are better than others, none is a disgrace. In the end, Deathly Hallows Part 2 certainly satisfies.