Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) / Fantasy-Adventure

MPAA rated PG-13 for violence and some frightening images
Running time: 130 min.

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Ciaran Hinds, Michael Gambon, Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Jason Isaacs, Helen McCrory, Warwick Davis, Robbie Coltrane, John Hurt, Kelly Macdonald, Bonnie Wright, Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson
Director: David Yates
Screenplay: Steve Cloves (Based on the novel by J.K. Rowling)
Review published May 24, 2012

harry potter deathly hallows part 2 2011The eighth and final puts Harry Potter (Radcliffe, The Woman in Black) preparing for the final cataclysmic battle with Lord Voldemort (Fiennes, In Bruges) and his evil hordes. Part II picks up exactly where Part I leaves off, with Voldemort's power increasing substantially through the usurping of the Elder Wand, while the side of good are getting over the loss of one of their heroes. Much of the storyline involves Harry, Hermione (Watson, Half-Blood Prince), and Ron (Grint, Order of the Phoenix) in their effort to destroy the last remaining Horcrux that makes Voldemort immortal.  And it would seem that last Horcrux will put the battle right on the hallowed grounds of Hogwarts itself.

With 7 films of build-up before it, not to mention the book that had already been published, putting a cap on the Harry Potter series is a daunting, perhaps impossible task for a filmmaker, especially in trying to tug at heartstrings at seeing such a lengthy saga finally come to a permanent end. But the talent is all still there, with the best of the Potter film directors, David Yates (The Girl in the Cafe, Sex Traffic), filming from a script by the best of the potter screenwriters, Steve Kloves (Wonder Boys, The Fabulous Baker Boys), while the troupe of actors, now all veterans, play these roles they've literally grown into for over a decade. Looking back, it's amazing what a small and relatively unpretentious set of children's stories would become after many years of rabid fan following.

The goods are definitely delivered in showcasing the biggest, most prolonged, and worlds-shattering confrontation in an epic battlefield-type scenario. Some of the book's storylines, such as the heroism of Neville Longbottom (Lewis), are accelerated here, though without the foresight of the build-up from previous movies, it feels more forced than fluid. This is one case where the cinematics of the piece does come at the expense of the expository information the book can provide, and one reason why the films can only approximate the look and feel of J.K. Rowling's tales but can never out and out supplant them. The Potter films, to those non-readers, have always been a bit more convoluted than necessary in order to placate fans of the books, and yet we can get this gist well enough to have a vested interest in the overall story arc.

The problems with this film, despite the two parts to explore it, is the same as many of the previous entries.  There is much more emphasis on special effects spectacles than there is in expository information that would explain who the supporting characters are, what they're doing, and why are they showcased in the film.  For instance, the goblin named Griphook (Davis, Prince Caspian) is shown as important in the early scenes, though few outside of those familiar with the character from the books will see much relevance in the character than as someone to tangentially push forward a plot point to the next scene.  In addition, some of the emotional impact hasn't been adequately carried over from page to screen in a way that will affect non-readers of the books.  Much of this is the problem with the previous entries skimping, and not the fault of this film, so it is tough to grade it on that level, but many of the final scenes are much more interesting conceptually than they are in the emotionally topsy-turvy way they seem written to be.

It's both grandiose and personal, and though the emotional heft may be muted for those who haven't read the Potter adventures through the richness of the novels, it is still a fitting and quite rousing close for the film series on its own terms. it's the shortest film in the series, but it is also the simplest - leaving just the climax, a few nifty twists, and an epilogue to tell, and do so at as leisurely a pace as necessary.  To allow for resonance and tying up of the emotional ends of the series, the split is quite successful, both commercially and artistically, for the purposes of bringing this decade-long box office smash saga to a satisfying closure.

-- Preceded by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.

Qwipster's rating:

©2012 Vince Leo