After 10 years and a gross in the billions, it’s safe to assume that the Harry Potter franchise will be sorely missed by Warner Bros., which might explain why they felt compelled to split the final chapter in two, getting twice their money for Harry’s swan song. That said, the source material, The Deathly Hallows, wasn’t a light tome that could be squeezed easily into a single 2-hour movie, and the concluding part makes the time spent worth it. No expense was spared, putting the cap on a decade of movies with aplomb.
Yet it also leaves the door slightly ajar for a follow-up. J.K. Rowling must be weighing the pros and cons of another book as we speak. With a brand this profitable, is it truly the end?
Deathly Hallows: Part 2 begins in a state of flux, continuing where its predecessor ended. Due to this, there is no conventional three act structure to provide total satisfaction; the film almost demands you to have a marathon when it hits Blu-Ray (how many people are going to attempt all 8 movies back-to-back?). It goes without saying that latecomers will be mightily confused.
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) continue their quest to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes, the magical items that contain Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) soul, the source of immortality. As the mystical items of the Deathly Hallows are uncovered, Voldemort finds out about their mission, leading to an epic confrontation. Life as they know it will never be the same again, allowing them one last visit to Hogwarts.
Like any final chapter worth its salt, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 brings the series full-circle in bittersweet fashion. It’s also dark…really dark. Eduardo Serra’s cinematography is so murky that the inherent dimness of 3D must have destroyed the experience. The macabre tone of this film is startling, leagues removed from the bright, effervescent joviality of The Philosopher’s Stone. It’s also relentlessly enjoyable, with a lot more substance than the previous film, which suffered from glacial pacing and a lack of action in the second act.
Here, Director David Yates truly lets-loose with his never-ending resources, delivering a succession of crowd-pleasing moments that ends the franchise on an indisputable high. To say more would spoil the surprises, but just know that the stakes are high. If only Yates could have directed more of the films, as he brought a unified feel to his Potter outings that could have benefited the entire franchise.
Part 2 is more or less a faithful representation of the novel, but certain elements have been altered to make the denouement more cinematic. But that’s par for the course with any book-to-screen conversion. The Potter faithful should be pleased, which ultimately makes the film critic-proof. You know what to expect going in: outstanding technical contributions across the board, solid, if merely functional scripting and a committed cast of British thespians that have relished the theatricality of this series.
Radcliffe, Grint and Watson are once again joined by the likes of Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters and many more. They’ve all grown into these roles over the years and their performances are faultless (especially Rickman, who finally gets more screen time as Snape). Although not every character receives a send-off. One of the more prominent missing faces is Crabbe, played by Jamie Waylett. He was removed from the story after his arrest and conviction on drug charges, causing the filmmakers to tweak the script.
As for the principle three, they bring real emotion to their final turns as Harry, Ron and Hermione, allowing you to forget their fresh-faced, precocious missteps in the early films. They have become solid performers, indeed, maturing along with the movies. Deathly Hallows: Part 2 isn’t merely for children, and the trio fully absorb the adult undertones of the screenplay. My only issue with this is an epilogue sequence set 19 years in the future, which feels unnecessary; the whole process to make them look older is a bit silly, giving the male characters facial hair and beer bellies for example. You couldn’t tell that they were older, it was like a bunch of famous characters playing fancy dress.
What else is there left to say? This is a mighty fine send-off that should get even non-fans a little misty-eyed. I don’t think people can fully comprehend how valuable this brand has been to the British film industry (small, though it is), and while it is funded by American dollars, its production in this country has been amazing for the economy. This film may represent the ultimate in studio cash-grabbing, but that shouldn’t sully the compelling story within.
It’s a reliable, enjoyable watch, which I shall be picking up on DVD when it makes a mint this Christmas; a nice end to a franchise that has been a favourite of so many cinema-goers for the past 10 years.
Nothing more, nothing less.