Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

By July 18, 2011Movie Reviews

Where do I begin here at the end?  With the culmination of the 10-year cinematic journey of Harry Potter, about which already so much has been written and over which so many emotions have been expended, it seems impossible to separate the finish line from the race that's been run.  Here at the end, looking back on a series that has progressed and evolved symbiotically with its audience, it seems that any review for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 becomes more than just a review for a Hollywood blockbuster; it becomes a eulogy, a memoir, a recollection of a long journey that, love it or hate it, has promised and delivered as much to its audience as it has the to history of cinema.  "It All Ends" the posters for Deathly Hallows: Part 2 have promised, and with the imminent darkness that has been growing on the horizon for the past four films, the implications of that promise are lofty.

These promises have been laid down since Harry Potter first stepped foot into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but were most explicitly made in Deathly Hallows: Part 1, which featured our three young wizards proactively, albeit misguidedly, leaving the hallowed halls of Hogwarts to search for and destroy Voldemort's Horcruxes, the magical objects that contain fragments of the evil wizard's soul.  Lost and confused after the death of Dumbledore, our young heroes meandered from place to place without much hope and what resulted was a narrative that some found incomplete and anti-climactic.  Even if you disagreed with such sentiments, as I did, it'd be easy to see within the first 20 minutes of Part 2 how those complaints could contain some validity. 

Picking up immediately after the events of Part 1, the first act of Part 2, which contains what should be a daring raid on the legendarily impenetrable Gringotts Bank, feels like a tacked on echo from Part 1 that's more a bridge to rush the narrative toward the imminent climactic battle at Hogwarts.  After Harry's bittersweet return behind those once safe walls though, quarrels against the film disappear as writer Steve Kloves and director David Yates bring the story to beautiful and harrowing fruition as only two men who have loved the series as much as we have can. 

For 10 years and 6 previous films Kloves (and to a lesser extent, Order of the Phoenix scribe, Michael Goldenberg) has has been charged with the under-appreciated task of adapting Rowling's manuscripts to the big screen and Part 2 displays his most impressive work to date.  The shortest film in the franchise by no insignificant margin, Part 2 wraps up 10 years and 7 films worth of plots, subplots, red herrings, mysteries and foreshadowing and Kloves manages to do so exceptionally with his impressive ability to trim the book's rhetorical fat while leaving the narrative and emotional essentials.  Every question that the previous films have ever raised, every significant event to which we've ever been privy and every character that has ever touched our hearts or enraged us to our cores find their emotional and logical apex in Part 2 in the most explosively and poignantly fitting conclusion for which we could possibly hope.

But if it's Kloves that sets 'em up, it's David Yates that knocks 'em down.  Deservedly lauded in the past for the mood and maturity he's weaved into his installments, Yates has simultaneously been chastised for teasing us with fleeting hints of action and conflict that only the wizardly world could deliver: in Order of the Phoenix, he gave us a mere inkling of a clash of the greatest wizards in history; in Half-Blood Prince, he jettisoned it altogether and in Deathly Hallows: Part 1, he implied just the frayed edges of a larger conflict.  But in Part 2, those ominous clouds have finally broken and a torrential downpour of magical might has been unleashed in a final battle worthy of what we'd expect from The Chosen One finally throwing down with The Dark Lord. 

Acromantulas, Death Eaters, giants, Dementors, werewolves and Snatchers are beasties and baddies that have lurked in the fringe before, but are now present and accounted for in the ungodly masses that converge on the caste that served as Harry's home for 6 years. Many of Hogwarts' proud spires are reduced to burning rubble, which serves as unintentional funeral shrouds to the fallen warriors – some evil, most not so – that end up littering its courtyard.  Once the action starts, it never lets up, but also never over-saturates or takes momentum away from the real struggle, the more deeply personal struggle between one young man who's been fated to destroy or be destroyed by the malevolent force that killed his parents.  With such a masterful command over the balance and pace of such an epic film, it seems perfectly fitting to feel a mixture of awe towards Yates as a craftsman and frustration with him for putting it off for so long. 

Yet Yates’ primary strength has always been mood and tone and Part 2 is by far the darkest and most draining installment in the entire franchise: there's more blood inPart 2 than in all the previous films combined, even during the day our characters seem to inhabit a world where even the sun has given up hope and weaved throughout the conflict are constant reminders of the lives at stake as many beloved characters pay the ultimate sacrifice.  Admirably carrying the brunt of this emotional weight as always are leads Daniel Racliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, whose performances are enhanced by the stellar supporting cast and injected with additional poignancy, thanks to the fittingly epic score of Alexadre Desplat and the grandiose cinematography of Eduardo Serra.

"It All Ends" the posters have promised and indeed, it all has.  After 10 years and 7 previous films, there will be no more Harry Potter, no more Hogwarts, no more Horcruxes, no more magic wands, owls, broomsticks or Platform 9 and 3/4.  Many film franchises have come before Harry Potter and many will come after, but fans whom are now 10 years older will say there has never been anything like it and will never be again.  If they're correct, then this 10-year run has truly been a once in a lifetime experience and I can't possibly imagine a better way to wrap it all up than with David Yates and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Mischief managed.