It all ends – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two – Starring Danielle Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. Directed by David Yates. Rated M. By Simon Miraudo.

“IT ALL ENDS,” scream the posters for the epic and epically titled Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two, the final instalment of the film series based upon J.K. Rowling’s seven book saga. Ten years, eight movies and only a couple questionable casting choices later, this box-office juggernaut is coming to a close. And ‘juggernaut’ really is the best word to describe it. Harry Potter’s eventual showdown with dark wizard Voldemort has been built up and bundled with so much anticipation and expectation, there was a risk that the final flick would have been unable to stick the landing; crushed by all the pressure or apathetically giving up in a fit of self-destructive teenage rebellion.

Deathly Hallows Part Two is all climax. No time for real character growth or development. We’re tying up loose ends, farewelling the dead and engaging in final battles. The risk is that a two-hour film that feels entirely climactic could, ultimately, not feel climactic it all. If a symphony was played in ‘forte’ for its entirety, the term ‘forte’ would lose all meaning; kind of if they only served ‘large’ drinks at McDonalds. I said in my review of Deathly Hallows Part One that the decision to cut the final book in half was ‘cruel, [but] absolutely necessary’ (as opposed to the ‘cruel and unusual’ elongation of The Twilight Saga’s Breaking Dawn into two parts). Still, I feared for the fate of Deathly Hallows Part Two. Would it feel like watching the final episode of, say, The Sopranos, without having seen any episodes prior (awesome, but hardly a satisfying standalone tale). Or would it be like listening to, say, Impossible Soul, the 25-minute closing number on Sufjan Steven’s album The Age of Adz (a satisfying finale that, at 1/3rd the album’s running time, is able to fit plenty of tender lows and gargantuan highs into one singular piece)? The answer is somewhere in between.

Directed by David Yates – who has helmed the last three films of the series and the most of any filmmaker – Part Two picks up immediately where Part One left off. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are still searching for Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) final horcruxes. The seven objects, each one containing a shard of his soul, need to be destroyed before Harry can take him out once and for all. As they attempt to break into the Gringotts bank to find one of the magical macguffins (just one of the picture’s stunning set pieces) Voldemort and Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) continue to rule over Hogwarts School following the death of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). Needless to say, things are not as fun and magical as they once were. It’s not long before the famed trio return to the school grounds to battle Voldemort and his Death Eaters, in an extended fight sequence that feels suitably enormous, with just enough quiet, underplayed moments that keep it from being a Transformers-style attack of the senses. This war means something.

Each of the performers have well and truly found their groove, so it’s not really worth getting into again. Everyone is either as good as they’ve ever been (Watson, Radcliffe, Rickman, Gambon), chew the scenery as voraciously as they need to (Fiennes, Helena Bonham-Carter as Voldemort’s right-hand woman Bellatrix) or  are mercifully absent for much of the movie (Tom Felton as Draco, Jim Broadbent as Professor Slughorn). Yates, who got off to a shaky start with Order of the Phoenix, does some of his best work here, particularly in a few scenes that fans of the book feared would inspire derisive laughter (you know what I’m talking about). And screenwriter Steve Kloves, well, he’s stuck with Rowling’s dialogue, and there isn’t much he can do about that.

Deathly Hallows Part Two is perhaps the only one of the Potter films that can’t be viewed independently from the others. Not only is it burdened with the exposition-heavy hunt for the horcruxes, but also the obligation to wrap up the decade’s worth of events that have occurred prior. Whereas the other flicks can be viewed as individual adventures that exist within the context of a larger tale, this is absolutely the final movement of a much larger piece. That’s not exactly a bad thing. Viewed purely as a finale, it’s much more satisfying. It can be forgiven for not allowing each of the many (many!) characters enough screen time for a proper goodbye. Not doing so would be like hating on your favourite TV show for not tying a bow around every plot line, encapsulating the themes of the entire series, and giving each star a decent send off in its last episode. Valid criticisms, sure, but sometimes you just need to cut them some slack and accept that it is not meant to be viewed in isolation. One piece of the puzzle does not maketh the puzzle. That Kloves has been able to turn what is essentially the end of a book into a movie with something of an arc is impressive enough.

What has been most astounding about the Deathly Hallows films is how they have dealt with death. These characters are at war, and dammit, a lot of them are going to die. Because of the sheer volume of loss in this book, Yates does not take too much time to weep over the fallen. As in Part One, it is only after the battle has ended that we are witness to the body count. But after we are given a fleeting glance of the dead, we, and Harry, must move on. They are sentimental, but they don’t treat death with much sentimentality at all. And that’s pretty bold. Perhaps because the dead are never really dead in these films; they live on in paintings, pensieves, and are even temporarily resurrected to offer Harry some advice. Interestingly, these moments – with the dearly departed – are the most affecting. Yates and Kloves, taking a cue from Rowling, recognise that death is not the sad part; life is. That’s where all the suffering and pain occurs. Harry is even offered at one point the choice between a peaceful afterlife and a torturous existence. As one character reminds him, “Do not pity the dead, Harry, pity the living. Above all, pity those who live without love. That, in a nutshell, is the primary theme of Harry Potter. Sure, it was a fun rollercoaster ride through the world of witchcraft and wizardry, and the middle instalments offered nice coming of age tales about awkward adolescents. But Harry is, and always was, The Boy Who Lived, and these books and films were about him coming to terms with the enormous obligations of that title, and realising that the burden of life is carried by all. In Deathly Hallows Part Two, he discovers that truly being The Boy Who Lived also means learning to eventually become The Man Who Dies. It all ends.

4/5

Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two arrives in Australian cinemas July 13, 2011.

7 Responses to “It all ends – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two review”

  1. Very good review! Summed up my thoughts on the movie exactly.

  2. you left out the part about how awesome the movie is!!!!! it wass brilliant, they did the part i was looking forward to seeing. it couldn’t of been done much better except to ad a few more scenes from the book.

  3. Do you feel that this movis would leave enough excitement to fuel fans to watch another harry potter movie based on the biograpy of voldemort

  4. boring as rest of them. they are made for 10 year olds to watch.. im not even going to rate it…..

  5. Great Sufjan reference, Simon

  6. This is a great review. Thank you.

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