Reviewed by C.J. Bunce
Harry Potter never had it easy. A kid with a dark destiny thrust into a world of muggles as a baby from a world of hidden magic and secrets. As his story progressed no matter how many people acted in support of him, in the last two of seven episodes we learn that maybe the cards were stacked against him from even before his birth. And only at the end do we learn the truth and his destiny is finally revealed.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, debuted in the UK last weekend and this weekend in the U.S. to record midnight screening and opening day box office sales of $92.1 million. Thankfully, our devotion to Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends over 13 years of our lives was rewarded with a satisfying conclusion. It’s not a perfect film, or even close to it, but it is a lot of fun and if your expectations after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, were as low as mine, you might just walk out as pleasantly surprised as I was, willing to go back for another screening.
Look forward to the best Harry Potter movie since Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. And it is much better than Deathly Hallows, Part 1.
Highlights of Deathly Hallows, Part 2, include:
- Our favorite underdog, background character Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) finally gets his due screentime, and if there is any young actor we want to see more of post-Harry Potter, it is this actor as an adult.
- We get to meet a new resident of Hogwarts, Helena Ravenclaw, played beautifully by Kelly MacDonald (Trainspotting, Elizabeth, Gosford Park, State of Play, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, No Country for Old Men).
- We get to meet Albus Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth Dumbledore, played by the brilliant Ciaran Hinds (Excaliber, Sum of All Fears, Phantom of the Opera, Road to Perdition, Tomb Raider, Jane Eyre, Race to Witch Mountain).
- Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood, who will will not back down and demands to have her say, gives a performance that could very well have been the female lead in this movie.
- A superb scene of a rescue from Gringotts of a white dragon, incredibly lifelike and a satisfying scene.
- In the 3D version, we get to see Hogwarts like never before, with an introductory shot of the mysterious, ever-watching Dementors, seeming to bookend our flight as we soar into the dark journey ahead. In fact, this is the best 3D movie I have seen–nothing over the top or dazzling–but good enough that you feel like you are eavesdropping on a conversation between Harry, Hermione and Ron from under the stairsteps. Or that you could grab a prop, like the Sword of Gryffindor, or like one of those thousands of gold chalices under Gringotts, from the production set. I actually forgot it was a 3D movie.
My negatives are with the story, and the decision to break the novel into two films, more than the film itself. Although it was a fun read, I did not love the novel. I thought J.K. Rowling saved too much for the end, after three previous forgettable installments where not a lot happened. Too much crammed into the last book, and if better planned out, some of the revelations in this last installment could have been more subtlely peppered through the prior installments. And the jam-packed story was all too rushed.
As an example, (a spoiler for those who have not read the book or seen Deathly Hallows, Part 1): Rowling seemed to spend a lot of time with Harry’s sadness at the death of Dobby the Elf, yet snuffed out the life of Harry’s closest companion going back to day one at Hogwart’s–the only one at his side even while he had to live with the Dursley’s–his pet owl Hedwig. And she goes on to snuff out beloved characters almost willy-nilly in my mind without much reflection by our hero. Loyal readers probably will figure this occurs off-screen, but again I think the story presses forward like a freight train out of control at times–it must, because there are too many ends that need tied up.
Ultimately the tying up occurs, and we can walk out of the theater with our questions answered. Finally, there did not seem to be enough Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), and when we did see them, Hermione’s role was more of a watcher than the heroine we’ve come to love. There was not enough of Severus Snape’s (Alan Rickman) story, and I also am still not a fan of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) make-up and don’t believe Voldemort will go down as one of the best cinema villains despite Fiennes top-notch acting.
The slow, almost boring, parts of Deathly Hallows, Part 1, after watching Part 2, tell me that there never was a need to break the book into two films. With the new Twilight installment following suit by splitting a book into two movies, to me this reflects greed of the franchise and nothing else. For the sake of moviegoers, hopefully this is not the wave of the future. Prices at my theater were at an all-time high. With returns of $92 million on the first day, and all the blockbusters this summer, Hollywood can’t be doing that bad.
All said, this final installment is great entertainment, a must for Harry Potter fans, and an excuse to play catch-up on any past Harry Potter episodes you may have missed (for the three people out there who haven’t already seen them all). The film offers a denouement that is a great wrap-up, thoughtful, and hopefully removes all possibility of any need of any future installments in the franchise.
Postscript for anyone who likes to see screen-used costumes and props–the Smithsonian Institution is arranging an exhibit of costumes from the Harry Potter franchise. More details to be announced.