Review: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″

Let’s face it: the Harry Potter movies have been far better than anyone ever expected them to be.

They’re probably better than they have any right to be, actually – kid-friendly, high-return properties like J. K. Rowling‘s phenomenally popular book series don’t generally result in the highest quality product in Hollywood. So it’s nothing short of miraculous that after a shaky start, the Potter films have matured into the gripping and well-rendered works that compose the bulk of the series.

In a sense, it’s almost fitting that what initially felt like a few clunky ads for gourmet jelly beans developed into the grandest, richest, most technically impressive, most delightful and most heartfelt major motion picture franchise of all time – because if there is one thing that we all can learn from Rowling’s sprawling fantasy epic, it’s that you should never underestimate our ability to change, grow, and redeem ourselves.

And with Deathly Hallows 2, all that maturity and hard-earned redemption reaches its peak, and comes to a fitting end.

Picking up exactly where Hallows 1 left off, we find Harry, Hermione, and Ron hiding out with a Gringotts goblin and the Sword of Gryffindor, maneuvering their way into the Lestrange vault. A clever impersonation (courtesy of the endlessly entertaining Helena Bonham Carter) and a dragon ride later, the trio are headed back to reclaim Hogwarts, which has been taken over by Snape and the Death Eaters since the murder of headmaster Dumbledore.

What follows is actually quite complicated, and set against the backdrop of a spectacular and massive battle for Hogwarts. As Harry and his friends (aided by schoolmates who have led a small rebellion under the guiding hand of unlikely hero Neville Longbottom) seek to locate the remaining parts of Voldemort’s soul, or Horcruxes, other assorted heroic characters from the past seven films battle to the death against the invading army of baddies.

It’s honestly all a bit of a blur, even just a few days later – so much has to be done and so much happens during the battle that only the most memorable bits stay fresh in the memory – like the unforgettable moment when Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) raises her wand against Snape to defend Harry, or when Mrs. Weasley (Julie Walters) steps in to protect her daughter (and Harry’s love), Ginny, against Bellatrix Lestrange (and yes, Weasley fans, “bitch” gets its due).

Meanwhile, there are momentous first kisses, the most violent (and, in retrospect, most harrowing) death in the entire series, a major revelation about a villain’s true intentions, and of course Longbottom’s triumphant defiance of Voldemort. The Deathly Hallows are found, lost, finally understood, and disregarded, the Horcruxes pile up like dirty laundry, and somehow Harry cheats death several more times before the final reel.

In short, there’s a hell of lot going on.

Which is both good and bad, really. I may be in the minority, but while I enjoyed Hallows Part 2, it doesn’t have the same emotional resonance to me as The Half-Blood Prince (which handled the last days and murder of Dumbledore brilliantly) in or even Deathly Hallows 1, where Harry and his friends, lost and alone, stared their own mortality full in the face.

Hallows 2 has a different job to do, which involves tying up a whole host of loose ends and somehow delivering a satisfying ending to a massive and intricate story. And this it does admirably, and with a great deal of spectacle – so if the quieter, more poignant moments that I came to love in the series were missing, there’s probably little room to complain about it. I will say that the film made more sense of things than the book did for me.

While our three leads do perfectly well in their last go-round, Hallows 2 actually gives much of the spotlight to other performers – namely, the ever-amazing Alan Rickman (who is finally given the chance to breathe after seven films of being buttoned up in those black robes as the mysterious Snape) and the adorable Matthew Lewis as unlikely hero Neville. Other beloved minor characters fall by the wayside, which is unfortunate for those who don’t live to see the end of the battle.

As usual, the effects, production design, art direction, music, and camerawork are top-notch – everything from the thrilling, dragon-backed escape from Gringotts to the razor-thin etching on the golden snitch is rendered with the utmost care and precision. I found the avalanching pile of reproducing gold items that threatens to consume the gang in the vault to be particularly delightful, and the spectacular destruction of one of Hogwarts’ iconic walkways is jaw-dropping.

Taking a step back at looking at Harry Potter as a whole, I’m honestly amazed. Everything about the overall series – from the integrity of its storytelling to the creativity in its designs to the fact that its lead actors all grew up in front of all of us both on- and offscreen and seem to be genuinely lovely people – is impressive.

That the filmmakers dared to take the films to such dark and murky places and to trust their audience to make the journey with them was incredibly bold.

That both the beloved characters and the film series itself managed to emerge victorious from the fray after over 10 years is something to celebrate.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is Rated PG-13 for a hell of a lot of violence, a creepy, noseless Ralph Feinnes, harm to goblins, and adolescent witchcraft.

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