D: David Yates. DP: Eduardo Serra. W: Steve Kloves. Starring: Daniel Radcliffe/Emma Watson/Rupert Grint/Alan Rickman/Ralph Fiennes/Helena Bonham Carter/Tom Felton/Maggie Smith/Jason Isaacs/Michael Gambon/Ciaran Hinds/Kelly Macdonald/John Hurt/Matthew Lewis/Bonnie Wright. (NOTE: References made to J.K Rowling books and previous Harry Potter films.)
After so many years, so many books, so many films, so much love and that little bit of magic that has kept us all enchanted, it is time to say goodbye. Goodbye and thank you to a group of films that has captured the evolution of kids into actors, collected many famous British actors in the same room, and celebrated J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. And to every muggle who has not yet read/seen or scoffs at this series (or franchise really), for you I am deeply sorry.
But for the rest of us, it all ends here. And thankfully it’s brilliant. The film opens with a quiet, somber tone. Radcliffe’s Harry still sits on the earth where he buried his valiant elf savior, Dobby, and soon becomes resolute that now is the time for final decisions and actions. This might be my favorite opening yet, there’s no sweeping score, roaring train, or Dursleys, but it’s true, dramatic, and real. Radcliffe is his best here I think, he centers the film and grounds it in Harry’s personal struggle to live and break free from predestined choices. Kloves’ final script gives all this to him, while also letting the drama and suspense build, accentuating the surprises and fatal plot turns.
Watson’s Hermione and Grint’s Ron are great scene partners for Radcliffe, although ultimately the movie is his. His though, only to be shared and oftentimes stolen by Ralph Fiennes’ seething and slippery Lord Voldemort. Once again, Fiennes’ costume, make-up, and performance beat out any other Potter world character. From his snake slit nose to his writhing hands clutching the elder wand and down to his billowing cape, Fiennes is pure glorious evil down to the very end. And it is this ultimate battle and confrontation that pulls together the Potter world, the Death Eaters and the faithful Hogwarts students and staff. So that although the film is sometimes sad and frightening, it simply feels great to see all these characters together on screen.
Yates, who also directed Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows Part 1 continues his solid work here. Yates and cinematographer Eduardo Serra complete the look of the last couple of films admirably, bringing the richness and darkness of the world up, such that places act as their own characters. The only faults I can give this final installment are the tiny cracks in plot or lack of development in certain relationships and characters. Specifically, Radcliffe’s relationship with Wright’s Ginny never finds much weight or romance, I guess that was all saved for Watson and Grint? Yet, audiences will find it difficult to get angry about these details, because death and darkness are so well embraced here that you are certainly too engrossed to care.
Like other successful Potter films, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2 dares you to return to the cinema and see it all again. Its abandonment of the pretense of happiness that the other films have been forced (and to some degree needed to have as part of the story) to uphold, truly yanks you in. The film even gets its own new faces and clever tidbits. Ciaran Hinds makes an almost unrecognizable turns as Dumbledore’s brother Albus and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire‘s Kelly Macdonald marks her ground as the Grey Lady, the ghostly daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw. Lastly, this film finally lets shine awkwardly adorable Matthew Lewis’ Neville Longbottom. For Potter book lovers they may remember the irony of Harry’s fate that, in fact, Neville and Harry’s birthdays were so close to each other that the prophecy could come true with either boy. This makes Lewis’ scenes all the more poignant as he comes into his own and proves that Radcliffe’s Potters influence was just as significant with his Hogwarts’ peers than the films have time to showcase.
Although in my previous reviews of the last two Potter films I have addressed the fact that there will probably never be a film that satiates the Potter appetite, I believe Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the closest we have come. Having said that, all it does is encourage me to go home, grab the books from my bookshelf and relive the magic all over again. As that is ultimately the lasting affect of this series. It makes you love to read, love to imagine, and smile because wouldn’t we all like to believe there are wizards around our doorstep. Accio Potter book!