That striking final image of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, with Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) firing the Elder Wand into the air, certainly left fans on feverish tenterhooks to sink their teeth into this concluding second entry. While Part 1 was for a measure perhaps the goofiest and least consistent of the series, it at least did a serviceable job of putting the pieces into place for David Yates to craft the fitting climax to the series that the fans deserve. While there’s little evidence here to support the fact that it needed to be split in half at all, or that it needed the 3D treatment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is still every bit the spectacular and emotional treat fans hoped it would be.
Beginning with an eerie, downcast opening, which repeats the previous film’s iconic final image before peering ominously over the faces of the key players, this entry feels from the outset very much what the previous film tried to be but didn’t; moody, atmospheric, and more measured in its humour while achieving the sort of validated seriousness that most of the previous entries abjectly failed to. It is, however, still a lot of fun to be around and not all doom and gloom…
Admittedly the opening act is a touch wearisome, and not only because it’s full of the “because it’s magic” nonsense we’ve come to expect from the series (though frankly, that’s all part of the fun of these films). The initial scenes are less pacey than would be preferred for a film positively in need of urgency, and these opening segments in which Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) go about finding the remaining Horcruxes in order to vanquish Voldemort reek of generic follow-the-breadcrumb fodder when compared to the film’s infinitely more exciting and rewarding latter two thirds.
Once the pieces fall into place, beginning with Voldemort’s dogged assault on Hogwarts, the film transforms into a high-wire spectacle of unerring pace and exhilaration; set-pieces involve burning libraries and aerial acrobatics on broomsticks to name just a few. Dialoguing also becomes less about the whimsy of magic and more about the gravitas and sense of tying up this grandiose story. One potentially uneasy moment arrives when Harry near enough dunks his head into a bowl of exposition, kickstarting a lengthy 10-minute scene in which every possible revelation about the final battle is revealed to him in shrewd memory puddles, though it nevertheless packs in plenty of pathos and does sure justice to the series’ most complex character.
With a more savage streak than the previous films, the inevitability of this final chapter comes home to roost in a disarming though not inappropriate manner. One central character’s demise is surprisingly brutal, while corpses eagerly litter the battleground once Voldemort begins his assault. The real treat, of course, is the final battle, and the only real advantage of splitting this book into two halves is that it allows a very fine reticule to be placed over that showdown. Climaxing with a lengthy magic superbrawl of considerable intensity, Yates directs with an assured freneticism and, while other installments have struggled to make wand-waving exciting and visceral, here, with a more palpable sense of both danger and finality, we get the best-crafted set-pieces of the entire run.
It’s difficult to imagine either a Potter fan or a casual purveyor not being satisfied by this exceptional coda to the worldwide phenomenon; though these two closing films could easily have been condensed into a seamless three-hour epic, there’s a slick cohesiveness to even the drier opening portions, thanks to Yates’ storied direction, at this point, after four films, refined to an unflappable standard. Those familiar with the books will likely be anxious about how that epilogue plays out, but they can rest easy; the make-up isn’t especially convincing, but Yates smartly plays the scene for laughs, ending on a joyous high note rather than one of potentially disingenuous self-seriousness or forced poignance.
The only real production misstep, it seems, is the dubious choice to screen the film in 3D; though the technology theoretically lends itself extremely well to this world, the surprisingly flat 3D presentation here conjures only a handful of arresting visuals. The dimension, it seems, is all in the story and the characters. Bear with the slow start and what you get in this bookending instalment’s latter two acts is more pathos, exhilaration, and sheer entertainment value than anything else in the entire eight-film, ten-year saga. Potter has certainly saved the best for last.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is out now!!!
This article was first posted on July 15, 2011