“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”: Saying Goodbye for the Last Time
“You’ve never seen a Harry Potter movie?” I incredulously asked a woman sitting near me at the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 screening. “Well, I know there’s a witch in it,” she responded. I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped open. I was gobsmacked. Not simply because seeing the very last film was like watching the last 10 minutes of Sixth Sense before the rest. But, I couldn’t believe there was someone—someone at this screening—who did not share my (fanatical) love for this series. Someone who didn’t know who Dumbledore was. Or Hagrid. Or how to pronounce Hermione!
For many of us, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has been a huge part of our lives for over a decade. We’ve attended the midnight screenings—occasionally with fake glasses—and the midnight book releases. We’ve read the books countless times, and practically know every line of the movies. We’ve watched these young actors grow up on film. [Can we again acknowledge the brilliant (forecasting) casting of Christopher Columbus?] And just like the release of the final book, the release of HP 7.2 is a bittersweet dichotomy: something we’ve long waited for, but wish it took a bit longer. Fortunately, Part 2 is a magical end to an extraordinary series.
Part 2 begins where Part 1 ended: Voldemort (Ralph Fienes) continues to strengthen his hold on the wizarding world. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson)—after just having escaped the clutches of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter)—find that their quest leads them back to Hogwarts. Where Harry must face Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) one last time.
Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson have become so engrained with these characters, it’s nearly impossible to judge their acting. At this point, I couldn’t possibly imagine another actor or other performance. Fienes and Bonham Carter, again, give deliciously evil performances. Their constant tics and unexpected gestures frequently keep you unnerved. Up until this point, Alan Rickman’s Snape was always icily detached. Here, he breaks free and gives a gut-wrenching performance. The flashback sequence, underscored by Alexandre Desplat’s tremendous music, where we finally learn Snape’s sacrifices, is particularly affecting.
But like Part 1, the tone of this movie is of immense seriousness. In the written version, Rowling provided moments of levity. In the movie version, director David Yates and writer Steve Kloves take us headfirst into the darkness. In some places, that is to be expected. In a book, the death of a character may last a sentence, a few seconds. But on screen that may translate into a lingering shot of a lifeless body and family/friends weeping. Additionally, a major criticism of the book was that the Rowling’s final battle scene was underwritten and too brief (as compared to the several-hundred pages devoted to camping). Yates and Kloves bring the fight to vivid life—particularly the scene where Harry flies through the Room of Requirement as it reupts in flames.
For fans, the movie will be like the greatest hits of the series. We see familiar characters (Ollivander). We visit familiar places (Gringotts). We rediscover things (basilisk) that were central to the simpler storylines of the shorter books. It also captures all the best aspects of the series: spectacular special effects, editing, cinematography, an unbelievable cast, and haunting and memorable music.
But is it possible to truly judge HP 7.2 on its own merits? For that woman in the theater, who probably had no flippin’ idea what was going on, what did she think? But ultimately, it is not meant to be a standalone piece. Like Return of the King, this final episode becomes greater simply because of the sum of its parts. Sure the movie isn’t flawless: the scene with Dumbledore doesn’t quite successfully make the jump from page to screen and the narrative becomes a bit jumbled during the final battle. Even so, HP 7.2 is a great film. It sparks our imagination. It makes us—to this day—secretly wish an owl would appear with our invitation to Hogwarts. It gives us an opportunity to say goodbye to characters that we’ve grown to know and love. And allows us to close the page for the last time …
Until I finally figure out what this Pottermore thing is all about.
My Grade: A-