Written by Karl Desmarais
Hooray for Harry Potter! Once again, and for the last time, the creators of the Harry Potter series have put together an entertaining and uplifting movie. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 does not disappoint. It’s been ten years since the first Harry Potter movie, and on looking back, I can’t remember ever walking out of a single one and thinking that I was shortchanged. This is especially true of the Deathly Hallows Part 2. A very satisfying finale to a great run.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 are perhaps the darkest of all the franchise, and yet, perhaps, the most satisfying, filled with wasteland-like imagery, failure, despair, and existential wanderings over the Earth. But hope is always lurking, the possibility of redemption, and there is loads of tension, and plenty of action, as Voldemort is ever-present and waiting to strike. We can feel the battle coming, the final showdown, and so Deathly Hallows Part 2 begins. Once again, we see Voldemort searing the sky with the all-powerful Elder Wand, and we know he is coming for Harry. Harry, Hermione, and Ron, are by the seashore laying their friend Dobby to rest and planning their next move. It promises to be a showdown of Armageddon-like proportion, and so Deathly Hallows Part 2 is.
The action really gets underway with a break into the Gringotts Bank, where Harry and friends are attempting to capture another Horcrux, but they are soon discovered and must make a run for their lives. After their escape, Harry has a vision and learns that one of the Horcruxes is hidden inside Hogwarts, and so the three young heroes make their way, dangerously, back to their old alma mater. The rest of film takes place primarily, with the exception of some flashbacks and one or two exits by Harry to the forest, at the battle-torn Hogwarts Academy, where we see and feel the constant threat of Voldemort and his army outside its walls.
Intermittently, we see Voldemort’s army of Death Eaters and Snatchers, and various monsters, including some giants we haven’t seen before, attacking Hogwarts and trying to destroy the barriers that have been put in place, as the main characters fight for their lives within. There are large-scale battles, a-la-Lord-of-the-Rings, or any of the many Hollywood films of late in which there are sweeping CGI battle scenes. In Deathly Hallows, however, fortunately for us, these moments are not dwelt on for long, so we do not feel bogged down with endless battle scenes, and are always quickly back with Harry’s quest to find the missing Horcruxes, and his search for the truth, for answers, and a way to finally destroy Voldemort.
And as always with the Harry Potter series, we are led through an amazing web of discoveries and backstories. The revelations, which J. K. Rowling is so deft with, are one of the great pleasures of watching a Harry Potter movie, and there is no shortage of these in the final episode. As the young heroes search desperately for the remaining Horcruxes, secrets are revealed and mysteries uncovered. They learn more about themselves and about the people they have known or been close to all their lives, and we as viewers, and especially those who have not read the books, can finally have the answers we have been waiting for.
By the end of the film we are soaring, our hearts in our throats, as David picks himself up off the ground to take on Goliath, and good, against all odds, finds a way to rise up against an overwhelming enemy. The woman in the seat next to me was striking the air in front of her and occasionally wiping her eyes under her 3D glasses. It might just have been the special effects, but I suspect it was the same youthful and childish elation I feel when watching good rising up against evil, especially when it is handled well, no matter how corny.
These elements in the storytelling are held still more tightly together by an unbelievable cast, and arguably the largest collection of great actors ever assembled for one film. The acting is fantastic, and probably the main ingredient for the film’s, and the series’, success. A real treat to watch. Add to this that the three principal roles are played by what were untrained child actors, but who from the very beginning of the series have been able to hold their own with some of the world’s best actors. They have remained consistent, even improving along the way and becoming more interesting, and even growing into talented actors. The luck in the casting has been truly amazing, and not only with the principle characters, the supporting cast as well. Talk about magic! The characters, the actors, have been the icing on the cake, or perhaps a large part of the cake itself, and really what has made the Harry Potter films as special as they are.
My criticisms of the film are minor, and in truth, self-incriminating. I sometimes found myself asking questions like, “Which wand is whose?” or “How many Horcruxes are left?” But given the length and complexity of the books, the exposition was probably handled as well as could be, I would imagine. And there is the slightly commercial feel in the photography and lighting. But the Harry Potter film series is, after all, a commercial enterprise, so this criticism is perhaps also be misplaced. As well, six different cinematographers have worked on the films and their look has not been consistent. It is a matter of taste, and my own feelings have gone back and forth on the subject, as I have never been staunchly opposed to the look of the films, and have on occasion even found myself enjoying it.
As commercial, pop-culture movies go, I have not enjoyed any film series as much, certainly not over the past ten years. It has been a long sustained breath of fresh air, in contrast to the glut of slapdash serial movies produced by Hollywood, where the only obvious concern has been money. I am really left with the feeling that despite their commercial nature, the Harry Potter movies were created and carried out in good faith. The concern for quality has always seemed present to me, and I have always left the theatre feeling satisfied, and even elated. With a climax that does not disappoint, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a highly entertaining and satisfying conclusion to a great series. I enthusiastically recommend it.