“It all ends.”
That single sentence packs a significant and heavy punch when the realization that there will be no more Harry Potter films, a series that has been around for 10 years, sets in. To say it’s finished is difficult, because, for a time, it seemed like we would always have another Harry Potter movie to look forward to (regardless if they were good or not). An icon of our generation, a multi-billion dollar franchise, everyone knows who Harry Potter is; but we knew it couldn’t last.
As the saying goes, all things must come to an end.
And what an end it was.
This review is structured like my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, and the categories I’m covering are as follows: Story, Cinematography/Locations, Visual Effects, Acting/Casting, and Music.
Harry has come a long way since his First Year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – he has defeated dementors, competed in the Tri-Wizard Cup, learned that he is the Chosen One, and has experienced loss and love – but nothing could have truly prepared him for what’s about to come. By far the darkest of the Harry Potter films (which makes sense, considering it is based on the darkest novel), Deathly Hallows: Part 2 relishes in its PG-13 rating, treating the audience to gruesome death, blood-shed, and one of the most epic battles in modern cinema.
The previous film left off with Voldemort claiming the Elder Wand as his own, and Harry burying his dear friend Dobby the house-elf – one rejoicing in victory, the other coping with defeat – but together they both have one thing in common; either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives. So, having already destroyed three of six Horcruxes, Harry and co. set out to find and destroy the remaining three, after which Harry will be able to face Voldemort for one last time.
Because Deathly Hallows was split into two movies (with the previous film spending most of its time explaining what Harry and co. needed to do regarding the Hallows and Horcruxes, and explaining how Dumbledore was involved in it all) this final film was, for all intents and purposes, one giant battle at Hogwarts. There was no traipsing around rolling green hills and running through dark forests. This movie brought Harry and the audience back to Hogwarts, back to where it all began, and destroys it.
I won’t go into any more detail than that (if you’ve seen the trailers then you know as much already), but let’s just say that Voldemort and his Death Eaters like to fight dirty.
Now, I’m sure there are those out there who have seen the movie and are crying foul at the changes made to this movie, because it does not stay 100% true to the book. Some scenes were taken out, new ones were added in, and some were changed entirely. And purists, I feel your pain. I know what it’s like to nerd-rage at what you think are unacceptable changes – it’s horrible – but I’ve made peace with this film. Still satisfied from the accuracy of the last film, I decided that I didn’t care if this movie was completely wrong, because, frankly, the movies have got nothing on the books. At this point, all I wanted from the filmmakers was the most epic finale that they could possibly create.
And that’s exactly what they gave me.
However, I do have a few complaints regarding the pacing of the story – and I warn you now:
THERE ARE MAJOR BOOK/MOVIE SPOILERS AHEAD, SO SKIP DOWN TO THE NEXT SECTION IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ ANY SPOILERS
First, I felt that Remus, Tonks, Fred, and George all should have had more screen time. We only caught glimpses of them in the battle, and then the next thing we know we’re looking at their corpses in the infirmary – not a very fitting way to send off such important characters. And along those same lines, I felt that the battle between Mrs. Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange was entirely rushed. It literally lasted thirty seconds, and then Bellatrix was dead. Not. Cool.
Another thing that bothered me was the fact that they did not reference the prophecy regarding Harry and Vodemort at all. They should have reminded the audience that Harry was indeed the Chosen One, and that he alone had to kill Voldemort. And, on the flip side of that, they should have mentioned that Neville could have been the Chosen One, had Voldemort not attacked Harry, because Harry and Neville were born on the same day. To me, this would have fleshed out Neville’s character so much more, and made him feel much more significant when he cut off Nagini’s head. Sure, they mentioned all of this in the fifth movie, but we’re on the eighth one now; we needed to hear it again.
And my final complaint is in regards to the final battle between Harry and Voldemort. There was no grand revelation in front of everyone that Harry was the true master of the Elder Wand, nor did we get to see Voldemort’s body fly through the air as a result of a backfired curse. Instead, we got to see Harry and Voldemort fly around Hogwarts (which was cool, but weird), and then they faced off alone in the courtyard, not another soul in sight – and when Harry finally does defeat him, Voldemort disintegrates into little flakes of flesh.
Which made absolutely no sense.
I’m not trying to be picky, it just simply made no sense whatsoever; I mean, if they were alone, and Voldemort’s body disintegrated and blew away in the wind, where’s the proof that he actually defeated him? Silliness I say!
Other than that, I thought the story was great. A creative, yet faithful, adaptation of the final novel.
As I mentioned before, this film does not run hither, thither, and yon. It largely takes place in the familiar halls of Hogwarts, though there are a few new locations, the most notable of which is the underworld of Gringotts Bank. It was really cool to see it brought to life on the big screen, as they were riding on the cart-rail through this giant cavern. It was certainly mostly CG, but it was impressive nonetheless.
Back to Hogwarts, though, the camera shots they used were absolutely stunning. Bobbing and weaving through windows and corridors, they really made the chaos of the battle come to life, making you feel as if you were right there in middle of it all. There were also moments of slow-motion that really complimented the film and augmented the scenes where it was used, and I commend the filmmakers for not overdoing it.
Harry and co. went to a few other places as well, such as Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, but there was one place they ventured that was only mentioned in the book. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but it was a really cool scene and a nice bit of fan-service.
The visual effects of the Harry Potter franchise have always been top-notch (I remember thinking Dobby looked amazing when I was a kid), and this movie really takes the cake. From the army of stone statues, to the albino dragon, the CG creatures in this movie look real. And even the goblins, who were just midgets in makeup, looked spot on!
But the true magic of this movie was just that – the magic. I was constantly being blown away by the different spells being cast in this movie, all the different colors and energy waves criss-crossing across the screen – and in IMAX 3D no less! It was absolutely breathtaking. And the way they destroyed Hogwarts was merciless and devastating – which made it that much more incredible!
We all know the main characters of the Harry Potter series, and we all know their actors’ capabilities. For me, it’s been interesting to watch the actors develop their characters over the past decade – especially the young actors – and this movie pushes all of them to their limits. Whether or not they achieved greatness is another thing entirely.
For starters, I think the main trio did a fantastic job in this movie – they all have grown tremendously as actors – but especially Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. They really came together as a couple in the last film, and I think that enhanced their performances in this one. You could tell they really cared for one another, and they had some really good scenes together.
Daniel Radcliffe, on the other hand, did not shine as bright as they did. I understand that he will forever be the face of Harry Potter, but I’ve always felt his performances were a tad stale at times. In my mind, Harry is a bit more dynamic than what Radcliffe portrays, but that is just my personal preference. I will say, though, that he did a great job acting like he was looking into Voldemort’s mind. Very nicely done, Harry.
And then there’s Neville Longbottom, the underrated and underestimated friend of the famous trio. He really comes into his own in this film, as he and his character rise to the challenges set before them. With Harry gone, he becomes the temporary leader of Dumbledore’s Army, and I’d say he’s a great fit for the job.
Of course, one can’t talk about Harry Potter without discussing You-Know-Who, and Ralph Fiennes has done it again. In this movie, we see a weakened Voldemort – for three pieces of his soul had been destroyed at this point – but because of this, he is at his most deadly. His temper is short, his rage always simmering beneath the surface, and when he finally erupts it is a powerful image to behold.
I would also like to mention Professor McGonagall, as portrayed by Maggie Smith. Perhaps the most witch-like character of the whole series of movies, I was beyond happy that she returned as the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts (as many actors retire by the age of 76). She did a fantastic job, as always, and she had quite a few moments to shine, for which I was most pleased.
Another honorable mention would be Kelley MacDonald as the Grey Lady. Though the Ghost of Ravenclaw had made appearances in past movies, she never talked and was always in the background, thus the decision to cast MacDonald as the Grey Lady was superb. Even though her scene was not in the novel, I thought it was perfect and it helped keep the pace of the movie running smoothly.
But, despite all these terrific actors and actresses, the performance of Alan Rickman as Snape was by far the best of the whole film. Alan Rickman, who has always been brilliant, fully embraced the character of Snape for this movie, and as a result we get an incredibly dynamic and conflicted figure; we see sides of Snape we never knew existed, and Rickman performed them unto perfection. I’ve always liked Snape in the books, and I’ve always liked Snape in the movies, but after this I daresay he might be my favorite character.
It was a travesty that John Williams was not able to return to score the final film of the Harry Potter franchise (he even expressed interest, but his schedule didn’t line up with the director’s). However, Alexandre Desplat has returned to score the second half, and it is nothing short of amazing.
Having loved his score in the first half, I was excited to hear he agreed to return for this last film, and they couldn’t have picked a better replacement for Williams; in many ways, though, I would say he’s a better fit than Williams’ for this movie. Desplat creates a darker, solemner tone than Williams’ robust and energetic music, utilizing strings and vocals in different ways than the Star Wars legend, and it adds that extra touch that turns a film from good to amazing.
That’s not to say he completely ignores Williams’ past contributions. On the contrary, I would say this score is a fantastic homage to Williams’ score, for Desplat throws in elements of Hedwig’s theme into his music in ways that send chills down your spine. A perfect blend of old and new, Alexandre Desplat manages to capture the fantastical magic of past Potter movie scores, all while adding his own mature and darker feel to it.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the perfect way to end the Harry Potter film series, but that does not mean it is a perfect movie. At times it feels rushed, and I wished it focused a little more on events that really mattered in the book, but some would say that is just nit-picking on my part. And it probably is. Regardless, though, this is a fantastic film. Marking the end of a cinematic era, the final chapter of a decade of films, you will not be disappointed by what you see.