Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two
dir. David Yates
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
3-1/2 out of 5 Stars
My initiation into the Potterverse began not with the novels or the early films, but with the previous film in the saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One (you can check out a review written when it was released here). Since then I’ve had a chance to go back and experience all of the films, and while several are quite flawed, the saga itself is a solid body of work to be lauded for its acting, its production value, and its coherent vision- a difficult prospect, considering its scope, but the outcome has been more than satisfying to date. With the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two on DVD/Blu-Ray the saga is now complete, Lord Voldemort has been defeated, and everything has ended happily. Unfortunately this ending was also disjointed; it felt rushed, and had no ground of its own to stand on. It relies entirely upon the saga that precedes as its rising action, and while this was not a problem in and of itself (and was to be expected), nothing was really done to give this film its own unique experience. Ultimately the film is a somewhat satisfying ending to the Potter saga, but as a film itself, it is significantly underwhelming.
Not that the film is without its bright spots. It provides grand closure to the saga and in these respects, the film is quite excellent. There are so many satisfying moments in the film that it is nigh impossible to name them all, but there are those that must be mentioned: Snape’s redemption, Potter’s confrontation of Snape, Ron and Hermione finally snog, and Bellatrix Lestrange is defeated by a Weasley. Neville destroys Nagini! The saga as a whole has been building to the many emotional climaxes one witnesses here and nearly all of them delivers. Some are unfortunately not so satisfying: the battle between Harry and Voldemort specifically, as it is woefully short and lacking any real tension or emotion, as Voldemort has grown so weak by this point that a first year wizard could defeat him. Granted, Harry and Voldemort’s best moments come in other films, and even earlier in this film, but the final epic battle that has been coming for Harry’s entire life should have probably taken more screentime than fire in the room of requirement (a sequence that seriously carried on for ages).
So where did it all go wrong? After all it is only a part two, and the end of a saga, so one could argue that it need not worry about some conventions that a stand-alone film may need to adhere to. Sadly this is where the divide comes, and this is where the film is a colossal failure. One could also argue that this saga is many parts to a whole, yet none of the films prior- not even Deathly Hallows Part One- feels like it is an incomplete film. Yet this film feels like something else entirely- it is paced rather erratically, and the film makes one forget that these are living breathing characters whom we have come to know and love and erases any semblance of a character arc for them- instead we get over-long action sequences at Gringotts and the throwaway introduction of new characters (Dumbledore’s brother?!) to fill in the rest of the holes. They feel like unnecessary wastes of screentime that instead should have been devoted to giving our heroes something more to do. Most of the film feels like, “here are long sequences of a bunch of side characters doing a bunch of things” and then a quick “meanwhile, Harry finds another horcrux.” While one could argue that this points to everyone’s importance in the battle against Voldemort and not just Harry’s (a theme common to the films and this film in particular), the ratio was too far off.
Ultimately the blame for this disjointedness must come from the adaptation itself, as the work of Yates is superb here, carrying on what he has done in the last several Potter films strongly and delivering in grand fashion. Similarly, the acting is superb here- particularly enjoyable are Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort and Radcliffe as Harry, who has managed to carry the entire saga on his shoulders to this point without once making it seem like he shouldn’t. Radcliffe in particular continues to show that he is a versatile and capable actor whose greatness does not end with Potter, but has only begun.
The problem with the adaptation is that it is too rigid. It adheres too closely to the book’s narrative structure, and this goes back through to part one as well. While the adaptation of the book led to a part one that was whole and complete in every aspect, this film was sadly stuck with the leftovers of the rest of the book, and a standalone story this did not make. The book even presents the perfect character plot- Harry learning and accepting that he has to die- and the film adaptations fail to make use of it. How much better might the second film have been, had the first ended with Voldemort finding the elder wand and with Harry learning that, for the dark lord to die, he had to as well? Then the second film might have been Harry’s fight both against Voldemort’s forces and against accepting the fact that he must sacrifice himself, instead of this being a small part of the film as a whole. The other Potter films worked so well because the screenwriters condensed Rowlings’ epic tales into workable films that included what was important and left out the excesses. By expanding Deathly Hallows to two films the story was not necessarily done a disservice- the films still could have worked as stand-alone parts of the whole- but in being too rigid, the second film falls flat on its face.
Still there is much to enjoy here, many heart-warming moments, and many wonderful scenes. It is a conclusion to the Potter saga, that much is certain, and for many a satisfying one (particularly if you have read the books). But oh, how epic it might have been. 3-1/2 out of 5 stars.
by Nicholas Haskins
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All Harry Potter Reviews:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
A wonderful, if flawed, introduction to the series.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Even better than the first.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
A fantastic film with an amazing final act.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
A tragic misstep for the Potter-verse.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
An excellent, excellent film in every way.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Slow. Deliberate. Elaborate.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
The first Potter film this reviewer ever watched.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II
A satisfying ending that doesn’t stand on its own.