Eric D. Snider

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

The final book in J.K. Rowling's moderately successful series of Harry Potter novels was split into two movies, but the split was not equal. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1," released last fall, covered about 500 of the book's 750 pages, leaving Part 2 to deal with the remaining third -- climax, mostly, and not just for this installment but for the entire eight-movie series.

How can one two-hour film provide adequate closure for such a long saga? Can it be dramatically satisfying when the vast majority of the audience already knows, in great detail, what's going to happen? And just how awesome is it going to be when Mrs. Weasley calls Bellatrix the B-word?

The answers are: it can't; yes; and very.

Part 2 picks up exactly where Part 1 left off, with no change in tone, tempo, or style. It's immediately clear that the whole story was meant to be told in a single four-and-a-half-hour movie. There's no point in judging the parts separately; they don't stand alone, and they weren't intended to.

Harry's first line of dialogue is "I need to talk to the goblin," which seems like a good thing to say in a number of situations. From there the story marches solemnly and urgently toward its conclusion: the search for horcruxes that must be destroyed in order to defeat Voldemort; the final word on Snape's allegiances; risky plans and dangerous missions; some snogging. The pace is steady, neither rushed nor dragged out, as director David Yates lets the story's natural ups and downs create the rhythm. Working once again from a screenplay by Steve Kloves (who adapted all but one of the films), Yates understands Rowling's style of storytelling, and he has guided the saga through its most complex turns. Chris Columbus deserves credit for assembling the cast and directing the first two movies, but it is Yates -- the director of films 5-8 -- whose graceful touch has emerged as the signature of the series.

There are several thrilling sequences, including one set in Gringotts Bank, that are rife with tension and unease, occasionally leavened by grim humor. For as much mayhem as there is in the film, it's amazing how quiet it often is. That's not to say it isn't rousing and noisy when rousing noise is called for, just that Yates has realized the film need not be a never-ending cacophony of climax.

But speaking of climax, I have to admit the final victory doesn't feel like one. Instead of making Voldemort's destruction a triumphant thing, a cause for celebration, Yates underplays it, perhaps not wanting us to forget how costly the victory was. That's a far more mature and nuanced attitude than the saga's detractors give it credit for, and I can respect Yates' choice not to make it a jubilant, ticker-tape-parade sort of moment. Still, I can't help but feel there must have been a way to give us the satisfaction of enjoying our enemy's demise while still respecting the solemnness of the occasion.

If there's no emotional release at that point, though, there's bound to be in the epilogue, or in the scenes from Snape's memories, or in Harry's otherworldly conversation with Dumbledore, or upon the death of this character or that character, or any number of other places. It's impossible for someone who's read all the books and seen all the movies not to bring his or her own baggage to this final chapter, filling in whatever blanks there might be. I can point out (just for example) that the movies don't adequately convey Draco Malfoy's character and motivations, and that I wouldn't understand him if I hadn't read the books. But it's a moot point: I have read the books, and that experience can't help but influence the way I respond to the movies.

My hunch is that your reaction to this haunting, magical final installment will mirror your reaction to the book -- whether that's sadness that it's ending, happiness that it's ending happily, nostalgia for all the hours you've devoted to Mr. Potter and his associates, or some combination of those. In any case, it's a fitting conclusion to a remarkable tale, and an end to one of the most successful -- and successfully executed -- movie franchises in history.

Grade: B+

Rated PG-13, a little mild profanity, intense themes, battle scenes, some death

2 hrs., 10 min.

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This item has 11 comments

  1. Jacob says:

    Thank you, Eric.

  2. Moffio says:

    Great review and all, but let's get to the important stuff. What were your thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises teaser trailer?

  3. Kimberly says:

    Thanks for a great review, Eric. You're right, I felt the same way about this movie as I did the final book.

    Favorite line of the movie? That would be Mrs. Weasley's. :D

  4. Seasider says:

    The example of Voldermort's death scene is one of the problems I have with Yates and his style of directing. It's the way he handles big moments in these films. You had the Dumbledore death scene in Half Blood Prince which I found very anti-climactic. In the latest movie, the scene with Mrs Weasley and Bellatrix was also mishandled in my opinion. It felt forced and a little too short. But I will say I still enjoyed the movie for the most part.

  5. elsalgal says:

    I felt the way I felt after all of the other films. Why did they leave this or that out? However, the previous films had the excuse that they were long, and something had to be cut. This film, however, was only two hours long. I needed more of the heroics of the other characters. Why only a brief shot of Ginny before Mrs. Weasley's big line? It happened to quickly. Yes, there were many characters that gave their lives in order to help Harry. But the director seemingly glossed over those acts of heroism. Overall, I enjoyed the film. But I was disappointed because there could have been so much more.

  6. ~j. says:

    The books are the books, and the movies are the movies, and both (all) were excellent. Thanks for this review.

  7. Jon says:

    I was amused by the part where Voldemort realizes that if he can't kill Harry with his wand he can still kick the crap out of him. But not the good kind of amused. There were also several unintentional comedy moments that had the audience full of Potterphiles laughing at the movie instead of with it.

  8. Russ says:

    "But speaking of climax, I have to admit the final victory doesn't feel like one. Instead of making Voldemort's destruction a triumphant thing, a cause for celebration, Yates underplays it, perhaps not wanting us to forget how costly the victory was. That's a far more mature and nuanced attitude than the saga's detractors give it credit for, and I can respect Yates' choice not to make it a jubilant, ticker-tape-parade sort of moment."

    GREAT! The opposite situation was my biggest problem with Transformers 3. I was very uncomfortable with the way Michael Bay kept killing off both humans and sentient robots without a single shred of remorse.

    I felt like I was expected to think it was "awesome" that _____ ship or _____ giant robot just crashed/fell into a populated area or city in a huge explosion. All I could think about though was the glossed over casualties. Especially when he straight vaporized a group of bystanders/refugees.

    It was rather disgusting.

  9. Jayne says:

    Possible movie/book spoilers, readers beware!

    For me, the biggest (and, really, only mentionable) problem with this movie was that Dumbledore's character was brought into question (though briefly and may have been forgotten by some by the end), and he never gets to explain what really happened. I hate to compare the books to the movies, but I feel like Dumbledore got his final say in the book; but in the movie, the issue's just left at what was said to sort of discredit what he did for Harry and through his whole career. If they didn't plan on letting Dumbledore rebut what was said of him, then it shouldn't have been brought up in the first place; it wasn't necessary to the plot, and it just ended up leaving a plot hole of sorts for me.

    Like I said, though, that's my only complaint. One other sort of explanation-y thing was left out (Harry's family line), but I was okay with it. LOVED the movie, and though I'm sad the series is finally over, I can't wait to just keep re-reading and re-watching.

  10. John Doe says:

    I expected to be disappointed. If you read the comments in Eric's other HP reviews, you'll see my complaints that the movies were OK, but not great, so I expected the same here. I was wrong: this movie was worthy to be Harry Potter. It felt right most of the time, evoking the right emotions at the right times, just like the magic found in the books.

    This will be my favorite HP. It wasn't perfect. There were some things that really should have been in the movie, but I can ignore. Most glaring to me:

    ***(SPOILER ALERT)***

    No elves or other creatures came to help out at the end. Sorry, but just because V is dead, doesn't mean his army which outnumbers yours by hundreds or thousands will suddenly disappear. It would've taken all of 5 minutes to happen and would've added so much.

  11. Sam says:

    "Still, I can't help but feel there must have been a way to give us the satisfaction of enjoying our enemy's demise while still respecting the solemnness of the occasion."

    I personally think what Peter Jackson did in the final Lord of the Rings movie with the crowning of Aragorn scene could have been employed here. If you don't remember, Aragorn walked through the crowd after being crowned while acknowledging the main characters still alive after all 3 movies. This allowed me to remember the characters who had died to defeat Sauron. If Yates had done something like this in which all of the main characters and the others had thanked Harry in their own way or something similar. I think it would have come off more as what Yates intended. However, he did in a way accomplish this for me by having Harry's fight with Voldemort be under an overcast sky and then having Harry walk through the Great Hall which had light streaming into it. That was jubilant enough for me seeing as how every scene was either set during the night or when the sky was very gray and cloudy.

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