Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
By Matthew Huntley
July 20, 2011
Ever since the first Harry Potter film was released in 2001, analysts have marveled over the series’ durability at the box-office. And why shouldn’t they? The average gross for each installment is over $900 million worldwide.
As impressive as that is, even more remarkable is the consistent strength of the storytelling. Through all eight adaptations, the Harry Potter films have been made with the utmost care, production values and attention to detail, qualities that should please even the most ardent fans of J.K. Rowling’s novels. Each has been experiential in its own right, a trait that carries through to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, a more than worthy conclusion to the most successful franchise in film history.
Yes, this is the final battle for the plucky boy wizard, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), and his two faithful friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). They unite with their fellow students from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to do battle with the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his insidious army, which includes the malicious Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). Readers of the books or followers of the movies know that Voldemort is the one they call “you know who” and has been trying to kill young Harry since his birth. The late Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and the school’s newest headmaster, Professor Snape (Alan Rickman), have a deeper understanding of Harry’s fate than he could have ever imagined, and as Harry makes new discoveries, so do we, which is why the story is so engaging.
For the three heroes, their mission continues to be locating and destroying the remaining Horcruxes that hold pieces of Voldemort’s soul. If they destroy the Horcruxes, they destroy Voldemort. I suppose it was inevitable they be hidden inside Hogwarts, which is a perfect stage for the battle between good and evil. But then, would we have wanted it any other way? This setting gives us the chance to see all the characters apply their magical skills, from professors and students to enchanted stone warriors.
The last third of the film centers on the magnificent battle, but it doesn’t rush into it like we anticipate. This is not just wall-to-wall action, although that would be expected after the slow but effective Deathly Hallows: Part 1, which was patient, somber and seemingly uneventful. If that film was meant to be a setup, then this is surely the payoff, only it doesn’t erupt with gratuitous violence and ostentatious special effects. Rather, it takes its time to resolve the outstanding narrative threads begun in the very first film. Director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves find a way to balance the substance with the action so the two can co-exist. As a result, the ensuing deaths and destruction come to mean something.
I admit I was craving an ending with a bigger bang, but in hindsight, I appreciate the gradual upswing to the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort. It would have been easy for the characters to simply fight, but it’s more courageous and fitting that they don’t. Because the plot is so complex, the film takes its time and there are moments of quiet reflection that allow us to soak it all in. It answers the remaining questions coherently and without haste.
Speaking only as an admirer of the films (I’ve never read the Harry Potter novels), The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a perfectly satisfying conclusion to this epic story. It reiterated how the series is wondrous not because of its magic and effects, but because of its insights into human nature and the deeply felt themes of life, death and friendship. Ever since The Sorcerer’s Stone, the filmmakers have honored these themes by allowing the films to develop over time, which is probably why we'll come to appreciate them more as time goes on.