17 July 2011


This review contains spoilers for all of the Harry Potter films.

As I've been mentioning all week, I can trace my interest in films back to the first Harry Potter film. I'd probably be writing a blog about books or some shit instead, or else doing a proper job, if it weren't for my obsessive interest in the production of that film. 10 years later and a lot of film reviews later, "it all ends here", as the posters and trailers for the final Harry Potter film have insisted.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 concludes the saga, based on JK Rowling's novel, over the course of one tumultuous day. In a breakneck change of pace from the year-long timescales of previous outings, this final day finds Harry, Ron and Hermione closing in on Lord Voldemort's three remaining Horcruxes. Returning to Hogwarts, they inadvertently bring the Dark Lord's wrath with them, and a final battle for the wizarding world commences.

Part 1 grew on me on repeat viewings- each of director David Yates' efforts in the series have multiple dimensions that have nothing to do with the 3D up-conversion of the final chapter. The first half of Deathly Hallows justifies its own separation as a single film, although it's difficult to argue that the long running time was really needed. By contrast, Part 2 is the shortest film of the entire series, at a surprisingly lean, occasionally mean 130 minutes, and it somehow feels rushed.

Every Potter fan, in their own head, has their own version of the book in their head, which is perfect to them irrespective of whether they imagine Harry Potter from Rowling's description or Daniel Radcliffe's performances. The Deathly Hallows ruminates upon death and bereavement, but with any real sense of the latter somehow being excised by the halving of the story, the film quite gingerly skips over the deaths of Fred Weasley (no pun intended), Remus Lupin and other characters who deserved a better send-off.

After the three-character showcase in the previous film, this one struggles to some extent, in reintegrating the surviving supporting characters. This film largely rests on Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, now inexorably determined to face his destiny and save his friends. At some points however, the film leans so heavily on Harry that certain other plot moments, which would've been nice to see, are lost. The whole gang is here, sure, but the film is so frantic and breathless that some of those who survive the whole hog never quite get their moment to shine amongst the magical melee.

Just seeing those characters isn't enough after seven previous films, and so many of them really don't interact with one another as they battle Voldemort and his forces. Still, amongst the standouts in the supporting cast this time around are Matthew Lewis, relishing Neville Longbottom's finest hour in his exuberant performance, and Dame Maggie Smith, whose steely and school ma'am-ish tones are differently deployed as Professor McGonagall approximates a witchy General Patton.

Alan Rickman's greatest work of the series is in this one too, as Snape's duality finally comes to an enormously satisfying conclusion. Rickman is the best thing about Part 2 and it's a fine closure to his stalwart supporting turns in the series. We're now at a point where it should be commendable enough that a summer blockbuster of this magnitude finds room for sympathetic characters like Snape, and Harry himself, amongst the explosive action, but these films have always had a sprawling cast.

The special effects are top-notch, of course, spectacularly realising a sustained apocalyptic showdown between good and evil in the hallowed halls of Hogwarts. But the series has never missed the presence of John Williams, composer of the first three Potter films and countless other classic scores, as much as it does during the battle royale posed by this finale. Alexandre Desplat's efforts seem surprisingly reticent, and the most apt moments in the score come with reprises of Williams' work and Nicholas Hooper's Half-Blood Prince music. Just imagine if Williams had been able to come back and round out the series.

Unfortunately, the much-discussed epilogue, which was slightly indulgent in the book, is downright embarrassing in the film. Like the costumes in Green Lantern, someone obviously had far too much confidence in the special effects involved in making these young actors look 19 years older. The greatest special effect of the series, by far, is the way that we've seen the young cast grow up as these characters. So although I appreciate the feeling that all is now well in Harry's world, there's something very cheap to me, about the final image of our three leads in the series being their artificially aged mugs.

All of this is merely to exorcise the rantings of that Harry Potter fanboy inside me, whose perfect version would probably have been a single film of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that had a stringently edited three-hour runtime. Part 1 doesn't need the help, but my feeling is that Part 2 does. The increased pace is enjoyable, to be sure, but it feels like Yates was afraid of the series outstaying its welcome at a point when it's surely got enough goodwill to sustain an audience's interest for long enough to do all of the characters justice. Blame the exaggerated lampooning of The Return of the King for that.

It is, of course, churlish to complain about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 being disappointing, only because it's not the best. In the main, it is a well-made, exciting and bittersweet capper to an extraordinary undertaking in cinema. It's a summer blockbuster with a brain, like its literary source, but to me at least, it's something of the final chapter's heartbeat seems a little off-tempo.

On balance, it acquits itself pretty well- it can't leave the viewer wanting more, but neither can it be an anti-climax. I can't shake the feeling that it's the weakest of Yates' Potter films, but you're still in safe hands. As a reprise of John Willams' score sends the series to its sleep, the filmmakers can congratulate themselves on a job well done. As virtually nothing else will be playing at multiplexes showing this in 2D and 3D, it remains to say that's it's still better than virtually everything else currently playing in cinemas. But I don't need to tell you that, do I?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is now showing, in 2D and 3D, at cinemas nationwide. ------------------------------------------------------------------
If you've seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, why not share your comments below? My order of preference? 5, 6, 3, 7, 8, 4, 1, 2. Yep, these last two sit right in the middle.

You can also watch the first episode of a new video series called One Mile Reviews, in which my friends and I quickly review this final film on the way home from the midnight screening.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

NerdyRachelMay said...

I had to resist the temptation to shout "FUCK YEAH NEVILLE!" at the screening I went to.