Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
As epic a finale as the series could have hoped for.


16 July 2011

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Plot summary

The battle between the good and evil forces of the wizarding world escalates into an all-out war.

And so, an era comes to an end. And a multibillion pound franchise makes a grab for our wallets one last time. It was 1997 when the first of J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally successful books was published, which means that, of my 24 years on this earth, Harry Potter has been around for more than half of them. That is a fair old time. In fact, there are a generation of kids, now in their teenage years, who have never known a world without Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest of Rowling’s dysfunctional wizard community. Yet now, finally, it is over. Sure, there will be spin offs to come; nobody would be foolish enough to let such a lucrative brand disappear completely. But, in terms of the core story that started it all, in terms of Harry’s long battle with Lord Voldemort, it is over.

I am not a massive Harry Potter fan, but I actually feel a bit emotional.

Of course, you could argue – and quite correctly – that the story really ended four years ago with the publication of Rowling’s final book. Well, here is an admission: I never read it. I didn’t read the one before it either, come to think about it. To all those Harry Potter fanatics out there for which this is some kind of heinous crime: I got older, busier, and never got round to it. Shoot me. But my neglect of the last couple of Harry Potter books was not down to dwindling interest alone: as Rowling’s novels got subsequently fatter and more bloated, the film adaptations steadily improved. It is not a sentiment I normally find myself agreeing with, but with the later Harry Potter stories it makes a bit of sense: why read the books when you can watch the films instead?

So, I will leave all the pooh-poohing about the film’s inaccuracies and infidelities (of which I am sure there are many) to the die-hard fans, and focus on the film in itself. Because, like recent efforts before it, Part 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows really is excellent entertainment.

It certainly benefits from being the second instalment of a two-part adaptation. With most of the characters and storylines set-up in Part 1, Director David Yates is free to focus on the action as Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) seek out the remaining Horcruxes and attempt to destroy the darkest of dark wizards, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). The story moves quickly – there is rarely a dull moment – but never feels rushed like previous big screen adaptations. It is by turns gripping, moving and funny, and, of course, the battle scenes and set pieces are spectacular. Voldemort’s final march on Hogwarts with his army of giants, dementors and Death Eaters brings back memories of some of the epic battles in Lord of the Rings, the film series against which all fantasy epics must surely still be judged.

The CGI is undoubtedly impressive, but the acting is not bad either. There once was a time when the main attraction of a Harry Potter film was to watch the likes of Maggie Smith, Gary Oldman or Robbie Coltrane ham it up as much as they possibly could. But this no longer holds true. The usual parade of British character actors make their appearances, but they are mostly brief, with Yates sticking close to his protagonists throughout. What the future holds for Radcliffe, Grint and Watson remains to be seen (the fate of the child actor is often a bleak one). But they have each grown into their role as the series has progressed and in this final instalment each one of them performs their part admirably. It is not always easy acting in front of a green screen, as the cast from the awful Star Wars prequels can attest to, but Radcliffe and Co. are convincing throughout.

In fact, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 rarely puts a foot wrong (I mean, Rowling’s wizard world itself is massively ridiculous, but I am assuming people have already taken that leap of faith). Perhaps Yates focuses on the action a little too much, ignoring the relationships between the characters that were built up in Part 1. Ron and Hermione finally get their kiss, as do – completely out of the blue – Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) and Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), but these romantic elements all feel a bit tacked on. The final showdown between Harry and Voldemort is also maybe a little underwhelming, but that is mainly because – after all the tension and build-up, after all the dragon-riding, giant-slaying and general magic-related spectacle – one-on-one wizard duels basically come down to two people pointing sticks at each other and grimacing a lot.

But I am nitpicking: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is as epic a finale as the series could have hoped for. I promised myself writing this review that I would avoid obvious wizard-related clichés like ‘magical’, ‘spellbinding’ or ‘enchanting’ – but they all apply. Die-hard Harry Potter fans will leave the cinema with a lump in their throat and a tear in their eye. The rest of us will probably mock, but deep inside we will understand how they feel. After so many years of Harry Potter, it really is The End.