Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – 3D
Warning: this review contains mild(ish) spoilers (and run-on sentences) – a bunch of them. As a matter of fact, I would refrain from reading it unless you have already seen the film (and/or if you treasure good grammar).
Truth be told, I’ve been dreading writing about this movie. Not because I didn’t enjoy the film – quite the opposite, in fact – but rather because it is the final chapter in a story that I have loved for quite some time and I hate having to say goodbye. Finality is a very difficult thing for me and as curious as I have been to see how this series would conclude, I approached it’s end with more than a measure of apprehension.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 picks up roughly – and swiftly – where HPatDH Part 1 left off, on beach with Harry grieving for a recently buried Dobby. After questioning Ollivander the wandmaker and Griphook, an employee of Gringotts – Harry, Hermione and Ron finally make some headway regarding their quest to discover and destroy the remaining three horcruxes. After deducing that Bellatrix Lestrange was hiding a horcrux in her vault at Gringotts, the trio decide – with the aid of Griphook and some polyjuice potion (used to humorous effect when Hermione must impersonate Bellatrix to infiltrate Gringotts and enter Ms. Lestrange’s vault. It’s worth mentioning here how awesome Helena Bonham Carter is, her performance as Hermione pretending to be Lestrange absolutely killed me) to search for Helga Hufflepuff’s cup, which they believe to be one of the horcruxes.
Where Part 1 (adapted from 23 chapters of the final novel) was more of an evenly-paced search for missing puzzle pieces, Part 2 (adapted from a mere 14, plus the epilogue) wastes no time in moving things along. Our heroic trio set out at once on their quest, running forward with clues to defeat Voldemort – who, after robbing Dumbledore’s grave, is now in possession of the Elder Wand, one of three Deathly Hallows. The action continues at a fairly brisk clip, leading the three back to Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade – whereupon we are finally introduced to Albus Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth – and eventually Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The return to a familiar setting is welcome and strangely comforting – even as the lives of our heroes are being threatened at every turn. The magical portion of Harry Potter’s universe was always so interesting and fun to see, the visual effects and lavishly detailed set-pieces are as much the stars of the films as the talent.
Of course, the happy feeling of a return to something wonderful and familiar is quickly dashed. Hogwarts is now under Voldemort’s rule – with Severus Snape placed in the position as Headmaster – and things have never looked worse. Neville Longbottom – the awkward, timid youth who was given an award for Bravery in the very first film – is now a strapping, handsomely awkward young man who is leading the resistance known as Dumbledore’s Army. With his help, Harry, Ron and Hermione are able to return to Hogwarts and drive Snape out, resulting in a prolonged Mexican Stand Off between the teachers and students of the magical school and the Death Eaters, who threaten to destroy Hogwarts if Harry does not come forward to face Voldemort alone. Previously, the deaths of beloved characters raised the stakes with each film, setting a tone of real fear that no one is truly safe. The tension of that threat works well in telling this story and the body count piles up as Harry and company strive to save Hogwarts and destroy what remains of Voldemort’s soul. Everything has built up and lead to this moment, the action sequences move along so swiftly that people barely have time to mourn their dead.
That said, there are moments of humorous respite and joy to be found as characters are allowed to have what I think could be described as their ‘moments’ within the film. Ron and Hermione leave no doubts to the status of their couple-hood, Neville has an opportunity to demonstrate his bravery and heroism and we are given a more in-depth (and gut-wrenching) look at Snape’s back-story and motives. To say more about the film would run the risk of spoiling it (though please feel free to have a discussion in the comments section) but I can say that for such a bittersweet farewell to a beloved franchise, it was a fine send-off for The Boy Who Lived.
As is the case with any sort of prolonged anticipation, there is the inherent risk of let-down and disappointment. The build-up of seven (technically eight) films leads you to expect great things, there are bound to be a few nagging bits that don’t quite measure up and I am mentioning them here. (My first two grievances are petty, but were distracting nevertheless).
- I first noticed this in the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (though it might have come up before in the previous two films), other characters would make a point to mention that Harry has his mother Lily’s eyes. For as often as this has been brought up in subsequent films, I found it very strange that following a scene in which Snape asks to look at Harry’s eyes (blue in the films) – which he remarks are so like his mother’s, the film then cuts to a flashback featuring Snape and Lily as children and Lily is played by a child with dark brown eyes. This seems like an awfully large detail to overlook – particularly after drawing so much attention to eye color…I just found it hard to believe that in all of the United Kingdom the filmmakers would have a very hard time finding a child actress – who has like, one line, btw – with red hair and blue (or even green) eyes. Am I being weirdly OCD about something that doesn’t matter? Probably. Did it bother me enough that I talked about it for 20 minutes after I watched the movie? YES. Pffffft.
- It’s a shame that the Part I of Deathly Hallows gave little hints and glimpses of a Dumbledore back-story involving a tragedy with his sister Arianna and his friend and collaborator Gellert Grindelwald – only to have the latter character completely dropped in Part II and the former just barely acknowledged. I assume that these parts – if filmed – were cut when they became too extraneous by the second part (for the record, I’m fine with dropping plot lines from the source material if it helps to tell a better story in the adaptation), it’s just a pity that they were brought up at all in the first part.
- A word on digitally aging and um, ‘youthifying’ actors faces for a performance in which they are playing older or younger versions of themselves. It looks weird, people. Poor Snape (played by Alan Rickman, who is made of AWESOME) suffers the greatest indignity by having to play his heartbreaking flashback scenes under the cruel, glowing burnish of a CG face-lift. Frankly, it just looked wrong – too much uncanny valley – and it distracted from what was undoubtedly a superb performance by Rickman.
- The epilogue. To be fair, I’ve always wanted nothing more for Harry than for him to grow old after living a long, fruitful and happy life. I should have been happy that he and Ginny married and had three children – lovingly named to memorialize lost family and friends of the couple – but somehow the epilogue failed to pack the punch that I wanted…after having such an exciting – albeit dangerous and tragic – childhood, it’s kind of disappointing to see Harry all grown up and blissfully normal. That the child actors (just barely in their 20′s now) are playing middle aged versions of themselves didn’t help things – it just didn’t look quite right and took away from it a bit.
- Finally, the matter of 3D. I think it was a mistake in this film to use it – it certainly didn’t add anything to the experience of watching the film and – if anything – took away from the look of the film.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – 3D, directed by David Yates, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Matthew Lewis, Bonnie Wright, Tom Felton, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Clémence Poésy and Warwick Davis. 4/5