When director David Yates and writer Steve Kloves made the decision to split J.K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter book into two films, they ran the risk of offering moviegoers two films that felt incomplete.
To their credit, Deathly Hallows Part 1 felt like a complete film, filled with action, drama, humor and a solid climax. While Part 2 is an incredibly enjoyable film that should definitely satisfy Harry Potter fans with the resolution they’ve been waiting for all of these years, I think ultimately it doesn’t stand on its own quite as well as Part 1. When taken in the context of the franchise as a whole, it’s great; but as a standalone film, it feels a bit off. When viewing the film in a vacuum, the pacing and overall arc aren’t quite right.
The film picks up right where the last one ended, but it takes it a little while to reestablish itself and begin unfolding. It’s not a very smooth reentry into the story. Yates and Kloves found a great ending point for Part 1, but Part 2 struggles a bit in the beginning to set everything up, refresh the audience’s memories and get the story back on track.
However, by the time Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his sidekicks Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) return to Hogwarts for the final showdown with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), everything starts to fall into place. The final battle feels epic and intense and, rightfully so, takes up a huge chunk of the screen time. Fans have been waiting years to see Harry and Voldemort finally square off face to face and when the do it feels satisfying.
Like the previous film, aesthetically Part 2 looks incredibly washed out and bleak. The film is filled with muted colors and lots of grays and blacks, similar to how most post-apocalyptic movies tend to look these days. By the end of the film, the surroundings are all reduced to rubble and every character is dirty and covered in cuts and bruises. This all helps to sell the finality of the film and the severity of this climatic battle.
During the final battle between the two opposing sides (the good wizards and the evil ones), there are a lot of great sweeping shots of the carnage unfolding. Yates does a good job of conveying the scale of the battle and the carnage that ensues. There are also a lot of great close ups of Harry and Voldemort as they stand on opposites sides, waiting to ultimately square off. As you would hope, the stakes seem high and the battle seems devastating.
The best part about splitting the story into two films is that it gives Yates and Kloves a chance to spotlight the supporting cast, giving other actors besides Harry, Hermione and Ron some wonderful character moments. Particularly, Matthew Lewis’ Neville Longbottom is given a chance to shine late in the film with two great scenes back-to-back. But there are also some really great material for Professor Snape (Alan Rickman), Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton).
And while Bellatrix Lestrange doesn’t get much screen time in this final installment, Helena Bonham Carter does a phenomenal job playing a scene in which Hermione has disguised herself as Bellatrix using Polyjuice Potion. Carter is able to subtly convey how incredibly uncomfortable Hermione is in Bellatrix’s skin with just a few mannerisms and facial expressions. It’s really fun to watch.
The only character that ends up feeling shortchanged is Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright). Ginny is prominently featured in several key scenes, but ultimately it still feels like her relationship with Harry was never fully developed. As a result, their relationship never quite feels as important as it should be and the two actors’ scenes together end up losing some emotional resonance because of it. (On the other hand, Hermione and Ron’s relationship feels much more authentic and satisfying.)
Overall, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the satisfying ending Harry Potter fans have been waiting for. It may not stand on its own very well, but when viewed in the context of the franchise as a whole, it is exactly what you want out of the finale. The battles seem epic, the stakes seem high and their is an emotional core that makes you care about these characters and their fates. It’s a fitting farewell to Harry and the gang.
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