Film Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II

This is an all-too-belated review. I did not see the film at midnight on Friday with many of my friends who were cloaked, armed with wands, and decked out with other gear. Because I decided not to take a vacation day on Friday, the midnight showings (or the 1:30 and 3am ones, for that matter) were not an option. Thus, with a large rent in my Harry Potter fan-club card, did I venture into a theater on Friday evening after work to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II.

To start, as I expected, this was a much different film than the first part. Essentially, Part I was a road movie:

a journey of introspection and camaraderie between three best friends. They seek out MacGuffins (the horcruxes) of such great importance that the fate of the world rests upon their shoulders. As they seek each one out, they learn more about who they are as young adults, coming into a broken world that they can only slightly mend. While there are some great fight sequences, I predict that the next film will pull out all the stops. (Deathly Hallows, Part I)

Following in the cinematically beautiful film that was Part I, the first of the films in which Daniel Radcliffe shows the potential of being a leading man rather than merely the protagonist, though Emma Watson gives him a run for his money, comes Part II. If Part I was a road movie, this is a Final Battle, the culmination of the epic saga of Harry Potter and his journey to not only defeat Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), but to survive that encounter.

The visuals are spectacular, as expected. All the moments I wanted were there, each one clearly and well executed to please eager, devoted fans. There were even one or two better ones between Ginny (Bonnie Wright) and Harry–which is a disappointment from this film series to which I could, and might, devote an entire post. The battle between Voldemort and Harry was expanded, as I expected, but I didn’t mind in the least. The deaths (come on, that can’t be a spoiler, though I won’t mention who, just to be safe) were each well done, working for maximum emotional impact. What got me in the end was Alan Rickman‘s amazing performance. That man can act. He had the entire row of people with whom I sat in tears, with at least one person sobbing. As for me, despite being a wee bit dead inside, I admit that I shed a tear or two with Alan Rickman’s emotional landslide.

Much like in the novel, each of the characters we’ve known and loved for so long has a chance to shine, generally both with humorous moments and with moments of strength and glory. The character moment I can’t leave out of this review (aside from Molly Weasley–come on! I loved the moment we were all waiting for!) is Neville Longbottom, played to perfection by Matthew Lewis. That man has developed into a brilliant character actor, one who delivers humor and gravitas in one well-balanced swoop. He stole the show in the end, demonstrating that Harry Potter was not the only hero of the Battle of Hogwarts.

This was an intense, frenetic film almost from the opening. It begins with the final scene from Part I, so you could easily watch these back to back with no trouble or delay (as, let’s face it, most of us will do). Because I really cannot decide which of the two films is better, I’m going to cheat just a little and say that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–the complete two-part film–is the best in the franchise. They’re so different in style and storytelling that they cannot really compare with each other. Besides, they tell two parts of one single narrative.

I’m going to see this film again as, like the previous one, there’s so much to it that it’s hard to take it in on the first viewing. It was an excellent film, with all the moments I wanted out of this final installment. It was bittersweet, hard to imagine that it’s over–much as I felt after the final book publication. It’s a series that I love, but as always, one that I must think about apart from the books, as it differs so greatly, with the exception of these final two films.

4.5 out of 5 stars


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