Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

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In my review of the first part of the closing chapter of the decade-long Harry Potter film series, I wrote about how it had groaned under the weight of its own arcana, and that those who had read, indeed those who had immersed themselves, in Potterana will have an entirely different take on it that us muggles who only bear a casual relationship to the material. There’s less of that in Part 2, but as the film drew to conclusion I could envision those who know the names of the four houses of Hogwarts like they know their own phone number were weeping, while I was looking on, perplexed.

The first hour or so of the film is perhaps the best of the entire series. Hitting the ground running, and making me think back to the first part (a DVD perusal would be ideal homework before seeing), the principle three of Harry, Hermione, and Ron (Daniel Racliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) have just buried Dobby. I forget how and why the goblin from Gringots is there, but he gets them inside the vaults of the bank in a suspenseful scene, and then they escape on the back of a fire-breathing dragon. Later, at Hogwart’s, Snape (Alan Rickman) and Miss McGonigle (Maggie Smith) actually have a showdown. I was thinking that this was going to be a lot of fun.

Eventually the action became more routine. Voldemort (an excellent Ralph Fiennes), leads his minions into battle at the old school, while the staff and students do everything they can to keep him out. Harry searches for the last of the horcruxes (the pieces of Voldemort’s soul), and tries to figure out a way to kill the ever-present snake at the Dark Lord’s side (I forget what the snake means, other than a sexual metaphor). Luna Lovegood, Harry’s eccentric friend, clues him that he needs to talk to someone dead, so he finds a ghost (Kelly Macdonald). I was hoping he would end up talking to Moaning Myrtle. Whatever happened to her?

As the films went on, and I suppose this is true for the books, too (I only read the first four), the tone changed, and I’m not sure for the better. This last episode contained clips from the earlier films, as we learn the true motivation of a certain character (something I had already figured out a long time ago, so as it was revealed I sat there smugly in my seat). When I think back to the earlier films and remember characters like Myrtle and Nearly-Headless Nick, I kind of felt nostalgic. I suppose that is part of the point–J.K. Rowling’s books, on the whole, can be taken as a story about the end of childhood, though a coda reminds us that life goes on.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is a handsome production, directed with flair by David Yates, with great lighting, pacing and acting, especially from Fiennes and Alan Rickman. Almost everyone who has been in a Potter film returns for a cameo (but was that Emma Thompson or a look-alike–she wasn’t credited). Again I was struggling to keep everyone straight, and a key moment supplied by Mrs. Malfoy had me wondering if I had ever seen her before in any of the films. I also had trouble figuring out how a certain character had in his possession a certain sword. The trouble with films about magic is that there always seems to be some heretofore unmentioned spell pulled out at the last minute to save the day.

For those who love these books and films, I would suspect they will be immensely satisfied by the last shot before the coda. I found much of the ending inevitable if not predictable, but I’m not a true believer. On the whole I give it a thumbs up, but the magic of this enterprise will always be the books. The films have never quite captured it.

My grade for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2: B-

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

12 responses »

  1. Great review, thanks. I haven’t seen that poster before. I don’t know if one can digest all the marketing for a film like this.

    I don’t know if you want answers to your questions (about the sword and/or the snake) or if they’re rhetorical or if it even matters…. but as for Narcissa Malfoy she was instrumental in the beginning of the 6th film in asking Snape to agree to take over for Draco should he fail in his assassination attempt. I think she was also there at the end of 7pt1, but I can’t be sure until I see it again.

    As for this film, I thought it was the perfect close to the film series. This one felt more heavily edited than all previous ones (except, maybe, for the 3rd) and came across as a little more jumpy in parts. Minor-ly disappointing was the short shrift given to the Harry-Ginny relationship (he practically ignored her save the one kiss).

    Snape’s memories were exquisite – allowing Rickman to shine. You really understand why he wrote what he did in Empire. When I was reading the 7th book, and imagining it as one movie, I thought it would have been a great opener to show someone mysteriously entering the pensieve and showing the memory of the two children becoming friends (only not naming names) before hitting school. Then come back to the present with Harry leaving the Dursley house. But the films (and books) have always been too linear for that.

    I don’t know how close (on either side) it will get to TDK’s gross domestically but I do wonder if it will have a go Avatar’s worldwide…

  2. Or if you’re talking total worldwide, Part 2 is at $475 million vs. Avatar’s 2.7 billion. That’s not even 1/5th, and Potter is almost certainly heavily frontloaded, especially domestically.

    EDIT: I think you’re comparing Potter’s total worldwide with Avatar’s foreign-only.

  3. Avatar made 2 billion worldwide?

    …guess that answers my question on if Cameron will ever get back to R-rated action.

  4. Phew! Glad we got that settled.

    I think we’re looking at a comfortable top 10 worldwide all-time, possibly top 5, but how can it hit $2 billion when Part 1 didn’t even clear $1 billion?

    Also nowhere near Dark Knight domestically. Much over $400 million is very hard to see (Part 1 didn’t even clear $300 million).

  5. I don’t know if you want answers to your questions (about the sword and/or the snake) or if they’re rhetorical or if it even matters…. but as for Narcissa Malfoy she was instrumental in the beginning of the 6th film in asking Snape to agree to take over for Draco should he fail in his assassination attempt. I think she was also there at the end of 7pt1, but I can’t be sure until I see it again.

    I would like to know the answers, if you can do it without spoiling. (Start spoilers). The last we see of the sword is when it vanishes from the dead goblin’s hand in the bank. Then Neville has it. I must have missed something.

    I can appreciate that this just part of a whole, but when you have to go back two or three films to pick up the thread, then the film just is not successful in standing on its own. That’s fine for Pottermaniacs, and obviously does not hurt business, but leaves a lot of us scratching our heads.

  6. Sans spoilers? I’m not so sure that’s possible, but I will use only info found in the movies to explain (which is bound to frustrate, even though it’s not my intention). And you’re right that the 2nd half of part 7 does not stand on its own.

    SWORD SPOILERS
    Neville pulls Godric Gryffindor’s sword out of the sorting hat. He was dusting the hat off after picking it up from the rubble and then, when he opened it, there was a gleaming reflection and a shocked look on his face. The precedence for this appearance happened all the way back in the Chamber of Secrets (movie #2)…

    Harry has no way to defeat the Basilisk, but Fawkes (Dumbledore’s phoenix) comes in and drops the sorting hat in front of Harry while then proceeding to pluck out the Basilisk’s eyes. Harry pulls the sword out of the hat and kills the serpent with it. This whole sequence is important for many reasons including horcruxes, basilisk venom, parseltongue, etc…I think this is the film that Dumbledore tells Harry that help will always come to those at Hogwarts who ask for it…or whatever he paraphrased again in King’s Cross station at the end of 7pt2. He also stated that only a *true* Gryffindor (i.e. – loyal and brave) could have pulled the sword out of the hat.

    In 7pt1 Harry finds the sword at the bottom of the pond. Ron uses it to destroy the locket horcrux. We find out from the goblin at the very beginning of 7pt2 that the sword was in Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault, but Snape replaced it with a fake. That plus the doe patronus (revealed later) lets you know that Snape put the sword in the pond and then led Harry to find it.

    SO, all this is to say that Neville is finally becoming a brave/hero type. He is a true Gryffindor and able to pull the sword out of the hat. The sword is powerful enough to destroy horcruxes and is able to destroy the final one.

    SNAKE SPOILERS
    The snake, Nagini, first appears at the beginning of Goblet of Fire (movie #4). He helps kill the old man in the farmhouse that Voldemort, Wormtail & Barty Crouch Jr. are holed-up in. We know the significance of parseltongue at this point and it just seems like added evil to have Voldemort using a snake as his sidekick.

    In Order of the Phoenix (movie #5) the snake attacks Arthur Weasley in the Hall of Mysteries. Harry sees this but reports to Dumbledore that he feels like he *was* the snake in the vision. Dumbledore and Snape now realize everything that comes out in the pensieve scene in 7pt2 – Harry was seeing Voldemort’s mind, but why would he see the snake’s mind as well? Because, like Harry, the snake carries a part of Voldemort’s soul.

    The snake also eerily impersonates an old woman (Bathilda Bagshot) in 7pt1 and is almost successful in killing Harry & Hermione in Godric’s Hollow.

    SO, the snake is a horcrux and the last one to be destroyed. V keeps it close for that very reason. No one else (alive) suspects a living thing to be a horcrux, and V’s arrogance keeps him from realizing Harry is one too.

  7. [SPOILERS AND STUFF CONTAINED HEREIN]
    Just got back a little while ago, and I thought it was fairly decent.

    I actually appreciate that Rowling figured out a way to get out of the horcrux dilemma (I assume that the major events in the movie followed the book closely). What I mean is, I thought she had really painted herself into a corner by making Harry a horcrux, because of course it logically meant that he had to die, but of course he wasn’t going to … but she came up with a clever way to resolve all that.

    My main criticism would be that, even dragging it out to two movies, there just wasn’t enough space for all the characters. Neville and McGonagall get their big moments, but everyone else from Ginny to Hagrid to the Malfoys are just sort of cast aside. Even Hermione and Ron are relegated to mere onlookers by the time the battle at Hogwart’s starts. It seemed like over the last few movies there was a lot of talk about Harry’s need to rely on his friends but, sure enough, when the time came, there wasn’t much they could do for him. It was ultimately his battle alone, just as he was always afraid it would be.

    I did like Fiennes a lot, and I wish Sirius had been given more than one line if they were going to bother bringing him back. I always liked Sirius. I still wish, futile as it is, that Richard Harris had lived; Gambon’s Dumbledore always vaguely annoyed me, and I usually like Gambon.

    Emma Thompson is credited on the film’s IMDb page, for what that’s worth.

  8. I still wish, futile as it is, that Richard Harris had lived; Gambon’s Dumbledore always vaguely annoyed me, and I usually like Gambon.

    This.

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