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-