For the past three hours I have actively avoided writing this review, struggling to stay objective and discuss the film as if it were any other. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 could have been just another children’s fantasy adventure, yet another sequel and an adaptation of a previous work, but subjective sentiment and a decade of fandom aside, this is one hell of a film.
Beginning with the closing scene from Deathly Hallows: Part 1 we are launched right into the action… after a brief bit of wizard/goblin interrogation. From this point the film is relentless, powering forward with continuous action as horcruxes are found and the forces of good and evil line up to battle at Hogwarts in a surprisingly human final showdown. All the action is a stark contrast to the angsty and reflective previous instalment, but enough space is left for the character interactions that make the films what they are, and what they are is awesome (most of the time).
What marks Potter out from other fantasy films is that there is plenty of grey area amongst the forces of good and evil. Throughout the film one character previously thought to be infallible is shown to have a morally questionable method in his plan to defeat Voldemort, and another seemingly evil wizard is shown to be far more complex than a simple villain. It makes for a complex and moving film, helping to create more than just a series of explosions and set pieces. With Harry Potter it isn’t endless anonymous figures falling in battle, its beloved characters lying lifeless on the floor.
The CGI ranged in quality, a few faces formed in water and fire were a little too reminiscent of The Mummy, whereas a magical barrier surrounding Hogwarts was nothing short of gorgeous, at least as gorgeous as a magical barrier can be. David Yates has certainly found the right look for Potter, it’s dark and looks great in 2D.
With the formula of the first six films of lessons, mystery and climactic battle out of the window the focus of the film is solely on the main trio of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint, their performances far less diluted by the more experienced adult actors. All three have thankfully developed well in the acting stakes, even Radcliffe who had to shoulder most of the film, and has had the furthest to rise in the acting arena. Only in one particular scene did the cracks in Radcliffe’s craft show, or maybe it was just that the stark white setting left nothing else to distract from him and his weak delivery.
Up till now all Grint and Watson seem to have been asked about is their kiss in this final film and the way they discussed it I was expecting a lip-lock to make us all tremble. Instead we have an oddly framed kiss far less passionate than Harry was treated to in the previous film, it was hard not to be disappointed. Speaking of kissing Harry; an awkward peck between Harry and Ginny in the heat of battle sealed them as the least convincing couple in cinema.
While the young’uns may have been the focus of the film, the majority of the classic British actors from across the franchise returned, many as glorified cameos with a few performances shining though. Maggie Smith and Julie Walters provided the comic relief mostly absent from the film, whilst simultaneously pulling out their wands to demonstrate their missed callings as action heroes. Helena Bonham Carter also deserves a special mention for a perfect impersonation of Emma Watson, minus the crazy eyebrows.
The star of the older cast was Alan Rickman, who started the film with his most ridiculously drawn out and over dramatic speech of the franchise, but later on blew the audience away as we flashed back through Snape’s past. Alan Rickman you are a superstar.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is not perfect, that epilogue is every bit as disappointing as expected, but had me gripped throughout, on the verge of tears several times and sent shivers down my spine like only a handful of films have. As the end of a franchise it is completely satisfying and marks a huge improvement and evolution since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released in 2001.
We’ll be talking Potter every day this week, among other things updating all those charts. For now, go and see this treat of a film and witness a bit of cinema history.
I was wrong, that completely failed at being objective. Turns out a decade with a franchise affects the way you perceive a film.