So it is now the week of the Fantastic Beasts release and therefore time for me to conclude my Potter re-watch. It’s time to examine Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
Everything lifts off pretty much immediately after the events of Deathly Hallows Part 1 as Harry Potter and his friends, Ron and Hermione, try to finish off the dark lord Voldemort. The trio break into the wizard bank, Gringotts, to find a horcrux containing a piece of Voldemort’s soul and then into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for similar purposes. His arrival brings a battle for good and evil, a battle for Hogwarts.
To be honest, any review of Deathly Hallows Part 2 will be full of repetition. The film contains a lot of the usual strengths and weaknesses of a Potter adaptation. The familiar combo of director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves means that there isn’t much new ground in this one. Add to that the fact that everything and nothing happens in this film and it’s… just a bit meh to review.
One of the biggest problems with Deathly Hallows Part 2 is that it doesn’t even try to pretend that it can stand alone without the other films. The mirror shard, for example, gets no explanation. I don’t think it got any sort of explanation in Part 1 either. I’d love to know what non-book readers, new to Potter, think of the mirror – is Harry Potter just really vain? Brief mention of Dumbledore’s backstory with Aberforth but no context given. A lot of characters present and given moments but no explanation as to their significance. It was always going to be an issue with their decision to split the source book in two but I still feel that a film, even as an adaptation and as part of a series, should still always be able to stand on its own two feet.
Pacing in Deathly Hallows Part 2 is another issue that has appeared in Potter films before but it is definitely a bigger problem in this one I feel. There’s so much crammed in and yet so much of it is useless/superfluous from a story telling point of view. The entire plotting/invading/escaping Gringotts sequence lasts only twenty minutes. Pretty much the entire rest of the film is the final battle interspersed with long, languid off-shoots about different characters dying. As a fan, the decision to have so many of these moments is reasonably satisfying because of the nods it gives to all the important character (though I’m sure we would like some moments to have more impact than the film gives us) but it is otherwise weakened by these moments.
As with all the other Potter films, one of the greatest thing about Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the acting of certain characters. Helena Bonem Carter as Hermione being Bellatrix Lestrange is brilliant. Maggie Smith is, as always, utterly perfect. Though I will forever be disappointed by the lack of oomf behind what should have been the greatest line – Molly’s “Not my daughter, you bitch!” – I’m glad that the greatest line in replacement comes from McGonagall – “I always wanted to do that spell”. The childish glee in that moment is a nice moment of lightness in an otherwise heavy film. To be honest though, most of the actors brought their A game.
The special effects in Deathly Hallows Part 2 are beautiful to watch. There are some shots, as the defences around the castle are tested, that are reminiscent of Starry Night. Impressive to watch which, given the fact that they are carrying the bulk of the film, is important. The special effects-heavy battle lasts for pretty much the whole film so they have to be good. Although I did notice that moments where the horcrux’s were destroyed looked rather familiar. As in, I may as well have been watching The Mummy familiar.
I don’t dislike Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. As a fan, it is pretty satisfying and gives us moments with some of our favourite characters. Visually, it’s stunning. But that’s about it. It’s narrative as a stand-alone film is very weak. Deathly Hallows Part 2 is, however, one heck of a finale to the Potter adaptation series.