By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
In 2001, the anticipation was building for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The book series was four editions deep, and the film was destined for greatness, both critically and economically.
Now flash forward ten years, three more books and seven films later. The vision of J.K. Rowling on film ends with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II and the series could not have taken its final bow with a better film. The film is epic, emotional and gripping, making a magical conclusion to a magical franchise.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II picks up right where the first installment of the finale leaves off, refreshing the final scene for the audience before the Warner Bros. logo comes across the screen. With several Horcruxes (parts of Voldemort’s soul) destroyed, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley must find and destroy the last few pieces and destroy Voldemort once and for all. The search leads to Hogwarts, where the final battle for the wizarding world will take place.
The largest concern, as has been the concern throughout the franchise, is how faithful the films are to the story. David Yates learned his lesson from The Order of the Phoenix and has kept the film as close to the story as possible. Of course there will be those that find the smallest and most insignificant things to point to and claim that Yates was unfaithful to Rowling’s image, but the overall film continues the streak of good adaptations.
Daniel Ratcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have been the focal points of this series, and it is one of the few times in film history that actors have stayed within a series for ten years. The relationship and cohesiveness of the three shines brightest in the final film. While in the first Deathly Hallows the three are together for most of the film, in the final film they drift apart for longer periods of time. However, you never feel like they are apart, instead working as a team to combat several problems going on at once. Ratcliffe does the best job yet in this series playing Harry, truly becoming the character and embracing all that comes with it from beginning to end.
From the opening, viewers will realize that all bets are off in this film. More blood than ever is spilt during the final battle, and there is a constant and never-ending sense of danger and unpredictability, even if fans know what is coming next. As a result, the film is simply invigorating from beginning to end, all of which is assisted by the great visuals. This film is not one that must be seen in 3D, although it sports some of the most impressive post-conversion 3D effects that I have seen. The film is very dark-lit, and would preferably be better in 2D, but there are still a bunch of effects that were good to see in 3D.
The film begins with a daring break-in to Gringotts bank, followed by a return to Hogwarts. These opening scenes are the calm before the storm, but are handled quickly and make room for the final battle. With the shortest run-time in the Harry Potter series with just over two hours, The Deathly Hallows:Part II wastes no time getting into the action, and bringing it to the crowd in droves.
But as has been the case in all the Potter films, the spectacle is grand, but takes backseat to the characters. The three main characters were never an issue, we watched as they grew onscreen. Other characters take on a much larger role than previously seen before. Neville Longbottom, as is the case in the book, gets his chance to shine here, and he does a great job in this role during the film. Professor McGonagall has a much larger role in this film than previously seen, and Maggie Smith nails it. She even has the coolest part in the film when she brings the castle’s statues to life to defend Hogwarts, uttering one of the funniest lines of the film during this scene.
Severus Snape was the tipping point of this film. If he was handled in the way that his character deserved, then the movie was going to be great. If he was mishandled in any way, then the movie would fail. Rickman’s turn as Snape in this final film is absolutely extraordinary. The penultimate Snape scene that many Potter fans know from the book is flawless, and will leave you with a lump in your throat. After seven movies of playing a complete hardass, we are treated to a different side of Severus, and the character he portrays in this final installment makes complete sense and fits perfectly.
All the characters, major or minor have their own little moments in the film. From Molly Weasley’s infamous line to the outreaching hands of Lupin and Tonks just before the battle begins, Potter fans will see that their characters are managed well.
When the body count starts to mount during the Battle of Hogwarts, fans will feel the emotional toll. All but a few of the major deaths are off camera, but seeing the bodies of fan favorites is not a moment that is softened by seeing the characters die on-screen.
The Battle of Hogwarts is visually stunning. The climax of the film is even more stunning. The most emotionally engrossing part of the Harry Potter franchise, the walk through the Forbidden Forest and what immediately follows, was perfect. That is not a statement to be taken lightly. Once again, the standard issue of expectation over execution facing Yates was out of this world, but he managed to deliver.
One drawback of the film is that the ending should have gotten more time to breathe. The final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort is what fans have been waiting seven and a half movies to see, and should have been given all the time in the world. Although given the pedal-to-the-metal pace of the climax works well, it’s difficult to really dive into the final battle as much as the other scenes in the film.
The much-discussed Epilogue is in this film as well, and is handled properly. I will not go into details or spoiler-territory, but fans should be pleased to know that this scene does not completely ruin the film. In fact, the final shot of the movie will have a lasting impact, as the score (which is masterfully crafted) ends with the same beautiful melody as it always has, and will stay with you for some time.
For those not coming into the film knowledgeable of the seventh book, the film does move along at a pace where you can understand what is going on. The most confusing part of the film, the Elder Wand, is resolved by the end, and besides that point the film is very easy to follow.
The Harry Potter franchise spent 10 years and billions of dollars translating the most successful book series in history into a formidable franchise. The conclusion ends the series on a high note. Once the dust settles, fans will be able to distinguish whether or not this was the best film in the series, but right now there is no doubt. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II is epic, magical, heart-wrenching, emotional and simply outstanding. Any small quips about the film will be drowned out by the epic-scale of everything that is going on. Watching this series from beginning to end, there is no doubt that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II is the best possible end to this franchise.
*I also have to note that I was very close to giving the film 9 ¾ out of 10. Potter fans will get the joke inside that rating*