Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2

There have been four Shreks and four Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Six Rockys and six Aliens. 10 Halloweens and 12 Friday the 13th’s, making horror the equivalent of cinematic cocaine, as evidenced by the popularity of the Saw franchise. Daddy of them all is the James Bond series, coming in at a scarcely believable 23 installments. But Harry Potter beats them all, its charms gilded in gold (or galleons in Potter-speak), surely to top, at last, the force of Star Wars in money made.

That the films themselves have not been particularly magical is hardly the point. The power of the books is undeniable. After all, what could be more attractive than making the private cinema of your imagination into reality? Having devoured the books, I wonder what it must be like to not know what happens. I still remember the excitement of the first movie, the brilliance of the signature music with its genetic chime and the whispering dark of the corridors of Hogwarts castle, before plodding pacing leadened the enchantment.

But this era-ending final flourish may be the best of the lot. It’s engaging, tense and tender, and the most visually stunning, capped by the young cast’s finest performances to date. Director David Yates, aware of this epochal moment, has filled the film with panoramas of Scottish landscapes and floating Dementors, swirling slow-mo and arcing cameras gracefully taking in frenzied battles. For this is one big pitched battle.

Still on the trail of the remaining Horcruxes (objects which contain parts of Voldemort’s soul), Harry, Ron and Hermione hatch a plan to break into Gringotts the bank to find one of them. The action then moves to Hogwarts where the evil Death Eaters war with students and staff while Harry scurries and scampers desperately trying to fulfill his plan. We get magic on a massive scale, with giants and fighting statues, duels in every corner of the screen, rubble and fire. Between the explosions we get islands of real emotion.

"Will we be nostalgic about these films as previous generations were about Star Wars?" Above: a scene from the first movie The Philospher's Stone (2001)

Daniel Radcliffe does well not to overact as Harry, his features set in resolution. Rupert Grint’s Ron is happily at his most muted and grim. From their gormless but charmingly innocent debuts we have watched these actors grow into adults. And perhaps aided by this knowledge, Hermione, or rather Emma Watson, convinces the most. Her tears were riverine with genuine sadness. Elsewhere Ciarin Hinds did a lot with a small part as Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth and we got a masterly turn from Warwick Davis as goblin Griphook.

But it’s Snape who steals the show. Although villianous, there are many who are quite taken with Alan Rickman’s portrayal. And he’s on top form here, excelling in a scene of inevitablity as Voldemort and Snape talk wands; Rickman concealing in his face and voice a shadow of pregnant despair. The flashback has been co-opted by Rowling, re-named a pensieve, and there is an efficient reveal of Snape’s past. Some romantic moments feel a little rushed, as Ron and Hermione finally smooch and Ginny and Harry barely share screentime. But the characters are in a rush too and these are moments of stolen tenderness.

The special effects team deserve credit, creating a most impressive dragon for the Gringotts raid, and the 3D has been used to good effect, with details filling the screen and a pleasing use of depth. But there are flaws in the adaptation. The plot exposition can be clunky, and I fear all the talk of Hallows and Elder Wands is all but impenetrable to non-fans. The epilogue is unintentionally comical and the audience actually bristled at the anti-climax of the final battle (a problem not easily fixed when the book felt the same). There are nice touches, like the hands of Lupin and Tonks almost touching, and the obvious affection between Nevillle and Luna is touchingly shown as teenage awkwardness when they sit nervously side-by-side.

Will we be nostalgic about these films as previous generations were about Star Wars? Can we compare nostalgias? In ten years time these films will be a relic of gargantuan commercialism and no more than a vague reminder of one’s youth. For Radcliffe, Watson and Grint they will be long summers of memory. Although this finish reapplies some of the majesty and magic to the saga, the prinicipal flaw is that these films are not acts of creation, but merely curiosities. For the obsessive readers, the films do not hook the imagination because we already knew what was coming, we just wanted to see it for ourselves, and found it didn’t match our ambitious expectations. It is an end of an era. But much of the sadness, I suspect, is for the end of expectation, rather than for Harry and his chums.




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