Is there really much point in reviewing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2? After all, if you're a fan of the boy wizard and his mates, you're going to see it anyway. And if you're not, you're going to wonder why I'm bothering writing about a children's movie. Nonetheless, this is the end of an era in film-making that spans a decade. There are kids who've grown up with the speccy spellcaster and, for them, this represents an emotional end point. In the same way that my peers reflect back on the impact of George Lucas' definitive trilogy, these youngsters will find it hard to separate their own growing pains from those of their scar-faced hero. Although hopefully, their teenage years will have involved fewer assassination attempts.
It's also worth addressing the misperception that these are 'kiddie movies'. Whilst I admit that the first couple were unapologetically juvenile, the series has grown progressively darker with every instalment. In fact, there are moments in this final chapter so dark that the Real-D glasses might as well have had lenses made of bonfire toffee. In one surprising sequence, Voldemort walks barefoot through pools of blood spilled in an (offscreen) massacre at Gringotts' bank. All we see is the aftermath - a pile of lacerated bodies. We may have been spared the details, but no doubt there'll be thousands of little 'uns shocked by the bloodshed.
Offscreen violence seems to a recurring theme in the two Deathly Hallows movies, and this has ruffled the feathers of more than a few long-standing Potterites. Their argument is that it does a disservice to the well-loved characters if we don't get to see their final moments. One minute they're waving their wands like a stripper at a hen party, and the next thing we know they're having blankets pulled over their faces by Madam Pomfrey in what remains of the Great Hall. But this simply serves to emphasise the impact of their loss on Harry - he's not around to see them, or to intervene. The realisation that he's inadvertently responsible for the deaths of his friends makes these final scenes that much more harrowing.
Aside from the death and destruction, of which there's plenty, the cast equip themselves incredibly well throughout. It helps that, thanks to J.K. Rowling's ingenious plotting, there's much less exposition to deliver in this final episode. Assuming that the audience has been with the franchise since day one, the spells don't need explaining every time someone casts one. Not only does this help keep the running time down (this is, after all, the shortest film in the series), it gives the action a greater sense of urgency. We know our Lumos from our Avada Kedavra, and even Hermione's Accio in Bellatrix Lestrange's vault makes sense if you've been paying attention. Like the kids in the movie, we've learned these spells through repetition, so we finally feel like they're a part of our world, and vice versa.
The performances may be more polished than in previous outings, but there are still some fundamental issues affecting the core story. When Harry enters the Great Hall to confront Snape over his murder of Dumbledore, it's no surprise to see the members of Slytherin calling for our hero to be restrained and Voldemort notified. They're locked in the dungeon for their treachery. But why was anyone surprised?
Finally, the producers have managed to tick every box and capped off the franchise with a genuinely memorable movie. They might not have a resurrection stone to hand, but they've secured their immortality with a fitting final entry
Given the amount of trouble caused by members of Slytherin, it's hard to understand why anyone would agree to keep that particular house open at Hogwarts. It's like a regular comprehensive setting up an after-school Al-Qaeda group, then being shocked when the school secretary receives a Jiffy bag full of anthrax. There's also an unintentional comedy highlight when the ghost of Helena Ravenclaw is prompted by Harry to remember who cursed her mother's tiara (this makes much less sense when written down). She recalls Tom Riddle and says, "He was a strange boy, with a strange name." As though Riddle would stand out in a world full of Slughorns, Flitwicks and Lovegoods - even Ian Fleming would have trouble keeping a straight face.
Ultimately though, the film offers ample rewards for those fairweather fans who gnashed their teeth through the turgid fifth chapter, and wondered whether they'd accidentally wandered into a John Hughes movie in part six. Secondary characters who served little or no purpose through the duration of the series, finally get their moment in the spotlight. In particular, Julie Walters' Mrs Weasley gets to obliterate Helena Bonham Carter (an act that many of us can enjoy vicariously), stopping the heinous harpy with the now legendary 'Not my daughter, you BITCH!' It's just a shame that her big scene is so rushed, especially since David Yates overuses slow motion to such a degree that the film would only run for an hour and a quarter, if played at normal speed.
Likewise, Neville Longbottom has bravely endured seven years of bad teeth and even worse knitwear, so that he could weald the sword of Godric Griffindor and save the day. However, this film really belongs to Alan Rickman, who finally gets the pay-off he deserves. Often relegated to little more than a sneering extra, his scenes with Voldemort and Harry show that he, and J.K., had been saving the best for last. With the help of an extensive flashback compilation, we see his true colours at last, and it turns out they're not just black, charcoal and anthracite.
Although the story of The Deathly Hallows has been well served by splitting the book into two separate films, it's still all too apparent that this was a commercial, rather than an artistic decision. Similarly, the presentation in 3D is Warner's last ditch attempt at wringing as much cash from the franchise as possible. Sure, Hogwarts and the wider wizarding world is given an unprecedented level of depth by the addition of that extra dimension, but it's largely redundant. Anyone who already feels the pinch at the prospect of buying cinema tickets for the whole family can easily shed a tenner from the cost of admission by seeing the film in 2D. The magic is just as tangible, even if it doesn't poke you in the eye.
When the series first launched back in 2001, there were concerns that these weren't really films, so much as slavish reconstructions of the novels - audiobooks with moving pictures. Finally, the producers have managed to tick every box and capped off the franchise with a genuinely memorable movie. They might not have a resurrection stone to hand, but they've secured their immortality with a fitting final entry.
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