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Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

Directed by: David Yates

Premise: The second half of the final story in the Harry Potter series. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends return to Hogwarts to find the last of the horcruxes while Voldemort and his army launch an assault on the school.

What Works: The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a satisfying finale to the Harry Potter series. In the first part of The Deathly Hallows, Harry and his friends wandered in the wilderness and pondered the struggle they’ve been engaged in throughout the series. Although it was meditative and even thoughtful, Part 1 was also slow and did not bring Harry and his friends to any new revelations and did little to develop the central conflict of the story. The Deathly Hallows Part 2 compensates for this and is an action-packed siege that alternates between hard action sequences and heavy dramatic moments. For the most part, that mix is done very well and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 ranks among the best of the Harry Potter films. This last picture benefits from the seven films that have come before it; for viewers who have followed the series since The Sorcerer’s Stone, the locations and characters have a friendly familiarity about them and the last stand is more potent because the Hogwarts school and all of its familiar locations become the battleground. The performances by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint are impressive and have a similar nostalgic appeal. Watching these characters and the actors who play them mature over the course of the series has startling emotional power that gives the finale added weight. The filmmakers realize this and let that familiarity carry the film’s pathos. In this way The Deathly Hallows Part 2 avoids the sins of self-importance and pretension that plagues many final chapters in other franchises. The Deathly Hallows Part 2 stays focused on the immediate drama at hand, doing the best it can to stage a satisfying conclusion, and lets the audience fill in the significance of these events.

What Doesn’t: Because the first part of The Deathly Hallows accomplished very little, the second part is saddled with a lot of action and plot points to cover and the film struggles to manage all of them. There are a few long flashbacks of exposition and although the information is important, the flashbacks are overlong and a little confusing. The final battle also suffers. Although it is big and thrilling, there is so much going on that the film is unable to fully dramatize and resolve all the stories for the various characters. The climax lacks bite because overcoming the major conflict does not involve a meaningful sacrifice by any of the major characters. A few of the supporting characters end up dead and others change their allegiances but the climax is missing the emotional beats that would bring the stories of these characters to a close. This is especially true of Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) who has some complex personal conflicts but the resolution of his character does not give him a moment to resolve them. A little more heartbreak would have made the ending tougher but it also would have given the picture the gravitas befitting the conclusion of an eight film series.

Bottom Line: Despite its narrative shortcomings, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a satisfying conclusion to the series. It picks up the pace to deliver a rousing climax and viewers who have enjoyed these films are treated to a finale that respects the investment they have made in the Harry Potter series.

Episode: #349 (July 24, 2011)