Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Directed by: David Yates
Written by: Steve Kloves
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Matthew Lewis, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Evanna Lynch, Warwick Davis, Jason Isaacs, Helena Bonham Carter, Graham Duff, Maggie Smith
Released: 2011 / Genre: Fantasy-Adventure / Country: USA/UK / IMDB
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The Harry Potter story finally comes to a close. After eight films across ten years, the magical saga of a childhood wizard and his friends fighting the ultimate evil, reaches its end. This unique series of films has seen the making of a number of now iconic movie stars as we have watched them grow up on the big screen. Daniel Radcliffe (who by now everyone knows for his portrayal of Harry himself), Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are the three key protagonists who have matured as actors and people in life and within the Harry Potter story. After seven wonderfully entertaining films (some better than others) could the film adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s superb final novel conclude the franchise with the sort of quality the books and the fans deserved. The answer to that is: “yes”.

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Harry, Hermione and Ron are still searching for evil Lord Voldemort’s horcruxes. Voldemort has hidden pieces of his soul in various secreted objects. For him to be defeated the trio have to find the horcruxes and destroy them. Having managed to dispose of one, Harry believes he can find another in Gringott’s vault. They travel to the vault only to be left to fend for themselves when their guide Griphook abandons them. Crucially, however, Harry finds the horcrux and the three wizards escape by releasing the dragon guarding the vault and riding on its back to safety. But Voldemort has grown stronger despite one of his horcruxes being destroyed as he has come into possession of the world’s most powerful wand. As he launches an assault on Hogwarts School, Harry and his friends travel back to their adopted home to help the teaches and students defend themselves.

David Yates returns to the director’s chair once again. Yates’ stint on the franchise has seen him direct the final four films. He is only the second director to make more than one Harry Potter film and the only director to make two or more. Although he can’t be credited with the best films of the series (read my review of Yates’ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) his style works well in bringing Rowling’s magical world to life. He obviously has a genuine love of these characters and allows them to each have their moment in the spotlight. His world of Hogwarts and assortment of wizarding locations is beautifully rendered from the cavernous Gringott’s vault to the gothic surroundings of the school. But his stand out skill is in the realisation of the action sequences – the rollercoaster ride in Gringotts, the broomstick escape from the Room of Requirement, and the battle at Hogwarts. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 therefore benefits from some of the series’ best action.

But it also has Rowling’s ace final novel to draw from, arguably the best of the Harry Potter books. The good versus evil story reaches its peak as the two camps prepare for the apocalyptic battle. Harry’s story takes on further depth as he learns more about his past, while characters we have grown to know and love put their lives on the line for the cause. Notably, Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom gets his chance to shine. In an amusing scene he is left alone to guard a bridge leading to Hogwarts School when hundreds of Voldemort’s army charge him only to be held back by a spell protecting the school’s perimeter.

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It is always difficult concluding a film series, especially one as epic as Harry Potter. Fan expectation is of course high and perhaps this is heightened by the fact most have read the book and want the quality of the story in literate form to be reproduced in visual form. Where the last two films fall down is arguably in the decision to spread the book across two movies. Other, longer Harry Potter stories have worked perfectly well as one film so the obviously commercial decision to milk the last book for all its worth has an even greater stench. Both Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2 suffer at times from a sedate pace that, instead of giving the characters time to breathe, only highlight deficiencies in the dialogue (which can be uninspired and artificial) and the acting (which has improved but the young actors are constantly outshone by the veterans). I would have liked to have seen Alfonso Cuaron, who made the best Potter film in my opinion with the Prisoner of Azkaban, bring his darker, moody visual style to this concluding part. Ultimately, although Yates does an accomplished job, making a thoroughly entertaining, action-adventure film, he is, strangely, hamstrung by the grander scale. In hindsight, Deathly Hallows, as it is in novel form, would have made a more tightly plotted, faster-paced single story. A shorter, single film would have also smudged many of shortcomings that the two-part double-header can only magnify.

Yet, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 will still thrill fans. Harry’s story comes together with an epic battle that has been brilliantly brought to life on screen. There’s plenty of drama and the twisty, surprise-filled nature of the final hour will have those unaware of the ending clutching their seats. And I suppose the biggest compliment I can pay the film is that when it was all over I was ready to jump back on the ship and do it over again.

Review by Daniel StephensSee all reviews

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Rodney Reply

    Great review Dan. I’m off to see this with my wife tonight! Can’t wait. It’ll be the first HP film I’ve seen in cinemas since Prisoner Of Azkaban.

  2. Claire Reply

    Nicely put, Dan. The cast and crew had such a fantastic book to work from. The book is full of action, emotion and suspense and this was translated to the big screen very well.

    Perhaps some parts could have been thinned out a bit in the two films but I did feel that in Part 2 some key moments weren’t fleshed out enough, for example the casualties of the battle.

    Ps, I just read ‘the Harry Potter story so far…’ – I was completely the same, I was firmly in The Lord of the Rings camp! I got back in to Harry Potter at Christmas to prepare for Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and watched the first six films in four days 😛

    • Dan Reply

      Haha…nice to hear from another LOTR/anti-Potter fan. It was a Christmas viewing of Chamber of Secrets on TV that finally sold me on the series. I’ve never looked back – love them all (well, apart from Half-Blood Prince which was the poorest film for me).

  3. Anna Reply

    The seventh book was such huge book that even the 5 hours of pt 1 and 2 seemed like they left a lot out.

    • Dan Reply

      …as they did in some of the other longer-novel-to-film-adaptations but they worked as standalone films. I like Deathly Hallows part 2 a lot but I think the argument still stands that it could have been one movie.

  4. CastorTroy Reply

    See. I’m not sure that it would have been better as a single movie. People would complain that the film had left out too much. I think it works fine as is and I’m waiting to see Part 1 and part 2 back to back before I can truly make a conclusion. This is my favorite film of the series. I’m going back to see it on Sunday!

    • Dan Reply

      I get your point Castor and my stance…which is a bit sitting on the fence over the one or two films thing…comes back to the fact they made the likes of Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix and Half Blood Prince (all longer books than Deathly Hallows) into single movies. I think these would have benefited from a two-parter, especially Order of the Phoenix, and since then didn’t perhaps Deathly Hallows would have been more tightly paced as a one-off, albeit, quite long film. I think both DH 1 and 2 drag at times because the dialogue isn’t great in the quieter moments and the acting does leave something to be desired.

  5. YAM Magazine Reply

    The YAM team must be very picky, since we consider the last book to be one of the weakest in the series. O_O

    Also, we felt half and half about the film. LOL

  6. Anonymous Reply

    I am sorry Dan, I did not read the review, but I wanted to say hi.

    I did not read because I am hoping to see this soon and am trying to keep away from swinging my opinions too much.

    C

  7. ruth Reply

    I don’t want to read too much into this yet as I haven’t seen it yet. I’ll try to do it this weekend. Glad to hear the good reviews about this, sounds like the franchise ends with a bang indeed.

  8. Pingback: » Movie Review – Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 Fernby Films

  9. ruth Reply

    I’m seeing this in a couple of hours, so I’ll come back and let you know what I think. I’m avoiding reviews before I see it.

  10. cgonzalez Reply

    I had a lot of problems with Part 1. I’m working on my review for this one right now. I agree that one film would have been better. Your write up was great, I’ll link to your review when I get it up.

  11. Fitz Reply

    One of the drawbacks of having Yates do the last films is that he is a workman’s director. He can do the story well, but that will be as high as he gets. Cuaron really could have gone places with this material.

    Speaking of Cuaron how is Gravity doing I wonder?

  12. rtm Reply

    Ok I’ve seen it now and though I don’t know if one movie is the best solution, I feel like splitting the movies into two parts sort of loses the ‘magic’ if you will and the emotional involvement of the 2nd one as I didn’t have a chance to see the first part again. I’ll have my write-up (not a review) sometime this week. Overall it was ok, but wasn’t as epic as I had envisioned.

  13. Dan Reply

    @Fitz: Good point. A quick poll would show that most people’s favourite Potter film was the Prisoner of Azkaban. It is therefore a shame that he didn’t get to make any more Potter films.

    @rtm: Perhaps its “epicness” would have come across more in a single film where it built to the climatic battle and lost some of the artificial character-based moments. I liked the Harry/Hermione dance sequence but that whole bit of part where Ron disappears after complaining of being left out could have been cut completely in my opinion.

  14. Adam Moody (MoviesWithMoody) Reply

    Awesome review man. Before I can watch this I have to go back and watch/re-watch a lot of the films from this series. I have been a slacker on this saga.

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