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
Guide to the Harry Potter series
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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”.
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.
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 Stephens – See all reviews