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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II review

REVIEWS - MOVIES

The boy wizard waves his wand one final time but, thanks to this remarkable release, is sure to go out with a bang...

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part II review

He was the boy that lived; the child that survived an attack from one of the most powerful wizards of all time. However, after seven films, six billion dollars and more deaths than one likes to remember, it all had to come to an end...and what an end it is.

Picking up exactly where its predecessor left off, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) continue in their pursuit or the now infamous horcruxes, the seemingly random – yet ironically sentimental – parts of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) soul. As expected, each horcrux leads our trio through unparalleled danger, challenging both their mental and physical capability, before finally revealing itself to a worthy opponent.

Our golden trio, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson)As our heroes – and heroine – move closer to destroying the Dark Lord once and for all, they soon begin to realise the true extent of his army. Hogwarts has fallen under Death Eater control (or has it?); the Ministry has suffered at the hands of blind-sighted leadership and internal betrayal, and now survives as merely a testament to a powerful – and deceptive – revolution; and The Order of the Phoenix, those who stood against Voldemort and his supporters, have suffered severe casualties,  thus becoming somewhat redundant.  Yet Harry knows he is ‘the chosen one’ and, as the time passes, becomes fully aware of his rather unfortunate fate, one intertwined with the Dark Lord as a result of their precarious past. To quote direct, “For neither can live, while the other survives” – tough break.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II is unnervingly brilliant. Its cast has outdone itself; its story runs in perfect alignment to the books of its namesake; and, most importantly, Part II is testament to the brilliance of JK Rowling’s novels. However, it is the emotional ties within Part II that carry the film throughout.

The emotive range of all involved is touching, and helps convey the severity of Voldemort’s uprising. From start to finish, Deathly Hallows: Part II tugs at the heart-strings, from the obvious – yet beautifully portrayed – pain of Dobby’s selfless sacrifice, to the contempt that Harry and, through extension of the films narrative,  the audience come to hold towards Voldemort and his ‘holier-than thou’ pursuit of a pure-blood community. Anger, betrayal, pain, suffering – all emotive states I found myself experiencing thanks to the masterful directing of David Yates, one of only two directors – the other being Chris Columbus – given the opportunity to direct more than one in the record-breaking franchise.

You see, when The Deathly Hallows: Part I was released, it received much criticism for its slow – and often exhausted – scenes. While critics recognised the need for change, a foundational transformation from Harry Potter: Boy wonder into Harry Potter: don’t f**k with me, many questioned the decision to extend the final chapter over two releases, stating that this was nothing more than a money-spinning attempt by Warner Bros. to prolong the ever successful franchise. However, hindsight is a wonderful thing – the decision to spread The Deathly Hallows over two films has not only been proven, but should in fact be celebrated. Without it, fans would be lamenting the loss of many a great scene; there is just too much content in the 607-page novel to be translated into just one film. So, with Part I having effectively laid the foundations for his dark and disturbing journey, Part II does exactly what many had predicted...it unleashes an intense, Patronus-based attack on its naysayers, before reaching the climatic peaks that many had expected. Such is the ferocity and intensity of Part II that the audience cannot help but become a little overwhelmed at times.

You cheer with each victory; you mourn every loss; but you enjoy every moment, every hand-crafted scene of British professionalism. Inevitably though, it is the strength of its cast – and the acting presented within – that is its true strength. As Oscar Wilde once said, “theatre (and by extension, cinema) is the greatest of all art forms; the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being”, and Part II perfectly highlights this point.

Neville Longbottom - a true great in The Deathly HallowsYet it is the performance of Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) which truly speaks volumes throughout. In previous instalments, Neville was presented as a quivering, uneasy sort of wizard, one with whom mediocrity and awkwardness had become second nature. That said, Lewis’ character was instantly relatable – who didn’t know someone who, despite their best efforts, never quite clicked with the social clique? – and it was for this reason that Longbottom became a firm favourite. However, in The Deathly Hallows: Part II, Lewis’ character has grown up – much to the credit of the actor himself – shedding his overwrought skin and blossoming into one of the films true heroes. His timings are precise, and his emotions are first class (basically the complete opposite of his former persona), and this is subsequently rewarded with an increased airtime. While much credit must go to his director, David Yates – whose loyalty to JK’s novels allows for such a transformation to happen – Lewis himself has earned the respect of many a critic to date; and such praise is rightly placed.

Another stand out performance is that of Severus Snape’s (Alan Rickman). For those familiar with the novels, it will come as no surprise to say that Part II is rather Snape heavy, but Rickman is more than up to the challenge; his dull tones and monotonic expressions giving us further reason to despise Severus.

But what of the performances of our dynamic trio, I hear you ask? Well, what can be said – Radcliffe is, as ever, convincing as Harry; Watson again combines her innocent image with an unnerving intelligence, thus providing the lynch-pin of our team; and Grint is, well, Weasley through and through. However, no particular performance jumps out at you, and I’d go as far as too say that Potter’s whiny characterisation becomes rather tedious at times, but this is more a failing of the  character itself than one of Radcliffe’s personally. All three roles are pre-determined, allowing for little interpretation or deviation, so our stars merely do the best with what they have. Now that’s not to say that their performances are bad – far from it in fact – but they just don’t represent significant enough change to be singled out for praise.

What Deathly Hallows: Part II does, to its credit, is to focus more intently on the lives of those around Potter, which results in a deeper appreciation of the story and further connection to their community as a whole. We see a whole new side to Professor McGonagall; are given a true insight into the twisted logic and greed of the Goblin community (in specific Griphook, played brilliantly by Warwick Davis); and begin to understand the conflict of interest for Narcissa and the rest of the Malfoy brood.

Additionally, Part II finally addresses the passion that has been brewing throughout the series. We get passionate embraces between both Ron and Hermione, and Harry and Ginny, yet these are still masked with a sense of innocence, which is sure to bode well with younger viewers. Sure, even Neville is getting in on the action (no pun intented), declaring that he’s off to find Luna (Evanna Lynch) during their final battle because: “I'm mad about her! About time I told her, since we're both probably going to be dead by dawn!” Hormones are certainly raging, but Yates does an exceptional job of presenting these within the context of their situation.

As for 3D, I wasn’t impressed. Aside from a few nice scenes, such as the attack by Voldemort’s snake Nagini on Snape; and the raining visuals of the Dark Lord’s ashes - Part II gains little from its addition. Given the choice, I’d suggest sticking to the cheaper, brighter and more enjoyable 2D alternative, but I suppose this will be a personal preference. Either way, don’t expect Avatar-esque realism...it’s just not on the same level.

Finally, one must applaud the score featured throughout. Alexandre Desplat – whose previous compositions have included The King's Speech and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – has expertly captured the emotions within his music, with a powerful yet submissive score. Each scene is complimented by an appropriate choice of music, helping to rouse feelings and reactions from the audience and, without it, many scenes would feel rather flat.

On the whole, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II is both a fitting conclusion to the franchise and a remarkable piece of cinema. By pushing its 12A rating to their limits, Yates has crafted a beautifully dark – but ultimately enjoyable – experience, one which takes the best of the boy wizard to date, before thrusting him head first into the stark reality of his own existence.

An emotional rollercoaster, the film captures everything we love about the Harry Potter series and some. Part II is as beguiling as its written brethren, and fans worldwide will be delighted with the accuracy of its content. Furthermore, despite its global appeal, Part II manages to keep its esoteric feel thanks to a number of ‘in’ jokes and humorous anecdotes, and Potter’s homely feel is extended through its touching finale, with him waving goodbye to his own child, Albus Severus Potter, some 19 years later.

It’s sad to think this is the end but, thanks to the talent, direction and production value of this release, you can be sure of a fond and enjoyable farewell. Now, if you will excuse me, I seem to have something in my eye...

4 stars

See also:

Harry Potter and me: The aging effect of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Exclusive: Warwick Davis on Merlin, Potter, Depp and future Leprechaun

Stupefy! Harry Potter final trailer released

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 DVD Review

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part One Soundtrack Review


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