Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2
Film review by: Witney Seibold
I have now seen all eight films in the “Harry Potter” series, and I’m still a little unclear on one important detail: Why did the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) become so evil? In the sixth film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” we do meet the young evil wizard in a flashback, when he was named Tom Riddle and was just a bitter lad of 11, and we do see that he had some Damien-like tendencies, but there’s no real in-depth explanation as to why he became so full of hate and wickedness that he would assemble an army of equally evil wizards, who named themselves Death Eaters, and go back to his old school and destroy it. It’s like he and some peers formed a university club consisting of dejected Gothy types, and they never let their grudges rest. Voldemort isn’t really interested in world domination, as far as I can tell, but is certainly hellbent on destroying his old boarding school. Hogwarts must be more miserable than we think.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2” finally brings an end to all of the events in Harry’s teenage life, which, naturally, all boil down to a simple battle royale between Good Guys and Bad Guys (the series’ central themes are summed up in bland platitudes about the wickedness of ambition, and the strength of friendship). To his credit, director David Yates, who directed the previous three Harry Potter films, has finally managed to make the events in this film seem clear and relevant. The film, from what has been explained to me, takes events from only the last third of J.K. Rowling’s novel (which I have not read), so there is much less incident crammed into a small time-frame, which was the unfortunate effect of Yates’ Potter films. My central criticism with most of he Harry Potter films (at least from parts three onward), is that they don’t so much adapt the famed books into cogent and solid feature films, and instead are content to stringently catalog events from the books in order to appease the millions of fans that are intimately familiar with the books’ details, and don’t so much care that there are plot points missing here and there. This was especially bad in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and the last film “Deathly Hallows, part 1.”
Luckily, this eighth and final film manages to keep things clear. And while it’s sad that the entire magical conceits of Harry Potter’s universe, and his seven years of schooling are reduced to the mere murder of a rival, it’s still such a relief to see the big fight conveyed in such an easy and easy-to-understand fashion. It would be a pity to see the final words of Harry’s on-screen life be another bout of impenetrable and pretentious dialogue. I liked the film a lot, and the action was really exciting. Seeing the evil masses attack the Good Guys holing up in Hogwarts (and seeing some minor characters get offed) is a good thrill for a mid-summer movie.
Although, I must confess, because there were no double-backs, no moral changes, no big twists in the story regarding Voldemort’s motivations, I have to admit that, while I was thrilled, I wasn’t too much moved. It completed the series of movies well, but I didn’t feel like Harry had gone through something large and epic as promised in the first few films. He wasn’t destined to do anything great, as was once said. He didn’t have a great romance as was hinted at (the romance between Harry and Ginny Weasley played by Bonnie Wright, felt a bit rushed and compulsory). I was left with a satisfied, but mildly underwhelmed feeling of “Ah, well, it’s finally over.”
The first part of “HP7,p2” continues the scavenger hunt conceit from the last film (which, sadly, isn’t as much fun as most scavenger hunt films), where Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are searching for magical trinkets that contain Voldemort’s soul. Each one they destroy kills the Bad Guy a little bit more. Voldemort has assembled an army of evil wizards, including the witchy Bellatrix LeStrange (Helena Bonham Carter), and the platinum blonde Malfoy family. As aside: don’t the women’s named in Harry Potter movies all sound like dominatrix codenames. Apart from Bellatrix LaStrange, there are characters named Luna Lovegood and Nymphodora Tonks. That sounds like the headlining lineup of a hip burlesque club in Silverlake.
The battle takes place at Hogwarts, and the fight is epic and fun. There’s even a brief trip to the afterlife where Harry gets to have a calm, quiet chat with the deceased Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). Much of the film’s strengths come from its merciful moments of calm. Like “HP7,p1,” we are treated to some actual downtime in Harry’s life. He is, after all, a teenager going through the usual angst of growing up. It’s nice to see that he can relax, get bored, take a breather and be a human every once and a while.
Harry, throughout the series, has been less the instigator of action, and more the recipient of wise words from interesting supporting characters. “I need help” is is most frequent line of dialogue. He is lectured to a lot, and given a lot of instructions, which he carries out. For certain portions of the series, it’s like Harry is a Dickensian hero, who has little character other than to be heroic and good-hearted. Luckily by this eighth film, he is given a grand piece of “Tempest”-like sacrifice that gives him some final strength. It’s not as powerful, however, as when Prospero did it.
This film puts an adequate button on the series, and we do get to see what happens to Harry and his peers, but the story’s conclusion is not where it’s strengths lie. It lies in the stellar supporting cast, the interesting supporting characters, the vast awe and mystery of the cavernous and maze-like school, the largeness of the world of magic, and the infinite varieties therein. They lie in the palpable and joyous world of weirness and mystery that Rowling has created. The big fight is just to wrap things up.