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Ten Word or Less Review: The end.

This is what Harry Potter finally comes to.  After 10 years and 6 ½ films, the world finally closes the last cinematic chapter on the Potter universe.  It’s had some magnificent ups and dreadful downs in its unprecedented life.  There’s no need to dwell on it in its entirety so we’ll stick to what’s at hand now, The Deathly Hallows: Part 2.  The final half of a last film broken in two, Part 2 contains all the final revelations and story beats so many have been waiting years to know, if you didn’t read the books that is.  The question is, does Potter go out on a swooshing broom stick, wand in the air casting spells over the viewer, or does this last bit of movie crash into the ground, the victim of a killing curse?  I won’t linger, it’s the former.  The Deathly Hallows concludes this long journey on an almost sublime note, pulling together a decade’s worth of strings and characters in fine and moving ways.  It may not be perfect, but to be as good as it is is an exceptional accomplishment.

Recounting Potter plot at this stage is daunting, challenging and mostly pointless.  At this point you know it or you’ve ignored this whole fine mess.  The shortest way to say it is that Harry is at the end of his journey.  Voldemort is nearly all powerful and on the attack while Harry is on a race to find a way to destroy him.  Many, many characters stand on each side, ready to go war for the other.  The majority of the back end of the Deathly Hallows is a battle epic between forces of good and evil with major characters finally facing the choices which will decide their fate.  If the first half of Deathly Hallows was all moody build up, this is all payoff.  Hallows catches the wind in its sails early on, shedding the tone of Part 1 fairly quickly.  It’s rapid paced but doesn’t feel rushed.  It knows when to be patient and when to hit the accelerator.  Director David Yates has what feels like millions of story points to polish off and he’s able to handle the majority of them with grace and finesse.  While more knowledgeable fans of the Potter story in novel form will surely miss things, those who have appreciated the story as presented within the films will find a very satisfying pay off.

As robust and populated as The Deathly Hallows is with characters we have all grown to appreciate, this finale is primarily about Harry and Voldemort.  Daniel Radcliffe turns in his last performance as the cornerstone of this epic endeavor and as time has marched on he’s gotten progressively more mature and shaded.  Potter has in many ways been a frustrating lad over the years.  He’s been at times too passive a protagonist, many times too dense when compared to his contemporaries.  A muggle in magicians clothing to be sure.  It often seemed Potter accomplished little without the help of his betters which made his entire presence kind of dubious.  But as each movie moved on Radcliffe found a little bit more to give the character.  Maybe Harry was simple and lacking insight, but Radcliffe eventually made us root for the fellow despite his shortcomings.  It was in Order of the Phoenix when Potter all but admitted these deficiencies that I finally quit fighting against the poor kid.  He’s a young man chosen to do something far beyond his grasp, but in the end he embodies the kind of bravery we want in our finest movie heroes.  Maybe he is a bland sort, but then again most of us are and there in lies part of his charm.

On the flip side is Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort.  Casting Fiennes for this part was a coup for the series and though used sparingly since his introduction in Goblet of Fire, he’s always made what could be a run of the mill baddie into an amazing and hypnotic tour de force of scenery chewing.  In part 2 of Hallows Voldemort is a constant presence and as the film speeds along Fiennes brings up waves of arrogance and fear in Voldemort.  He knows his victory is not assured and it’s so fascinating to see small moments of panic break into his terrifying façade.  Fiennes is an old school British thespian to the core and to see him relish being so thoroughly vile in these movies has always been eye opening and enjoyable.  

With a cast this big on hand it’s not surprising to report that not everyone gets screen time to themselves.  Alan Rickman gets his last due as Snape, a part people always clamored to see more of but never quite got.  Here Rickman has a handful of scenes to chew on as his cloaked professor of unknowable intent and he’s magnificent in every single one.  The man can convey an ocean of thought with just a simple stare.  Admirers of the novel will appreciate the care given to explaining Snape’s motivations and the dramatic payoff is one of the highlights of the entire series.  Less successful in terms of feeling included and purposeful are Ron and Hermoine.  With this film primarily about Harry and Voldemort’s conflict, Potter’s reliable chums are limited to running behind their lead, occasionally interjecting a thought or some action.  But this was never really their tale and they got their due in the first part.  We can move down the cast and find just about everyone who was ever in a Potter film: Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson, David Thewlis, Helena Bohnam-Carter, Gary Oldman, et all.  Giving everyone a proper send off, or in some cases even a line to utter, was apparently not a viable option.  Some characters get a good note to go out on, Neville and the Malfoys come to mind, but many are painfully glossed over.  The lack of anything for Hagrid to accomplish at story’s end feels like a terrible slight.  Giving a few more character beats here and there could not have hurt but as this is essentially the back half of a 4 hour movie, building in space for everyone and everything we want to see one last time would take days.  It’s a shame we don’t have more, but it’s easy to apprecaite what we do.

With this grand concluding chapter Harry Potter solidifies his place as not just a financially successful movie franchise, but a noble and worthwhile one.  So many film series lose sight of what makes them resonate with viewers as time marches on but Potter has stayed the course and delivered on a promise made 10 years ago.  Not only is Hallows a fine conclusion in its own right but it feels as if it’s making the previous efforts better by extension.  Potter can now proudly take it’s place, head and wand held high, with the titans of fantasy movie lore.  Now just don’t follow in the footsteps of that damn fool named Lucas and make any prequels.

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One Comment

  1. Bloat heartily agrees


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