2011-07-15

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 2 – A Satisfying, Emotional Finale

by Yo Snyder

And so it all comes to an end. It’s actually quite a staggering feat,
when you think about. The mere fact that the Harry Potter franchise was
able to get eight movies made, eight movies that steadily improved in
quality overall, eight movies that kept the same core cast many of the
same key members behind the scenes, and eight movies that have made
around six billion dollars at the box office; yeah, all things
considered, it’s quite the cinematic feat. Perhaps one of its most
impressive accomplishments is that it was able to end well. How many
times have franchises sputtered out and ended on a disappointing note?
For every Return of the King, there are many more Spider-Man 3s. While not quite the soaring finale that was Return of the King (although that is a very subjective opinion), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 2
is a rousing and satisfying finale to one of modern cinema’s most
remarkable achievements. Bring tissue and hang on for an emotional,
action-packed ride.

By this point, most people have made up their
minds about Harry Potter and whether or not they want to go to these
movies. So this review isn’t so much about persuading or dissuading
anyone from seeing it, but more of a reflection on whether not this
final chapter is a worthy conclusion to this series. Certainly the
breaking up of the final book into two movies may have seemed like a
mere cash grab by a reluctant Warner Bros. who didn’t want this
lucrative franchise to end, but now that it’s all said and done, I think
it was the right decision. Even with the two parts of the final story,
there are elements that are underdeveloped and missed opportunities for
greater emotional resonance. For the most part, however, the two parts
give this final chapter a chance not rush too much the conclusion to
Harry’s journey. Deathly Hallows will most certainly be a much better
movie with both parts watched together, but individually, they are still
fine movies filled with a subtle grace, grim darkness, sparks of hope,
and the joy of triumph.

As to whether or not the final show down
between Harry and Voldemort lives up to expectations, well again that’s
bound to be very subjective. Personally, I wasn’t expecting the movie to
live up to the epicness of that scene as it’s presented on the written
page. It doesn’t, but I think it does do it justice. I think some of the
impact, significance and emotional resonance is lost in translation,
but it’s still a fulfilling conclusion for the films. And since the
movies generally reach a wider audience than the books, it will be
interesting to see what some critics (read Christians) will make of
Harry’s sacrificial final confrontation with Voldemort (read it’s very
much a Christ allegory, or at least it would be seen that if it were any
other hero). After so many years of controversy and hostility, what is
to become of Harry Potter now that every knows how his journey ends?
What will his place be in the pantheon of literary heroes who have been
translated to the big screen? Perhaps only time will tell how that will
play out.

While it’s hard to match the emotional impact of these
scenes from the book, the film does a good job overall in conveying one
of the central themes Harry discovers in this final adventure; the
importance of love. Not the puppy-eyed, I have a crush on that cutie
over there kind of love; real, sacrificial, selfless love. It’s hinted
that love is the deeper magic that is beyond even Voldemort’s ability to
master. It’s what makes Harry special and it’s what’s needed in order
for evil to be thoroughly defeated.  Jesus himself said that “greater
love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” He
said this in reference to what he was about to do; sacrifice himself
willingly on a cross to pay the price for the sins of us all. And he did
it all out of love. Truly, it is a deeper magic that will always defeat
evil and stories like Harry Potter not only recognize that, but also do
a pretty good job of portraying it.

If you’ve read the book, you
know what to expect in this movie, but even knowing what is coming
doesn’t make some scenes any less heart rending. One girl at my
screening was literally sobbing at parts. I also had to dab at my eyes a
few times, despite not being what one would call a hardcore fan. Much
of that is can be attributed to just how well this film is made. David
Yates was the right man to guide this franchise across the finish line.
He had an excellent sense of pacing, and he brought a certain gravity
and legitimacy to the franchise with his deft touch. As with the other
films he’s directed, this one is beautifully shot, hauntingly scored,
and the performances are top notch. Alan Rickman gets his moment to
shine, and he does so in fine form. The rest of the cast also have their
moments, from Maggie Smith’s emotional and heroic moments as Professor
Mcgonagall to some heart-rending scenes from all the actors who portray
the Weasley family. Daniel Radcliffe does a find job as Harry (odd to
think the first time we saw him he was eleven, and now he has gritty
stubble), but I think some of this material was a bit beyond him. Still,
our three main characters carry the film well, and it’s a delight to
see how their lives end up in the quiet but satisfying epilogue. 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 2
is a dark, gritty, grim film. It plays like a war movie in parts, and
it shows just how far these characters have come and matured in the past
ten years. These are no longer kids, they are adults who have learned
the significance of honor, nobility, sacrifice and yes, love. They have
grown up before our eyes, and as such, it’s painful to see them hurt, to
see some of them die, and ultimately to see them go. It’s no easy feat
to bring a series like Harry Potter with so much expectations from so
many groups to a satisfying end, but Deathly Hallows pt. 2 is
able to do just that. You already know if you want to go see this movie.
All I’m telling you is it’s a really well made film, and for fans, a
satisfying end to a beloved series.