Review: ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2’

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 really puts the “Part 2” in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.” No, I’m not just being cute (although I’m that too). The latest and last film in the Harry Potter franchise isn’t really a film in its own right. It’s too frantic, action-packed and propulsive to work entirely on its own merits, but taken as the second part of the despairing and contemplative first Deathly Hallows this new film is a perfect coda to a great two-parter, as well as a mostly excellent film series. It’s nothing but climax, but hey… Who doesn't love climaxing?

After a lightning fast reminder of the last film (Voldemort got the Elder Wand… move along now) the action picks up pretty quickly with a quick lesson in wand lore – an important plot point this time out – and then we’re off on a daring bank heist followed almost immediately by the Battle of Hogwarts, which takes up the bulk of the film. Until now director David Yates’ best Harry Potter movies were quiet, even sullen affairs but he’s clearly learned a thing or two about action sequences, or at least put his faith in an exceptional 2nd Unit team, because the The Deathly Hallows Part 2 easily boasts the most thrilling action of any Harry Potter yet without sacrificing either the characters or coherence. It’s a non-stop thrill ride, which most directors would consider an excuse to get flashy (or worse, silly), but after seven films the drama is inherent and the characters as involving as they’re going to get. The cast knows what they’re doing, Yates knows what he’s doing, screenwriter Steve Kloves knows what he’s doing, and they all do it expertly.

I wonder if casual Harry Potter fans, the ones who see the movies but ignore the novels, are going to be into it this time. I suspect they’ll be neatly divided between folks who miss the lighthearted fantasy world building of the first few films and the people who wanted to see “Wizard War II” all along. That second group will be grinning like maniacs throughout the entire film. I hope the first group appreciates that this two-hour climax brings an entire franchise to an end, as opposed to being an individual cinematic experience that could be described, at best, as awkwardly structured. I certainly look forward to back-to-backing The Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2 at home or at a second-run theater, although I doubt the whole series will play well when snorted all at once: too many cooks in that pot, and the bland flavors of Chris Columbus will doubtless fail to mix properly with the pubescent darkness of Alfonso Cuaron, the charming British-ness of Mike Newell and the more scholarly work of Yates.

That I can spend my time analyzing the structure of the last eight movies, I suppose, means that I readily accept Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. This is the ending of the series, and it is a proper and successful one. I enjoyed the hell out of it right up until the end, when the makeup during the obligatory “19 Years Later” sequence made me chuckle inwardly to myself, although it’s hardly “LOL” material. Comme ci, comme ça. It’s nice that they kept the epilogue intact from the novel, if only because it effectively precludes any unnecessary sequels. I for one am glad to see Harry Potter come to a close. It was one of the most reliable film franchises ever to go beyond a trilogy, even at its spottiest, and I imagine that an entire generation will look back on it with fond memories.

At least until the Special Editions and Prequels