It All Ends – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

We have reached the end of an era. There will be no more disappointing Harry Potter movies. After this weekend, at least.He's scary. Scary!

[Spoiler alert for the paragraph regarding make-up.  Skip it if you both haven't read the book and don't want to be spoiled.]

When Part One came out, many folks complained that there was too much camping and brooding and not enough action. They will not have this complaint about Part Two. Starting where the last movie ended, Harry, Hermione, and Ron immediately jump into action, planning to break into Bellatrix LeStrange’s vault at the goblin bank Gringotts. From there it is one scene after the next of action or peril. Part One was criticized for the long middle stretch where our heroes go camping. This film runs as if it was responding to that criticism. Harry, Ron, and Hermione bounce from scene and to scene and danger to danger like pin balls. Strangely, this doesn’t really make the movie terribly exciting.

Partly, this is because of the decision of the script to keep Harry and his friends running around looking for Horcruxes while battles rage around them. This gives you a ground’s-eye-view of battles, with the feel of recent shaky cam war movies. Wizard battles are spectacularly messy affairs, like a battle where people only have misfiring grenade launchers. However, we only encounter them when Harry is trying to get from point A to point B. We never really have a sense of what is going on in the battle. It is possible that this is meant as a commentary of some kind, but if so, it falls flat.

However, the film is stuffed with indelible scenes. Helena Bonham Carter’s ironic and comical portrayal of a young ingenue attempting to portray her. Neville Longbottom coming to in the midst of a wizard battle. Ron and Hermione’s first real kiss. Voldemort bloody in a train station. Indeed, the devotion to individual scenes might be the film’s biggest weakness. In trying to hit as many scenes that fans love from the book as possible, the movie doesn’t have much connective tissue between them. People appear on screen, but often they never speak. The whole film is image after image after image, with no sense of why we should care about any one in particular. If the first film was brooding and tedious, this one is spastic and meaningless.

You can tell that the filmmakers saw the problems, too. There is an interesting scene where Harry explicitly rejects going into some of the backstory present in the book. It is as if Steve Kloves had wanted to give filmgoers the same experience they had with the book, but realized that there just wasn’t going to be time. There was too much in the book and try as they might, there simply isn’t time. Unfortunately, the result is a movie that is reminiscent of the works of Michael Bay: all bang, no buck.

I want to briefly discuss makeup. If this movie isn’t a serious contender for the Oscar this year, I’ll be surprised. I didn’t realize until this film how Voldemort’s body makes him look less like a snake and more like a lamprey. It was a stunning job, helped by an able performance by Ralph Fiennes. At the same time, Alan Rickman was so obviously wearing so much makeup it distracted from his performance. This film is meant to be Snape’s redemption and all I could think about was whether he’d had work done. This is partly because I’m a horrible, petty person, but also because everything about Snape is mishandled in this film. If you felt his character was too quickly redeemed in the books, this movie won’t alter that perception.

All that said, I’d still recommend the movie for fans. It is practically all fan service (of one form or another) and it is satisfying to see certain scenes play out. However, you need the books to fill in the gaps, because otherwise I tend to think most of the movie won’t make sense and won’t resonate. In fact, the faults and strengths of this movie are the opposites of the faults and strengths of its predecessor. Perhaps watching the two together will result in a movie that is greater than the sum of its parts.

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17 thoughts on “It All Ends – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

  1. The official ranking of Potter movies:
    1. Prisoner of Azkaban
    2. Deathly Hallows, Part One
    3. Order of the Phoenix
    4. Goblet of Fire
    5. Chamber of Secrets
    6. Deathly Hallows, Part Two
    7. Half Blood Prince
    8. Sorceror’s/Philosopher’s Stone

    Adjust expectations accordingly.

  2. I’ve always wondered if they shouldn’t have started making the movies until the entire series of books had been completed. Else, how would you know which critical parts of the earlier novels would be needed, etc. It seems like it would be necessary for the narrative.

  3. HP,

    While it might be safe to assume that most people will have read the books, you might want to include a few spoiler alerts just so people are aware.

  4. The real ranking of the movies:

    1. ………..
    2. ………..
    3. DH pt. 1
    4. ……….
    5. Half Blood, Phoenix, Fire
    6. Secrets, Stone
    .
    .
    .
    85. Azkaban (I know, there are only 8)

    Haven’t seen DH pt. 2.

    And Snape has been tragically misplayed and miswritten in the movies from the beginning. Rickman had no menace in him at all.

  5. I haven’t been a fan of the books or movies, but I did love the 10 minute animation sequence in the middle of Part 1. Do we get another one of those?

  6. Didn’t bother seeing the last one and probably won’t bother with this one. With two exceptions the movies have all disappointed me. I loved the books though.

    However some of the things you point out as problems are just problems with translating what was in the book to the screen. A lot of people thought the 7th book was the weakest of the series although I still loved it. However the first half is a lot of camping and the second half is a lot of action.

    I must say that I did like Rickman. Snape is in some ways the most interesting character. I’m still not sure what I think entirely of his treatment in 7.

  7. Clark,
    Eric Snider argues that the two parts work as one really long movie and I am open to that possibility. As it is, I really liked Part One and Part Two had no emotional resonance at all for me. YMMV

  8. I enjoy them as a fan of the books. I just love all things Potter.

    My doctoral program is even a D.A. program. Harry Potter is the main reason I have stuck with it. I want those letter on my card.

  9. Or maybe the extended version on DVD will make it better? (I have to hope, because I’m not sure I’ll make it to see it in the theater. Particularly when buds don’t invite me to go see a midnight screening with them.)

  10. I am part of the target demographic. I bought all the books and read them the first day of publication, saw all the movies the opening weekend, and spent the week prior to HPDH2 re-watching the movies. As a member of the target demographic, I loved it. But then, this movie was made for me. How could I not love it?

  11. Helena B Carter playing Hermione playing Bellatrix was Priceless.

    I thought the train station/Dumbledore thing at the end worked better in the movie than it did for me in the books, which isn’t saying much because I hated how that resolved in the books. Maybe it’s just that I’d adjusted my expectations after the books so it didn’t bother as much.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the movie as a nice victory lap and reminiscence of the whole series. I like how it throws out tons of red meat for fans: visiting favorite venues from all the way back to book 1, giving Longbottom his long-deserved moment to shine, Molly going full mama bear, etc.

    It was fun. I would put it higher up in the ranking than you did, though I agree with everything else about your ranking.

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