Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more.
What is there left to be said about The Boy Who Lived? I find that in a world where there are books written comparing J.K. Rowling to Aristotle and courses taught on Hogwarts theology at Yale Divinity School, I have little desire to expend much more energy analyzing the Potter franchise. An entire generation has now come of age, weaned on wands and wizards; we know the story, we know the characters. What surprises are there left for us to explore?
When it comes to “Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” the answer is essentially none. Which is not necessarily to detract from the film; the final installment in the beloved series gives us pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from Potter’s on-screen iterations: that is, wondrous art direction, dazzling effects, an extraordinary cast of British legends performing on a level far beyond what their screen time would normally merit, and an encyclopedia of missing details that rabid fans of the book will whine about for weeks.
The timing of the Harry Potter films has been both a blessing and a curse: near-simultaneous releases with the books guaranteed maximum exposure and hype, taking advantage of Rowling’s cultish fan base. But such impatience also ensured that the films will perhaps never exist in the vacuum they deserve. Of course, that’s an inherent peril with any film adaptation ever, but trebly so when it came to the Potter hoards, for whom minutiae is apparently equivalent to depth.
I won’t quibble too much with this assertion, as much of the power behind Rowling’s works indeed derived from the way she so thoroughly imagined Harry Potter’s wizarding world. Like Tolkien, the way the author fleshed out the background made for an all-the-more convincing foreground (unlike Tolkien, Rowling lacked several other crucial literary skills, but let’s not get into that here). But I do feel that many fans of the books continually placed unfair expectations on the amount of said detail that should be translated into the films. With six or seven hundred pages to sift through, someone’s favorite bit player, funny one-liner, or emotional flashback was going to get cut. The sooner everyone embraces this, the sooner we can stop being picky and appreciate the films for everything they did right.
Of course, if there’s anything a proper film critic can do, it’s be picky. Which is why I’ll be skipping the general plot summary here (which I’m sure you all know anyway) and quickly move on to a few specifics that the film gets right and wrong, because I truly can’t think of much else to say here otherwise. What follows here could be regarded as spoilers if you haven’t seen the film; not because it gives away any crucial narrative elements (again, I’m assuming you all know them anyway), but because it might ruin the method with which these narrative elements are employed, which is really where the film series gains its unique charm. Because I’m lazy and tired of the same ol’ format, let’s break things down in unfairly generalized, black-and-white fashion, shall we?
- the storm
- awesome British actors
- the epilogue
- lack of a “hells yeah!!!” moment
The closest thing we get to a single, climactic, feel-good moment is Neville killing Voldemort’s snake; otherwise, the final duel between Harry and Voldemort feels somewhat unsatisfying, as does Harry’s rather perfunctory destruction of the Elder Wand. Let’s be clear, “Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” while certainly entertaining, is no “LOTR: Return of the King.” There’s no charge of the Rohirrim here, no Samwise carrying Frodo. Cool as David Yates’ rather muted depiction of the final battle can be at times, you kind of wish he had picked at least one scene to crank up to 11.
- the epilogue