Jul 18 2011

Unreal Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Published by at 10:00 am under Movies,Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

And so it ends.

It’s been a long journey for Harry Potter, first through seven books, and then overlapping with seven films. It’s a pop culture phenomenon rivaled only perhaps by Star Wars, and it will be etched in a generation’s minds forever.

This last film aims to send the series out with a bang, or rather a series of nonstop bangs as witches and wizards blast spells at each other for the duration of the movie. His final saga was so epic, it was deemed prudent to split it in half, a decision I complained about in my review of the first film, which was all rising action with nothing really to show for it. I also wondered why the second film couldn’t be released a few weeks or a month later, but judging by the fact that this movie just blew past The Dark Knight’s opening weekend record, taking in $168 million with $43 million in midnight showings alone, I won’t be working for a movie studio marketing department any time soon.

With an almost universal tsunami of positive reviews and a record setting box office haul, Potters’ Deathly Hallows Part 2 is set to be perhaps one of the successful films of the decade, but is it actually flawless? Are critics and audiences blinded by the whirlwind finale, and incapable of leveling any criticism at all?

Though the film does a lot of things right, it’s not exactly perfect either, and runs into some pretty significant problems deviating from the book in its closing moments, which are arguably the most important of the entire series.

Nevile Longbottom: Unexpected Badass

But things start out strong, and stay that way for a while. When we last left Harry, he was busy hunting Horcruxes, which hold pieces of Voldemort’s soul and must be destroyed in order for him to be vulnerable. He’s joined by his stalwart companions Ron and Hermoine as usual, as the trio are done having tiffs that populated the last film, though did manage to give some real depth to the characters.

Part 2 is divided up into really only two sequences, which is what you get when you make a movie out of half of a book. There’s a raid of a goblin vault to find a Horcrux that would seem like a very good theme park ride, and then there’s the battle of Hogwarts, that lasts most of the film and is an incredibly epic spectacle to behold.

The sequence is equally as gripping as it was in the book, and it’s necessary to stop and marvel at just how far this series has come. We saw little 11 year old Harry getting off the Hogwarts Express and touring the castle like it’s Disneyland many years ago, and now the thing is getting blown to all hell as his classmates, friends and teachers drop like flies around him. I can’t remember seeing this level of tone change in any series like that, and it’s pretty incredible to witness.

Regrouping amidst the ruins of Hogwarts.

I still don’t like these films being split in half. The first one is all build up, and the second one is all action, and they really don’t function as independent films very well. Though presumably combining them would have forced them to make even deeper cuts to the plot, which has already been run pretty thin. We have the general outline that describes the history of the Horcruxes and Hallows, but there are a lot of details overlooked in the sake of time, and the plot might seem a bit hard to keep track of for the uninitiated.

It’s hard to talk about the ending, without spoiling it for all those who haven’t read the books (for shame!), but that’s where a lot of issues come up. There’s an incredibly bizarre scene that has Voldemort celebrating a recent victory that’s painfully awkward and mood killing. It’s supposed to be a somber affair, as the dead line the corridors of Hogwarts after a fearsome battle, but an odd laugh here, and awkward hug there, and Voldemort becomes comic relief during a time where the audience should in no way be laughing.

Perhaps the film’s biggest transgression is its changing of the penultimate moment of Voldemort’s demise (not a spoiler because what, you thought he would win?). There’s supposed to be a big speech by Harry in front of a crowd, and then Voldemort’s own arrogance does him in after his final Horcrux is destroyed. But the film revamps the scene in a way where someone else’s actions deliver the killing blow, not Harry’s, and worst of all there’s no one even around to witness the Dark Lord’s final moments, and no speech to explain why exactly he’s lost. I understand taking some liberties with the book, as these films always have, but this seems like an incredibly major plot point to alter, and it felt so strange onscreen, I had to go and re-read the section to remember how the correct ending went down.

The rest of the issues the film has aren’t with Yates’ movie per se, but rather with the book itself, which I felt was a bit of a letdown when I read it. It’s tough to end a series so epic in a way that pleases everyone, but it feels a little cobbled together, and the epilogue is a decision I never agreed with; its only purpose is allowing Rowling to say she doesn’t need to write more books, as we know how Harry’s story ends. And I’ll say for the last time I never understood the Harry-Ginny, Ron-Hermoine pairings that were forced despite a distinct lack of chemistry between the characters in both the books and the films. But again, this is Rowling’s issue, not the film’s.

Look away, the passion burns too brightly.

It’s not the best of the series, as it’s really only half a movie, and you’d have to judge both pieces together to really be fair. Issues with the original story aside, they’ve changed some pretty significant plot points for the penultimate moments of the entire series, which is something fans like myself might resent. Some scenes aren’t handled with the dignity or mood they should have (in addition to awkward Voldemort, I think Snape’s tale could have been better told, as it was the best part of the book), and it seems like the narrative dropped the ball on a few occasions.

But in the end, despite its flaws, it’s hard not to like Harry Potter, or his final film. We’ve come this far with him, and it’s necessary to overlook a few missteps during his sendoff to end on a positive note. Part 2 is a nonstop thriller and a culmination of everything that came before it, which was one hell of a fantasy series.

It might be a longshot, but here’s to hoping this isn’t the last we see of Mr. Potter.

3.5 out of 5 stars





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18 responses so far

  • Kevin

    I agree wholeheartedly with your great review!

    The final battle between Harry and Voldemort was a great let down…Voldemort just disappears into dust without a word, and no one witnesses a thing. Yet when we see Harry next walking through Hogwarts seeing all the wounded, no one says a word! Or even seems happy that the battle is over. Then POOF! Harry, Ron and Hermione are on the bridge and still no word of their successes…

    “Hey, Harry, you’ve just defeated the most vile, despicable Wizard the World has ever known! What will you do now?”

    Um…nothing?

  • Josh

    Wait… You are critiquing the film based on your dislike of the book and not the merits of the film itself? Yes, there are plot deviations, but that is the license a director takes with the consent of the original author and the screenwriter in order to fit the medium of film. It’s the reality of Hollywood. At least you are open with your criticism of the book, but then to criticize the film for not sticking religiously to that plot line weakens your ability to objectively critique it.

  • Postal

    Can someone please explain 3 things to someone who hasn’t read the books that didn’t make sense in the movie?

    1. Why didn’t Dumbledore arrange for the elder wand to be hidden or sent to Harry or someone else when he died? He must have known Voldemort would find it.

    2. If the story of the deathly hallows is true… then wouldn’t the invisibility cloak passed down to Harry suggest he is a descendent of the three brothers? And might that not have meant he had some sort of bloodline claim on the elder wand? I was convinced the elder wand was going to suddenly help out Harry in the end battle and it would be revealed that he was the true owner due to being the great great etc… nephew of the original.

    3. Harry dropped the resurrection amulet thing in the forrest… but he came back to life… did he use the amulet somehow or just use the power of his imagination/soul-train to come back?

  • Drester

    I’ve only seen the first two movies and I wasn’t really impressed. Are the other movies better of worse? How is the acting? I’m considering to read the books or watching the other movies. Are the books much better then the movies?

  • EJ

    (Spoilers)
    Clearly I liked it far better than you, although I too felt that changing the ending battle with Voldemort was an egregious error. That speech was important because it explained an awful lot. Other than that I really liked it. There were a few snags that had me raising my eyebrows, like how Luna ended up back at Hogwarts in the Room of Requirement before Harry, Ron, and Hermione did. In fact, that whole scene made little sense. The whole Order showed up without being told how to avoid capture by the Death Eaters or that they could come in through Alberforth’s bar. And why the hell did wizards have to blow up the bridge with muggle explosives (never minding where they got them from!). But by and large, I thought it was well done. Snape’s memories sequence nearly had me weeping, for example. But like most people who love the books, it is nearly impossible for the films to do the books justice. But there is no question they got the spectacle of the thing.

    And personally, I thought Volde’s hug was funny as hell. I understood what they were going for there, and I thought it worked.

  • Pakman

    I liked the movie but agree with you on the liberties it took. A lot of stuff involving Voldemort, Harry and Dumbledore that was neglected in the movie could AND should have been included but for w/e reason it wasn’t.

    It’s kind of sad that the Harry Potter universe has ended though. I look forward to it’s spiritual successor!

    Oh Postal, here’s some answers (contains spoilers):

    1) Dumbledore set it up so the wand would never work fully for Voldermort (it would have been Malfoy or Snape). So it didn’t matter as much if he got his hands on it as dumbldore had essentially booby-trapped it.

    2) The deathly hallow story I think is like a story that has been passed through generations. Elements of it are true, but parts of it have either been exaggerated or invented as the story has been passed down. Kind of like myths and fairy tales; some elements of truth mixed with falsehood.

    3) Voldemort’s spell casted with the Elder wand, didn’t fully work – so it only destroyed the horcrux. It’s explained (rather obtusely) in the books.

    Hope that helped.

  • Merv

    @Postal,

    1. Dumbledore knew that Draco would be the true possessor of the wand, and he knew Voldemort would never think of it.

    2. Harry is a descendent of the third brother that received the cloak. As the story goes, the brother with the stone goes mad and kills himself leaving the stone to anyone that found it. On the other hand, the elder wand only belongs to the man that defeats its owner. Eventually, the German wizard Grindelwald becomes the owner of the wand until he is defeated by Dumbledore. Then Dumbledore is disarmed by Draco who is eventually disarmed by Harry. Thus Harry becomes its rightful owner as he defeated its owner.

    3. He came back to life because the killing curse only killed Voldemort’s horcrux in Harry. The limbo-like scene is better in the book as Dumbledore really describes what transpired.

  • Kimberly Temple

    Disagree with your review on some points. I’ve always loved the films, they are all a 5 out of 5 purely because they are Harry potter.I agree that the decision to split the film into 2 parts wasn’t the right one, but at least we got to see more of the story that way. I thought Snape’s memories were done perfectly! I don’t know what you watched, but it was beautiful. I thought this was one perfectly dark, with some of the deaths portrayed on screen. Snape’s death was dark! As one who has read the books, many times, I was actually unprepared for that! Also with Lavender Brown, although in the books it doesn’t say she dies, the film practically gave you the answer. If there was one scene that I wish they had given more respect it would be Fred’s death. In the book, it’s such a big moment, it happens quickly but you do not forget it. In the movie, you barely see it! I felt that they didn’t give that scene the respect it deserved. But 3.5 out of 5? I think you’re crazy, yes it has some problems, but as a film, judging it only as part of the films not based on the book, I think it deserves higher than that.

  • Cube

    Giving a movie a 5 out of 5 just because it has the name Harry Potter in it is what is crazy.

    The review is spot on. It is the second half of a book so the story feels incomplete. Fred’s death wasn’t given the credit it deserved. The ending has some gaps. So 3.5 out of 5 is rather fair.

    The third movie is still the best. Yeats did an OK job but I always thought his action scenes were not clear and the entire scheme was too dark (colors in the film not the subject matter). I felt that the final battle seemed to be too flat, not enough details of what was going on or who was actually fighting.

    Fred, Lupin and Tonks deaths should have been played up more for drama. I was afraid that after how Hedwig was killed off and not even given a second thought afterwards that it was going to be foreshadowed how Yeats handle these and unfortunatly I was right.

  • Gale

    I was most disapointed with the lack of Dumbledore’s back story myself, I haven’t seen the first part in a while but as far as I can remember its only hinted at briefly at the wedding. I liked the idea that he was a lot more human than he seemed and it made it easier to understand how he would be prepared to sacrifice a boys life to defeat voldemort.
    Overall though the numerous issues I had with the film were outweighed by sheer enjoyment, it was a great movie even with its flaws

  • Gank

    All of these 3.5 / 5 reviews are just so… Middling. *yawn*

  • Sam

    It’s unfair to review parts 1 and 2 separately seeing as they’re two halves of the same whole. So hypothetically if they did release them both as one 4 and a half hour long movie what would you give it? Personally when viewed together they are my favorite of the series. Though I will admit to some problems, them not showing Fred or lupin and tonks’ deaths were disappointing. Not saying I wanted to see them die, but it felt like they didn’t show the characters the respect they deserved.

    I for one think this movie deserves a best picture nomination, if only to represent the achievement of the series as a whole. What do you think? Maybe a debate of the day topic?

  • Random Leon

    I’ve read all 7 books so i feel entitled to make the claim that HP as a series is massively overrated. The first 4 and 3/4 of the books creates a truly engaging fantasy world that mixes detailed, inventive magic with a modern setting, populated by likeable, realistic, vulnerable, and well fleshed-out characters. Then toward the end of book 5 it starts delving into the hackneyed realms of prophecies and chosen ones. Then book 6 sends the main characters out on a destroy-the-ring type quest, culminating in ancient weapons and artefacts playing a major role in book 7. Not only that, but the final battle is not so much a battle but rather the closing statements by opposing debate team captains on the virtues of love and friendship. I mean, yes, Harry’s mom loving her own son and Harry’s friends being loyal and brave are great emotional elements of the plot, but did you really need a speech to point out how important it is?

    I just feel like HP started out and established itself as a fresh take on the genre, with its own distinct mythologies and character pathos. But in the end it proved to be a pretender by devolving into old fantasy tropes. If the ending felt disappointing in the movie, it’s mainly because it didn’t have a great ending to work with from the source material.

  • Jim Lahey

    @Kimberly

    “they are all a 5 out of 5 purely because they are Harry potter.”

    That is the antithesis of a review

  • Alex

    I feel like the scene where Voldemort dies may not have been a creative choice but possibly one that arose from scheduling problems. It’s a lot easier to get Ralph Fiennes and Daniel Radcliffe together to shoot one scene than it is to schedule 30 of the main cast to shoot one scene.

  • Alex

    Also did anyone else get really annoyed that the girls that played Lily Potter had brown eyes while Harry had blue ones, despite the fact that it’s SO IMPORTANT that Harry has Lily’s eyes? That’s just the nitpicker in me.

  • Erica

    Unfortunately, previous replies to your questions were not answered properly, Postal.

    1. Why didn’t Dumbledore arrange for the elder wand to be hidden or sent to Harry or someone else when he died?

    >>Dumbledore intended for the wand’s power to die with him. Technically, by surrendering to Snape he would not be defeated and therefore – no change in allegiance. But instead, Draco disarmed him before he could yield. Since he fell shortly thereafter from the Astronomy tower, he had no means to put the wand in safe hands.

    2. If the story of the deathly hallows is true… then wouldn’t the invisibility cloak passed down to Harry suggest he is a descendent of the three brothers?

    >>In the book, Harry, Ron and Hermione do reach the conclusion that Harry does, in fact, have the true cloak and that he is a descendant. I was sad to see that was not mentioned in the film.

    And might that not have meant he had some sort of bloodline claim on the elder wand?

    >>There is no such thing as a “bloodline claim” with the Deathly Hallows. The Elder Wand was quite famous, especially because of bragging, and thus it was a target for theft. The cloak and stone were passed down privately within a family line. It seems the families were not aware of the true origin of these items. Thus, they remained hidden from the wizarding world for so long – but no one had a particular “claim” on them.

    I was convinced the elder wand was going to suddenly help out Harry in the end battle and it would be revealed that he was the true owner due to being the great great etc… nephew of the original.

    >>The wand did help him in the final battle, which wasn’t explained very thoroughly by the film. The wand’s allegiance was to Harry – as they explained – so that when Harry fought Voldemort, the wand refused to kill its master (Harry) and so it “backfired” (on Voldemort).

    3. Harry dropped the Resurrection Stone in the forest… but he came back to life… did he use the amulet somehow or just use the power of his imagination to come back?

    Neither. This is a great source of confusion for even the book-reading fans – I have no idea why.
    In the Goblet of Fire, Voldemort uses Harry’s blood to restore his body. Meaning, Voldemort now houses his blood and therefore, his mother’s protection. That’s why he could touch Harry. Anyways – when Harry is struck dead and a portion of Voldy’s soul dies within him, he is still tethered to life by Voldemort. So, he is able to return and live.

    The Deathly Hallows helped him on his journey, but the moral of that legend was that they would NOT enable a person to cheat death. It was more of the opposite – it led to death except in the case of the cloak. In the case of the cloak, the brother ultimately surrendered himself to death. So… yeah.

    Hope that helps.

  • thegreatfatsby

    I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies, and having just come home from watching this one, I can’t begin to say how let-down I feel.

    Creative interpretation is one thing, but what Yates did with this film is nothing short of scandalous.

    The entire ending of the movie is so completely different from the books that I had to remind myself that I was actually watching Harry Potter.

    I mean, in the book does the final scenes before the awkward final chapter see Harry allowing Voldemort to again try and kill him only for Voldemort’s curse to rebound back at him? Does Voldemort not go down fighting in the centre of the Great Hall and witness first-hand the death of Bellatrix Lestrange?

    Do the Centaurs and house elves et al not attack the Death Eaters after Neville kills Nagini, and crucially before a cloaked Harry begins shooting jinxes at people?

    And how the hell did Hagrid end up captured in the Forbidden Forest despite not having featured in the movie at all beforehand? Did my local cinema show me a bootlegged copy?

    I’d heard from friends that they had seen people crying during the showing of this movie. I can only now assume that they were crying because something they had invested a lot of time and faith in was being slowly destroyed right before their eyes onscreen.

    It would be like ending the Twilight saga with that shining fool burning up in the sunlight like a proper vampire should.

    I’d pay to see that, but I doubt I’ll ever pay anything to see this movie again. One of the biggest cinematic letdowns I’ve had in my life.

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