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Rapid Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

July 15, 2011

Do not pity the dead, Harry, pity the living. Above all, pity those who live without love.” – Albus Dumbledore

Dumbledore is right – those who live without love are those most capable of turning into the monsters of legend and lore.   Fear, anger, greed – these are emotions born out of loneliness.  Who is more lonely than Voldemort?  Who is perhaps more lucky, more loved than Harry Potter?  At the end of the Harry Potter series, we have a showdown.  Not between good and evil, but between those who love and those who have never known how.

Hermione stands guard

Here we are – the end of an era.  It amazes me how often I see the Harry Potter series on the “Banned Book” lists.  Supposedly, many people deem them to promote values they see as “subversive” (usually the only thing they can effectively point to is that Harry and friends are “witches”).  I often wonder, which values would those be?  I will be proud (and eager) to give my kids the Harry Potter books for the many themes and values that they represent.  Where else can you find an author who genuinely cares for and yearns with her characters the way that J.K. Rowling does?  Her universe is full of themes about compassion, the importance of family, faith, loyalty,courage, self-worth, friendship and the power of unconditional and heartbreaking love.   These  attributes are perhaps the furthest thing from being subversive or dangerous.  What IS dangerous is how difficult it can be to get a kid to read at all.    Kids across the world have been inspired to become life-long readers thanks to Harry Potter. What an incredible legacy.

In the film world, we have already had Part One of Deathly Hallows (see: for my review of the first half).  Director David Yates has had the most longevity with the series of Potter films.  He has directed the last four, and has proven his worth to both fans and newbies alike thanks to his attention to character relationships and masterful painting of the underlying beauty of Harry’s world.  Yates and his screenwriter, Steve Cloves, know full well that in order to truly appreciate the films, you must have read the books.  This may be a bit controversial for those who don’t want to take the time to read the canon, but let’s face it – why are you seeing the last Harry Potter film if you have no knowledge of what happens to set up the tale?  

Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows is an endgame in more than one way.  It is the end of the world in many ways for its main characters.  All that they have counted on as stable and comforting, that elusive idea of HOME – for Harry, Ron and Hermione, that place is Hogwarts.  Now, nowhere is safe.  No one is immune to  the seductive powers of evil or change.  This is starling, frightening and at times exciting.  It’s called growing up. 

battle royale

Still, none of us have quite had to grow up the way Harry has on his journey.  He’s a reluctant hero at times, but a compelling one.   Very rarely has he had to face things on his own.   Until now. Throughout his adventures, he’s come to realize that the most important and overpowering transformations are those that occur on the inside.  Above all, he’s got the memory of  those who have fallen in battle along the way to support him.  His mother, father, Sirius Black and Albus Dumbledore are all sharpest in his mind in his moments of greatest despair.  Why does he fight?  Because it is the right thing to do, and because he knows that love will always be the antidote to evil in all its forms.

When we last left Harry and his friends in Part One, they were mourning the loss of one of their littlest, but bravest allies, the endearing Dobby.  As Part 2 opens, there are still horcruxes to be found and Voldemort still looms on the horizon, waiting for the ultimate showdown.

I’ll spare the print and the pages it would take to summarize the main events in this final chapter of the saga.  It’s a faithful and mostly complete representation of what occurs in the book.  What’s important is the feeling you have when viewing the movie, and the effect that lingers long after.

The music by Alexandre Desplat is nothing short of genius.  It is a departure from previous films, but it enhances the action and emotions without overpowering them.

The scenes at Hogwarts preparing for battle are on the level of the Battle of Helm’s Deep as far as majesty and poignancy.  You have to experience it to believe it.

As always, the acting is top-notch by all involved, including the three leads.  The usual brigade of Brit character actors come out in full force, with notable shout outs going to Julie Walters as the Weasley matriach and Ciaran Hinds as Aberforth Dumbledore.  Alan Rickman’s pivotal performance as Severus Snape is the standout.  Knowing the end of the story, you have to appreciate how fantastic he was in the beginning of the series.

A friendship tested

 Most of those attending the movie (and indeed most reading this review) will already know the end of the tale.  Still, what a road to get there.  The film’s last half is entrancing in its power to both terrify and amaze.  The art direction and cinematography are nothing short of outstanding. The last twenty minutes or so of the movie, in a less capable crew’s hands, might have been cheesy and overwrought.  As they stand, they are some of the finest moments in the Harry Potterverse captured on film.

Overall, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is everything you would expect it to be and more.  It is a deserving and memorable final chapter in the story of some of the most lovable characters in both literature and film.  The movie stands on its own as one of the best films of the year so far.

Saying goodbye to Harry, Ron and Hermione is bittersweet, but purifying in a way.  We’ve gotten to see them grow up; we’ve shared their triumphs and their heart breaks.  Still, they are never too far from our thoughts. Thanks to the magic of books and film they will always be there for us if we need them.

Overall Grade: A +

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