4 stars out of 5
It’s been 10 years since Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), Ron (Rupert Grint) and crew waved their magic wands around us on the big screen. Indeed, it almost feels like we’re parents flipping through our kids’ photo album, watching the cast transform from dorky, fizzy-haired children to their pre-pubescent awkwardness and then finally realizing how grown up everyone’s become in the last two films. Love or hate J.K Rowling, the lady certainly knows how to create and leverage on a captivating, enduring franchise.
Inevitably as with all bestselling book adaptations, the curse of the Harry Potter movies (see other children's fantasy films) has always been the tension between its collective filmmakers’ desire to tell a well-crafted story and to appease fans by sticking as close to the original novels as possible. After steering through a few choppy waters with four different directors at the helm (Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell and David Yates), the series seemed to really take shape in its previous instalment, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1. Technically and stylistically, it proved to be the best and most emotionally interesting yet. With this final episode however, Yates (who also directed part 1, Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince) has outdone himself by wonderfully shifting between introspection and action, fashioning a briskly paced and thoroughly entertaining finale. (Take a look back at the Harry Potter series)
Part 2 begins where Harry and his friends left off previously; the team are hunting Horcruxes, magical talisman that each contains a fragment of Lord Voldemort’s soul. And it’s only by destroying these that they can hope to vanquish this ultimate villain forever. Their first quest in Deathly Hallows Part 2 takes Harry, Hermione and Ron to Gringotts Bank. Assisted by cunning goblin Griphook (Warwick Davis impressively disguised) they have to somehow get to the vault and pull off a dangerous heist that involves Hermione masquerading as Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter completely nails Watson’s various idiosyncrasies here).
This is followed by a thrilling, theme-park-attraction worthy, roller-coaster set-piece and arrival of a menacing, fire-breathing dragon - two of the many scenes that serve to show-off the film’s remarkable use of 3D. Rather than hurling technology and CG at our faces (we’re looking at you, Michael Bay), Yates renders the real D experience immersive and unobtrusive.
But the centrepiece of Deathly Hallows Part 2 is unquestionably what can only be called The Battle of Hogwarts, a warfare sequence which ranks up there with the likes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Simply deployed yet wrought with magnificently potent imagery, Yates delivers an authentic sense of dread wrapped in the armies of ghostly, ghastly Dementors and the devastation sweeping Hogwarts as they valiantly fight for their lives. While you witness Voldemort (a perfect Ralph Fiennes; find out what Voldy’s post-HP7 career options are) strolling through the aftermath of the terrible disaster, wet, bare feet stained with the blood of the people he’s slain and corpses of students lying in debris, you can’t help but be struck by the realistic, raw ferocity of it all.
The real heartbreak though, comes in the form of a beautifully patched flashback well deserving of its very own short film: Harry learns, to his horror and surprise, the real agenda behind Professor Severus Snape’s (Alan Rickman turning in a subtle, stand-out performance) supposed antagonism. As the film progresses into its concluding stretch, Harry eventually acknowledges the noble but grim job he’s been tasked with. Yates once again does marvellous work in illustrating Harry’s struggle between courage and fear, and of childhood reflections converging with wise maturity, even if he had to learn it the hard way.
Ultimately, this is also Radcliffe’s show, and like his cinematic namesake, carries the film with level-headed aplomb. Along with Watson and Grint, the trio have truly assimilated into their roles, and rather than acting melodramatically, are allowed to relax and explore some real drama. Professor Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth Dumbledore (Ciaran Hinds) is unfortunately not properly expanded. Despite this the rest of the actors make up a strong if brief supporting cast; including fluffy Luna Lovegood (the lovely Evanna Lynch), an intense Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton showing signs of becoming a credible hottie), the adorable, bickering Weasley twins (James and Oliver Phelps) and a very lady-like Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright). Nonetheless, one-time bumbling, chubby kid Neville Longbottom (Matt Lewis all nicely grown-up) is the undisputed break-out stud of the year; he not only timely discovers his inner warrior to aid Harry, but also looks like he’ll be sending many hearts a-flutter in future.
If you haven’t, or don’t want, to read the books, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2could very well be the best film in the series to start with. Profoundly resonant, frightening and understatedly funny at the same time, it’s a glorious capper to a franchise which proves that when Hollywood gets it right, they can really do it with a spellbinding bang.