Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 Review

The finale to the biggest film franchise ever came with a whimper.  It pains me to say it but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is a disappointment.

Before I get into reviewing the film some more, here is the backstory of my relationship with the Harry Potter franchise: I began reading the books in 2001 when the hype for the first movie began.  I read each book only once and didn't read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 until last fall.  I enjoyed the book series most of the time.  My favorite is Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.  My least favorite is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part.  I still enjoyed Deathly Hallows immensely but I read it while the first film was being released.  I couldn't help myself from thinking of the book in the context of the film which worried me greatly (the horcrux storyline was something that would be very hard to adapt to film correctly).  On the other hand, I had a very up and down relationship with the film series.  I liked the first two films when they first came up.  However, with repeat viewing I have grown to despise them.  I think Prisoner of Azkaban is amazing and deserved a Best Picture nomination.  I didn't find many problems with Goblet of Fire but I just never liked the film.  I thought The Order of the Phoenix had many amazing sequences and has become my second favorite film of the series.  I thought Half-Blood Prince was a complete butchering of one of the best and most important moments in the series.  Finally, I thought Deathly Hallows, Part 1 was a film that covered some of the hardest stuff to adapt into film and for the most part a success.

You would think that after enjoying the first part of Deathly Hallows, my enjoyment of Part 2 would be a shoo-in.  However, Part 2 had problems that Part 1 never had to face and had no moments of inspiration (like the animated sequence of the Deathly Hallows or that small intimate moment where Hermoine and Harry dance together or the awesome cliffhanger ending in Part 1).

I think the best thing to do is to start off by saying that David Yates was a horrible choice of director for the finale.  This was probably the biggest component of this film's failure.  Where Yates excels at are the small and intimate character moments (the perfect example of this was the dancing scene between Hemroine and Harry that I mentioned above).  Yates tried to put those in here but they never felt right.  Sure you need them to make a good movie, but you can't include them at the expense of other scenes.  You need to find the right balance which Yates never does.  Part 1 was an adventure film that focused on three characters.  A small and intimate atmosphere was perfect for that film.  Part 2 was more of a war film that needed a much larger atmosphere.  Yates didn't even attempt this.  The big battle scenes are mostly cut out in favor of following Harry and his friends around (which sounds like is what should be done on paper, but it goes against finding the perfect mix of epic scenes and the small character moments) and most characters are killed off-screen (It is okay to do that in a non-visual form of entertainment such as a book but in a film this is just stupid).

My other major complaint with the film (and with many of the Harry Potter films) is that it has major pacing problems.  As soon as I heard the word horcruxes, I know this was going to happen to the final film.  I thought that breaking the film into two parts might have helped this but the first film only showed one horcux being destroyed.  The only other way to prevent this problem was to lower the number of horcruxes in the film from the book, but that, of course, would piss off all the die hards.  Instead the film begins with a sequence where our heros look for a horcrux in Gringotts Bank.  The sequence feels like it comes from an entirely different film in the series and the pacing of the film is immediately blown to bits (and it never recovers).  The film would have been so much better if the film just excised this horcrux.

I could go on and on with nitpicks, but that would be unfair to a series that started filming before the books were even finished (the logic of which is another debate for another day).  So I will start talking about what I did like: First of all, the ensemble is better than it has ever been.  Most of the bit players get their shining moments and pull them off perfectly.  The best example of this is Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall.  She had been reduced (like most of the bit players) to cameo appearances in recent entries of the series.  She doesn't get much screen time here either but she rocks every moment of it.  Michael Gambon gets one scene as Dumbledore but fully proves why he should have been Dumbledore from the start.  I wish Gary Oldman and David Thewlis could have received more screen time but they were great as always.  Alan Rickman was good, but I wouldn't call him Oscar worthy by any means.  Ralph Fiennes was always a good Voldemort (who was such a disappointing character in the book) and in this one, especially, finds the right balance of camp and ferociousness.  Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were solid but don't get the great material they got in part 1.  Most importantly, though, Daniel Radcliffe capped off what is to be the defining performance of his career with a performance that showed complete maturity.

Finally, the technical components of the film were pretty good.  Alexandre Desplat's score now rivals (and maybe even surpasses) John Williams work earlier in the series.  The visual effects in the series are the best they have ever been in this series (Although one minor quibble is that the Dementor effects really are the Smoke Monster effects of the Harry Potter series.  They just get worse and worse as the series goes on).  Stuart Craig's art direction has always been great but his work on Hogwarts this time around is phenomenal as he combines all of his work in the previous films into this one.

All in all, Potter fans will love this one.  Otherwise, stay away from this disappointment.


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