Finally finishing the Scarhead Foureyes franchise off so I can concentrate on non Potter things. As with all my reviews, this one is spoiler heavy. If you’re one of the 5 people on the planet who haven’t seen the Harry Potter films, flee this place. Anyway, let’s get this shit done.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
Cards on the table straight away. I was disappointed with Part 2 after seeing it in cinemas. It just didn’t seem like the fitting end to the series that had seen me right through my teens and into my twenties. As I said in my review of Part 1, I watched the final two parts as one long film, pausing only a few times to weep about the fact I have nothing better to do with my days than conduct a 5 hour-long Potter session. As a result, I must say I’ve softened on Part 2. It’s still flawed, but none of the problems I initially had with it bothered me as much this time round. If you can fend off arse numbness for that length of time, I suggest you watch the last two parts together. It may make you more frustrated at the glacial pace of the first part, but the action-packed second film makes up for it.
“Join me in the forest tonight and confront your fate.”
They’re not kidding on that poster above when they say “it all ends”. Leading on directly from Part 1, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are still on the hunt for the remaining Horcruxes to weaken Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) enough to stop him once and for all. Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters wage war on the last bastion of good, Hogwarts castle, now run dictatorially by Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). Part 1 was all set up and Part 2 is all pay-off. The lead three give great performances. Ralph Fiennes gives good evil as Voldemort and Rickman finally gets to be the good guy. No problems with the acting at all. Nearly all the fan-favourite series veteran characters like Molly Weasley and Neville Longbottom get “fuck yeah!” moments in this film which all work well. Especially the long-suffering Neville’s.
The one main problem I had with Part 2 that still holds water is that some of the elements feel rushed. They had two long films to give the writing room to breathe and still there are important elements and character deaths that are glossed over. I understand that in the process of adapting a dense tome like Deathly Hallows for the screen, things will have to be cut, but some of this is inexcusable. How about Fred Weasley dying? He’s a series regular who is given nothing but a corpse shot to show the audience he snuffed it off-screen. Same with Lupin and Tonks. Hermione and Ron finally getting it together is also done with one unconvincing kiss and subsequent hand-holding. Yeah, alright, there’s a bleeding great war happening, I know we shouldn’t be seeing their first few dates or anything, but with all the Ross/Rachel shit we had to endure throughout 7 films, you’d think they’d care enough to not skim over a crucial moment in a series-long story arc. Speaking of which, there’s one line I truly fucking hate in this film. It’s when Harry, Ron and Hermione are in the Room of Requirement and are attacked by Malfoy and his cronies. A few Avada Kedavras are thrown at the gang and Ron runs after them screaming “Aaarrrgh! That’s my girlfriend you numpties!”. They just tried to kill her, Ron. They didn’t knock her books out of her hands in the Hogwarts corridors or put a spider down her dress. I know you can’t call people “cunts” in a PG-13, but something a little stronger than “numpty” would have been better. Or better still, no line. Just have Ron chase after them, screaming. Whilst I’m nitpicking like a fastidious chimpanzee, here’s something that bugged me throughout the series but was especially prevalent here. When performing a spell, does one have to say the proper incantation or not? In every film, there are several moments where spells are cast without some Latin phrase being spoken. Can you just think the phrase instead? If so, why bother saying the incantation out loud considering you can think it faster than you can say it? Answers on a postcard please.
So, the rest of it. It’s damn good. Tell you what, the effects are incredible in this one. Good effects do not a good film make, but when they’re used to bolster the story like in this film, it’s amazing to watch. The early Gringotts sequence is a good example and definitely up there in terms of the series’ greatest moments. Firstly, you have Helena Bonham-Carter doing an awesome job of playing Hermione playing Bellatrix. Then you have some seriously impressive CGI in the form of the vault dragon and the room of multiplying goblets and trinkets. Finally, a well-constructed escape that’s as thrilling as it is technically impressive. Goddamn is that bit enjoyable. For the first time in the series, this Potter film gets to try its hand at epic Lord of the Rings style battles between the Hogwarts crew and the Death Eaters. The final result is every bit as good as some of Jackson’s best work. The stone statue guards cutting down wave after wave of wizards, trolls and spiders are a personal highlight.
The film undeniably belongs to Rickman’s Snape who finally reveals his true colours. Whilst setting it up is contrived (Voldemort has been Avada Kedavra-ing everyone so far, why would he suddenly prefer to use a combination of some other spell and Nagini, especially considering Snape has been loyal to him?) His death is well done and the following Pensieve sequence tugs at the heartstrings like a motherfucker. Snape becomes the tragic hero fans of the book have been clamouring to see and Rickman sells it perfectly.
When it comes down to that moment between Harry and Voldemort, it’s every bit as good as it should be. It’s an entertaining multi-stage fight that ends with both duellists crawling to their wands. It’s brilliant stuff. The one problem I have is the way Voldemort (and Bellatrix before him) die. They both turn into thousands of little bits of ash and it devalues the whole thing. To have decent characters explode into kiddie friendly confetti is a damn shame and reeks of a “won’t somebody please think of the children?!” hysterical nudge decision from the higher-ups.
“You have your mother’s eyes.”
So yeah, Part 2. It’s much better than Part 1. It’s not perfect and there are a few issues and niggles that hold it back from being a total success in my eyes, but it’s a very respectable end to the franchise. Have I learned anything from rewatching and reviewing all the Potters? Not really. However, I did gain a new favourite Potter film in the form of Half-Blood Prince. It’s one of the best franchises out there, with the quality remaining fairly consistent despite a few stumbles and pitfalls along the way. It’s been fun.