After seven previous films spanning a decade, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” brings the Harry Potter narrative to an excellent and gratifying finish. The ending evokes enough wonder and seriousness to serve as an acceptable conclusion and a dramatic contrast to the cheerful (relative) innocence of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” all those magical years ago.
Harry, Hermione, and Ron are all grown up now, and Harry has even developed the facial beard that all legendary heroes must-have. The moment has come for him to confront Lord Voldemort in their ultimate confrontation, performed in a series of spectacular effects sequences filled with strength and conviction. I’m still not sure what the bolts fired by magic wands are made of, but never mind. They appear to be evil and dangerous.
I dare not give a single vital detail about the plot itself for fear of offending the Spoiler Police, who have recently been on my case. After all, you never know. Perhaps J. K. Rowling’s final book in the series has been totally reworked. Maybe Harry dies, Voldemort triumphs, and evil prevails.
What I can see is that this last picture serves as a sort of reunion for many of the characters we’ve grown to love over the years. Because so many prominent British actors have performed roles in the Potter films. Those who haven’t may feel a pang of resentment. Bellatrix Lestrange, Rubeus Hagrid, Professor Dumbledore, Ollivander, Lucius Malfoy, Sirius Black, Severus Snape, Remus Lupin, and even Prof. Minerva McGonagall, who is summoned to summon her abilities and shelter Hogwarts School from Voldemort’s powers, appear here.
You don’t want to know what occurs here at Hogwarts. Many of its gleaming spires and stately gothic arches have been reduced to ruins and ashes, making for apocalyptic warfare. The school also appears to have been strangely relocated to towering heights that allow for vertiginous falls to the ground far below. There is no site in Britain that fits this topography, so is Hogwarts truly British?
It does, however, occupy a Britain of the imagination. The series has kept true to J. K. Rowling’s original vision, resisting temptations to cheapen or simplify its action. She constructed a fictitious universe with its own logic and coherence, and it’s satisfying to have loose ends wrapped up, lingering mysteries addressed, and suspicions confirmed in the conclusion.
In a dream scene, we see the characters as they were in the beginning. They were extremely inexperienced. Because it spans anything resembling actual time, the tale has aged alongside them. Daniel Radcliffe, born in 1989, was 11 when he first played Harry Potter. He is now 21, and he, along with Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), have thankfully stayed identifiable and soldiered on through what was a lot of hard work. Not many young performers have worked so hard for a decade.
Having said that, it’s clear throughout this picture that the supporting cast outshines the three headliners. Their task is to be brave, clean-cut, and steadfast. They notice things while sneaking around. They listen in. They make assumptions. They are being lectured. They go through some little puberty. Harry is still learning how to use his powers. Meanwhile, British icons such as Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, and Ralph Fiennes steal moments just by being present. What chance does Harry have against Voldemort’s crushed face, complete with nose slits? Voldemort even emerges as his own fetus, stewed in crimson sauce, late in the film, leaving nothing to chance.
This last part is dominated by Fiennes’ Voldemort, demonstrating the classic actor’s dictum that it is better to play the evil than the hero. It takes a formidable adversary to hold his own among the crumbling wreckage of Hogwarts and force the remaining students to choose between Harry’s allies and his evil side. Given what has transpired at Hogwarts, it’s a bit odd that the kids haven’t been sent home, but Dumbledore has been preoccupied with other matters.
This film is skillfully structured, the language is given due weight and is not rushed through, there are surprises that appear reasonable in retrospect, and “Harry Potter” now has an ending that befits the most lucrative series in film history. These movies will go on for a long time. And, without giving anything away, let me just say that the ending scene certainly leaves room for a sequel. Rowling has stated that there would not be one. Just a thought.
Remember: This entire film is dark, gloomy, and filled with shadows. That is correct. As a result, it is particularly unsuitable for the added darkness of 3-D. There are a few photos that benefit from 3-D (I adore how the small magical globe unfolds), but none that necessitate it. Avoid the extra and see the movie in true 2-D with stronger colors.