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Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Reviewed by Eliza DoLots
Posted July 19, 2011


What a relief.

I’m sure it’s grossly unfair of me to place so much importance on the many problems in JK Rowling’s final Harry Potter book, The Deathly Hallows. But as an ardent fan of the series, the blatant disregard she showed for her own universe was disturbing. As I noted in my review of Part 1, had she published that story on a Fan Fiction site she would have been required to label it “Alternate Universe” for the serious violations of “the rules” she herself had created.

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Director David Yates and screenwriter Steven Kloves have proven themselves to be just as nerdy and rule obsessed as other fans. In Part 1 they showed a remarkable desire to correct or work around all the violations. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 continues this trend. Of my long list of book “violations,” all but one are rectified in the movie. The one? Harry Potter performs an unforgivable. One time. In the book he performed the same unforgivable four times.

The movies have always varied considerably from the books. That’s an obvious necessity when translating an 800+ page book into a 150 minute movie. However, Yates and Kloves have broken new ground with The Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2. “Character development” and “back story” are cut yet tiny almost throw away moments are expanded. The most notable example happens at the beginning of Part 1.

In the book, Hermione and Ron are arguing with Harry about his plan to go it alone. Hermione says:

“I’ve also modified my parents’ memories so that they’re convinced they’re really called Wendell and Monica Wilkins, and that their life’s ambition is to move to Australia, which they have now done. That’s to make it more difficult for Voldemort to track them down and interrogate them about me – or you, because unfortunately, I’ve told them quite a bit about you.

“Assuming I survive our hunt for the Horcruxes, I’ll find Mum and Dad and lift the enchantment. If I don’t – well, I think I’ve cast a good enough charm to keep them
safe and happy. Wendell and Monica Wilkins don’t know that they’ve got a daughter, you see.”

From this, Yates and Kloves crafted what is possibly the most moving scene in all the movies as a scared but determined Hermione removes herself from her parents’ life before heading out to defend the magical world.

In Part 2, the honors for “most enhanced and expanded tiny moment” goes to, oddly enough, the final (and I mean, the real final) confrontation between Voldemort and Harry. In the book there is a long winded discussion in which the two trade lectures. Harry even manages to out monologue Voldemort. But the final conflict is straightforward. They each cast one curse, Voldemort dies. While that ultimately happens in the movie, there is no massive dialogue between the two. That is replaced with a wild hex filled , castle destroying fight that takes place both on the ground and—rather spectacularly—in the air.

The four and a half pages of “Harry and Voldemort hashing it out” is reduced to a couple of words of explanation to Ron and Hermione after the battle is over.

The book has numerous scenes that cause loyal fans to cringe in horror; not at anything scary or violent, but because of the clumsy, ham handed story telling. While all those scenes are here, they’ve been pared down to the essentials and work remarkably well. Even the dreaded Epilogue which caused so much consternation among the loyal is well done and quite touching.

Of necessity short cuts have been taken, but they make sense. Giving Harry the ability to sense a Horcrux (a piece of Voldemort’s soul) and Voldemort reacting as though injured when a Horcrux is destroyed are both very logical even if they are not ideas contained in the books. These changes expedite the story considerably.

For all the great decisions made by Yates and Kloves, and all the spectacular effects (and there are spectacular effects) this movie would not work if weren’t for some stellar acting performances. It’s easy to overlook acting in the Harry Potter movies. The early movies, in particular, are framed around children and, as such, are constructed to flow without severe challenges to acting abilities. The adults—seemingly played by every major actor in Great Britain—shine in their set pieces, but, with the exception of Professor Dumbledore (Richard Harris in the first two movies, Michael Gambon since Harris’s death) no adult character has had a substantive role.

Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 change that. Not only are the younger actors expected to carry lengthy, complicated scenes, often without a senior actor on screen for many, many minutes, but the adults are given real, meaty scenes. Most notably, Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort conveys a surprising range of emotions. He is, at times, happy, hysterical with anger and vulnerable; a word I had never thought to apply.

Alan Rickman has captured the imagination of many with his portrayal of Professor Severus Snape. Rowling’s description and drawings are decidedly unappealing, but Rickman’s eyes and that fabulous voice have turned Snape into something of a sex symbol. This movie allows Rickman to finally let fly with something other than sputtering scorn and he obviously relishes the opportunity. My favorite moment is when he is surprised to find himself confronted with a wand wielding Professor McGonagal. With just a slight move of the head and slant of the eyes we can see that he does not want this confrontation, he does not want to battle this woman.

Snape’s final scenes in the book were the subject of much disappointment, but the scaled back script eliminates all signs of weakness and unreasonableness leaving Snape with dignity and even nobility.

John Hurt, who seemed somewhat wasted in the first movie as Wand Maker Olivander, has only scene in this movie but it’s a whopper and Hurt is excellent. He makes us feel the pain, the fear, the guilt that Olivander feels.

Maggie Smith seems to be having more fun than she has in all the other Potter movies combined. I guess that’s not a surprise because rather than teaching and berating, she’s leading and fighting.

Helena Bonham Carter is always enjoyable to watch. She captures the insanity of Bellatrix Lestrange perfectly Her stand out scene though is one in which she plays Hermione polyjuiced to look like Bellatrix. Bellatrix looking shy and uncomfortable provides one of the lightest moments in this consistently dark film.

The most eye opening acting performance is given by Daniel Radcliff. Both Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliff have proven to be far better actors than we had any right to expect. Hired when they were 11 years old, it seemed their casting was largely because their natural mannerisms and speech matched up to the characters in the books. As they’ve grown they’ve obviously diverged from the characters (though, they too have had a somewhat magical adolescence). However, both have proven themselves to be very capable actors. Part 1 really belonged to Watson, but Part 2 is almost all Radcliff. From the first line uttered, this is clearly an adult who’s learned hard lessons. There’s a steeliness and determination that has not been there before. Over the course of the story Harry is forced to confront the biggest issues possible and Radcliff proves up to the task.

I feel I would be remiss if I failed to credit Rowling for her incredible vision. While she obviously threw in the towel a bit on the final book, just to get the story resolved, the fact is, this is obviously one grand story. From our first sight of the Privet Drive street sign to our final view of the Hogwarts Express, it is clearly a single, grand story.

Long ago, in the first book and movie, Olivander told Harry “The wand chooses the wizard.” That seemingly cryptic remark, repeated by the same character years later is one of the key elements of The Deathly Hallows. The scary monster in the second book turns out to be the secret to destroying the Horcruxes in the seventh. And so it goes. This is one big story told over the course of seven books.

Of necessity, the movies lack some of that interconnectedness of the books. However, they retain an astonishing visual continuity, largely due to the amazingly consistent cast. With the exception of one actor who died, virtually all the roles have been played by the same actors in every movie. There is a real feeling of familiarity and family running through the movies. Watching these children grow into adulthood has been somewhat like having nieces and nephews that we see every year at Thanksgiving. We marvel at the changes in them while embracing them and telling stories of holidays’ past.

The most notable of these characters is Neville Longbottom. Initially a doughy, inept boy, we’ve watched him grow into a brave, loyal leader. Along the way, we learned that he was the other candidate for the prophecy that set the story in motion. Voldemort chose Harry, because Harry, having a Muggle born mother, was more like Voldemort. Neville’s confrontation with Voldemort is touching and inspiring.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is a satisfying end to one of the most successful film franchises ever.

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Related Link:
Eliza's review of Deathly Hallows, Part 1


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David Yates

Steve Kloves

July 15, 2011 (U.S.)

Daniel Radcliffe
Emma Watson
Rupert Grint
Ralph Fiennes
Alan Rickman
John Hurt
Helena Bonham Carter
Warwick Davis
Michael Gambon

Full Credits at IMDb

DVD and Blu-Ray available from amazon.com

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