The final bout between good and evil in J.K. Rowling’s majestic universe comes to a close after eight films. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 there isn’t much need for an in-depth criticism on the final movie (or half-movie). Rather I am provided a welcome opportunity to reflect on the series as one of the most impressive accomplishments committed to film.
Few literary adaptations could translate so well into eight thrilling motion pictures. Rowling’s pages have not only given youngsters a hunger for reading, but cinematic magic has also applied sight and sound to that text over the course of 10 years—and to universal acclaim. Audiences love these books and they love these movies.
As a capper to Harry Potter, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is of course bittersweet. Harry, Ron and Hermione continue their search for the remaining horcruxes that contain pieces of the dark Lord Voldemort’s soul, pieces that make him immortal. Hogwarts is under the iron fist of betrayer Severus Snape until Harry returns to defend Hogwarts and prepare for his final confrontation with Voldemort. Secrets are revealed. Lives are lost. A looming doubt about Harry’s fate (for those who haven’t read the novel) hangs over two hours.
The last entry falls under the direction of David Yates once again. Having helmed half of the installments of the series, he has proven ever-capable. Chris Columbus brought the innocence and sense of discovery to The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets. Alfonso Cuaron brought a refreshing angst and eccentricity to The Prisoner of Azkaban. Mike Newell allowed for a sharp transition to the gloom of the series with The Goblet of Fire. Yates has since handled the darkest corners of the Harry Potter universe as the fun and games have been exchanged for Harry’s personal endeavor to save both the world of magic and the world of humans.
Since 2001, the films have remained remarkably consistent even as the actors have aged a great deal and the tone of the story has evolved. Deathly Hallows Part 2 continues the tradition of solid craftsmanship. Sure, it hurts the film that it is really only half of a film. In fact, I made the mistake of not revisiting Deathly Hallows Part 1 before jumping into Part 2. For those on the fence about needing a refresher beforehand, I strongly recommend it. Yates has split one 4-hour-plus movie into two parts and he doesn’t leave us any footnotes along the way. As a standalone installment, Part 2 really hurts without watching Part 1 along with it. The tension and rising action have to be brought in the pockets of audiences and applied from the get-go. While that may not be a fair criticism of the movie as it is intended as part of a larger story arc, it is worth noting.
In terms of ending the saga, the film does a perfectly satisfactory job. The actors are on their game. The special effects and action sequences are grandiose, and yet interestingly punctuated by several extended moments of quiet. I may have expected more of a thrilling showdown between Harry and Voldemort, but the buildup has been over seven previous films so I can understand that anticipation may have gotten the best of me. What I enjoyed most about this final entry were the surprises along the way and the tender moments among the notable characters of the series that earn their last minutes in the spotlight.
I would say I’ve enjoyed other chapters from this saga more than Deathly Hallows Part 2, but as a sendoff to the Harry Potter universe, the film is again very well-made and audiences are going to love it and will likely still be hungry for more. The hint of future installments of J.K. Rowling’s world have been set. Even if they never come to fruition, at least her accomplished works are ready and available to young readers. As for the future of Harry Potter, I’m willing to bet on a return of sorts for a new generation ready for magic.