The Boy Who Lived and He Who Must Not Be Named finally duke it out, wizard style, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2, the end of the seven-book, eight-movie J.K. Rowling juggernaut.
To sum up the action of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1: Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) set out to find some Horcruxes, magical whosiwhatsits that hold parts of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and help make him hard to kill, possibly even immortal. If they can find and crush all the whosiwhatsits, Voldemort can be killed and his fascist reign of terror will end. To accomplish this, our heroes did a lot of wandering around some very picturesquely gloomy landscapes and hanging out in a tent, picking fights with each other. Then, in the final moments, a tertiary character dies.
This movie starts almost exactly there, with characters mourning and then moving past that loss to seek out another Horcrux. (Meanwhile, Voldemort has found himself another evil gadget.) What follows is a bank heist, a bit of a chase and then essentially one really long battle sequence broken up by exposition. In past movies, I’ve felt like we were just waiting for a fight, one that never really arrived. This movie is that fight.
The action returns to Hogwarts, where Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, who may be the actor having the most fun) is running things. Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) seems to be the leader of the student resistance, with Ron’s sister/Harry’s love interest Ginny (Bonnie Wright) and the delightfully dippy Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) close at hand. Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) leads the pack of familiar teacher faces. We get to spend some time with Dumbledore brother Aberforth (Ciaran Hinds). And when all the serious fighting starts, Order of the Phoenix types like Arthur (Mark Williams) and Molly (Julie Walters) Weasley, Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) and Nymphadora Tonks (Natalia Tena) show up. Bad guy-wise, Voldemort is center stage though we do get to spend some time with those dysfunctional Malfoys — Lucius (Jason Isaacs), Narcissa (Helen McCrory) and Draco (Tom Felton) — and Bellatrix Lestrange (Helen Bonham Carter) makes some appearances, including a fun one where she’s not herself. While Harry vs. the Horcruxes and Harry vs. Voldemort is the big action, we do get plenty of nice battle moments where other characters get a chance to be badasses and a few characters find love.
Part 2 is not a perfect movie but it is a solid finale to the series. After so many movies that have felt like a slow creep to this final showdown, a lot of the storylines are wrapped up very fast. And the movie lacks a certain spark, a jolt of energy that could have made it more wonderous and exciting. Maybe it’s because so much of what is happening with the characters is about information from before, things we’re supposed to know going in and not shown here (who is in love with whom, why fighting certain fights is important to certain people). Maybe it’s the burden of so much material but the movie feels weighed down at times, plodding where it should be full of give-me-liberty-or-give-me-killing-curse vigor. So it’s not perfect, but it is pretty good, all things considered.
Consider, for example, that exposition. There are at least three significant scenes where characters talk about secrets from the past or reveal important information. Two involve people talking to each other, one involves a flashback. From what I remember of Rowling’s books, the world tends to screech to a halt for exposition — which is when I would start skimming. Here, all this explanation is handled fairly well. It serves as a balance to other action, not a sudden break from it.
The action itself may lack in energy but it is technically quite good. I saw this movie in 3-D and I was impressed with how unobtrusive the effects were. Are they necessary? Eh. But they don’t take away from the movie and that’s something. The battle scenes — full of zinging wizard blasts and smoky evil and giants and fireballs and other all-stops-pulled magical warfare — are well-crafted. Unlike in the most recent Transformers movie, for example, you actually can tell who is fighting whom and with what.
And for all that even the battle scenes are a little pokey, they are still mostly fun. I never felt myself looking to fast forward. Yes, the movie is long, but it pretty much all feels necessary. Even the goofy little coda (you’ll remember the flash forward from the book) is entertaining if not particularly well done.
Overall, what Part 2 lacks in emotional resonance and depth of story — the stuff that would make it a better movie apart from its place in the Potterverse — it probably makes up for in giving the people, the longtime fans, a final chapter to a beloved story. B
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images. Directed by David Yates and written by Steve Kloves (from the book by J. K. Rowling), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is two hours and 10 minutes long and opens in wide release on Friday, July 15. It is distributed by Warner Bros.