Re-view: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 | On Demand
We take a second look at the eighth and final film in J.K. Rowling’s wizard saga.
Tangled in a decade’s worth of dangling plot strands, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 may be the busiest of the eight films in J.K. Rowling’s übersuccessful fantasy franchise. That it’s been mistaken for the best, by just about every working film critic, speaks to the persuasive power of wistful remembrance.
This summer’s raves read like obituaries, or like what you might find scrawled across the back page of a high-school yearbook.
Misty-eyed about saying good-bye, the Potter faithful have twisted their affection for Rowling’s whole narrative into a ringing endorsement of its concluding chapter. You don’t have to be as spiteful as a Slytherin alum to recognize what’s missing from David Yates’s handsome, action-packed but strangely perfunctory swan song. If Deathly Hallows Part 1 resembled an extended first act, this concluding chapter is all falling action—a finale deeply burdened by its obligation to tie up loose ends and go out with a bang.
It begins promisingly enough, with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) still hunting for Horcruxes, the magical MacGuffins imbued with the soul of their adversary, the dark lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). There’s a terse encounter with a goblin, a nervy act of deception and an exciting, inventive set piece in a bank vault. Before long, though, the film is hurtling toward Hogwarts, where students and faculty alike prep for an impending siege, and Harry must cope with the grave sacrifice required of him.
The greatest of the Potter films—Alfonso Cuarón’s nimble Prisoner of Azkaban, Yates’s brooding Half-Blood Prince—saw magic in the wonders and terrors of adolescence. (Cuarón’s film famously opened on Harry fiddling with his wand underneath the covers.) In this final installment, our boy wizard’s all grown up; there’s little time left for such frivolities as romance, rivalry, hormonal desire, behavioral comedy, character development or metaphorical masturbation jokes. What we get instead is sound and fury, endless exposition and expensive special effects, plot and still more plot. At two overstuffed hours, it’s the first and only Potter movie that feels too short.
One of the chief pleasures of this series has been watching its headliners grow from awkward child stars into mature and accomplished performers. What, though, do they have left to do as actors? Having shed all the arrogance and petulance of his youth—the stuff that made him, you know, human—Harry is now an unfailingly pious superhero, a Christ figure in darker duds. Radcliffe lends him the full confidence of his fledgling adulthood, but the character’s become more martyr than man. He fares better than Ron and Hermione, reduced here to background players, as well as Rowling’s small army of beloved supporting characters, who pop in for split-second cameos and die offscreen deaths. Only Alan Rickman, the serpentine MVP of the faculty list, is afforded a suitably dramatic farewell.
Speaking of farewells, what of Hogwarts? Over the years, that mighty castle, with its long corridors and grand halls and secret passageways, has become something of a character itself. So it’s odd that Yates stages its destruction with the spatial disregard of a Michael Bay action montage. The school is burning into embers, and all you can think is, Wait, which floor are we on? This mighty saga may go out in a fiery blaze, but its true appeal—its magic—is extinguished long before the smoke clears.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 arrives on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray Friday 11.