Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (David Yates, 2011)

18Aug11

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange). Rating: 12A. Running time: 130 minutes.

So the series comes to an end, and it was supposed to be with a bang: an epic, bloody battle for Hogwarts as Harry hunts for horcruxes and Voldemort looks for Harry. We do kind of get that, for sure. But I doubt I’m the only one that came out thinking the bang could have been that little bit louder.

We didn’t want 2 hours of frantic action, of course. That would have been not only tiresome, but also a bad way to bid farewell to a world everyone has followed for this long. The film needed some quieter moments amidst the madness for us to reflect on the series, and appreciate just how far the story has travelled. We get that, but the balance doesn’t seem right. I can’t recall a single grandiose, Inception-esque moment where the music is shaking the cinema’s walls and the tension soars. The characters too often seem to just skip along, even though death potentially awaits them around every corner. Even the final showdown seems to just fizzle out, and you’re left wondering, is that really it? Voldemort’s death is embarrassingly anti-climactic. For all the luxurious sets and CGI, Yates doesn’t once create a champagne, larger than life sequence which he so easily could have gone for without us batting a single cynical eyelid. He had the world’s sentiment wrapped around his finger, and he doesn’t exploit it for even a second.

Instead, we get the godawful humour I was so hoping would only plague Part One. There’s thankfully less of it here, though that was inevitable in light of the bleaker context. But even now – again, with his characters on the brink of death – Yates allows the scriptwriters to drop in jokes that weren’t in the books, and every attempt is as jarring as the next. Consider Neville, guarding an end of the castle against what must be 1,000 Death Eaters. When they can’t break through a barrier of charms immediately – but clearly it’s only a matter of time until they do – Neville’s reaction isn’t to look anxious and call for more cover. Instead he boasts ‘Oh yeah? You and who’s army?!’

Even McGonagall gets in on the act, telling the students to just go ‘BOOM’ with their wands if need be, and upon activating the statue-guards of Hogwarts, looking like a little kid let loose in Santa’s grotto as she ecstatically cries about how she had always dreamed of performing that spell. It’s not only cringeworthy; it’s completely unnecessary. And it’s not just when death is around the corner that these one-liners are smuggled in. Even when it’s directly below Ron and Harry, in the form of a raging fire, the former has time to crack jokes about the latter’s insistence upon saving Malfoy. I’m sorry, Mr. Yates, but when you’re dealing with material this evil, and you rightly pick a colour palette sufficiently dark to compliment it, you can’t then go all lame on us with lines that remind us we’re undoubtedly still watching a movie, and a cheap one at that.

If I’m calling for more faith in the feel of the novel, that comes with a proviso: note, for heaven’s sake, just how terribly corny its epilogue was and do not even try to film it. But that’s exactly the note we finish on: little Albus Severus all nervous at King’s Cross, and Draco supposed to look nineteen years older via the mere addition of stubble. This is such a shame because of what directly precedes it – a new scene showing Harry, Ron and Hermione in the aftermath of the battle reflecting alone, out on the edges of the now crumbling Hogwarts. Partly because of the brightness, partly because of what Harry does, you realise for the first time in their lives on screen that these characters no longer have to look over their shoulder and plan their next move against the magical Hitler. You almost wonder what, with their newfound liberty, they’re going to spend their time doing. This is the blissful moment at which Warner Brothers should have cried ‘cut.’

Of course there were moments when I was swept up in the film in a way I’m not entirely letting on. The earlier scenes in particular, I’m happy to confess – especially the bank job at Gringotts – do work unqualifiedly. It’s only when we reach Hogwarts that the difficulties develop.

And then, when I did get entranced, it was never because of anything special about The Deathly Hallows as a film. The aspects I was pulled to were the story, the characters, and the structure of Rowling’s universe. Never did the film do something great with such a promising starting point. In many ways – the ways mentioned – it detracts from the series. It’s simply too uninspired and too desperate to be funny to be anything but a disappointment. A real shame, but at least we still have The Prisoner of Azkaban, and I suppose The Half-Blood Prince for that matter. Those two will stay safe, untouched by the flaws of this drawn-out failure of a finale.

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One Response to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (David Yates, 2011)”

  1. Nice review!


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