Deathly Hallows, Part 2 ✮✮✮
Potter Curtain Call
by Glenn Lovell
Following last year’s grand, spare-no-expense build-up, “Deathly Hallows, Part 1” ‒ which was capped by the mother of all cliff-hangers ‒ “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” bids Harry, Hermione and Ron a most fond farewell. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years, two Dumbledores, four directors, several Quidditch matches, countless spells and teleportations since the J.K. Rowling movie adaptations began back in 2001 with “H.P. and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
During that span, the series has morphed from wide- eyed wonderment to studied gloom and doom; it has seen its target audience from elementary school through college prep and star Daniel Radcliffe from adolescent funk to 5 o’clock shadow.
How fares “Part 2”? It’s a mostly satisfying coda, with nostalgic 360 return to the old stomping grounds — Diagon Alley, Gringotts Wizarding Bank and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Potter faithful, I’m guessing, will find a sizable lump in their throats as the music wells and the intrepid threesome take their places in carefully staged “Th-th-that’s All, Folks!” tableaux. As for this on-again, off-again fan, I found the eighth in the series vaguely anti-climactic. There’s certainly nothing here that compares with “Part 1” highlights, which include the trio’s infiltration of the Ministry of Magic, the brilliantly animated Tale of the Deathly Hallows, and, the emotional highlight, the doomed Dobby’s defiant, “Dobby has no master! Dobby is a free elf!”
If anything, returning director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves have lightened up a shade for the finale. How could they not? “Part 1” opened with the “Hostel”-like torture of a Hogwarts teacher and, intriguingly, conjured memories of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” by equating the rise of Voldemort and the Dark Forces to the rise of fascism in 1930s Germany. On screen, Rowling’s Ministry of Magic bore a strong similarity to Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda, subbing its anti-Mudblood campaign for anti-Semitism.
Hardly the stuff of children’s fantasies. Closer in tone really to acrid Roald Dahl, which, of course, was Rowling’s intention all along.
This installment opens where “1” leaves off, with the now-17-year-old Harry burying Dobby and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) cracking Dumbledore’s tomb to retrieve the all-powerful Elder Wand. So equipped, The Dark Lord seeks out the boy wizard, a.k.a. Chosen One, for what he believes with be a lopsided duel to the death. He doesn’t have far to look. In their quest for the last three Horcruxes, the source of Voldemort’s immortality, Harry (Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) return first to Gringotts for a harrowing rollercoaster ride through the subterranean vaults, guarded by an abused dragon, and then to their alma mater, where, despite the Orwellian rule of now-Headmaster Snape (Alan Rickman), they’re reunited with a number of familiar faces, including Neville (Matthew Lewis), Harry’s girlfriend Ginny (Bonnie Wright), and Prof. McGonagall (Maggie Smith), who, showing her customary pluck, bests Snape in a spark-showering battle of the wands.
Marshaling the castle’s stone guards, McGonagall, usually the soul of propriety, let’s loose. “I always wanted to use that spell!”
And so the stage is set for the siege of Hogwarts by the nasally, nose-less one. Sounding much like the Wicked Witch of the West, he broadcasts his ultimatum: “Give me Harry Potter!” Later, he instructs: “Join me in the Forbidden Forest … and confront your fate.” Voldemort is abetted by Bellatrix Lastrange (Helena Bonham Carter), Death Eaters, club-wielding ogres and his loyal a-sssss-tant, Nagini the snake. The battle is pretty much what we’ve come to expect in post-LOTR screen fantasies. Much showering of brick, much inky, wraith-like activity. The protective force field, sewn together by several wands, is a nice touch.
Part 2 covers roughly 250 pages of Rowling’s doorstopper, and like the book it ties up a lot of loose ends quickly, including: 1) Why does Harry channel Voldemort in his dreams? 2) Who will Hermione end up with, Harry or Ron? 3) Why the bad blood between Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and brother Aberforth (Ciaran Hinds)? 4) Who among the beloved secondary characters won’t survive the siege? 5) And, most important of all, will Harry live or join Dumbledore in this movie’s white-out heaven?
That’s a lot of loose ends for a film that weighs in at a comparatively zippy 130 minutes and shoehorns-in a Who’s Who of top UK talent (including Jim Broadbent, John Hurt, Julie Walters, David Thewlis, Gary Oldman and, as the goblin Griphook, Warwick Davis). Which may explain why this Harry Potter lacks some of the grace and fluidity of earlier installments and a lot of our favorite characters, such as Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), give what are essentially glorified curtain calls.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2 ✮✮✮ With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman. Directed by David Yates; scripted by Steve Kloves from the J. K. Rowling novel. 130 min. Rated PG-13 (supernatural violence and battle scenes may be too intense for young children)