Three Horcruxes down and long past the point of no return, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) – alongside best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) – are busy planning their next assault on Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) divided soul. With Gringots Wizarding Bank and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry both harbouring Horcruxes, the trio must draw on their six years of education, their combined ingenuity and a number of assorted peers and allies if they are to destroy He Who Must Not Be Named and liberate the wizarding world once and for all.
Film: Eight movies in A Nightmare On Elm Street had spilled over onto Camp Crystal Lake, James Bond was on its third 007 and The Land Before Time VIII: The Big Freeze was languishing at the bottom of bargain bins on home video. Harry Potter, meanwhile, has acheived a feat of which there has been no precedent: it has continued to grow both in scale and quality, maturing in tandem with an ever-increasing ensemble of returning characters and cast-members. Whether the latest – and last – instalment in Hollywood’s most lucrative franchise was a good film in its own right or not, it was already ear-marked as a movie-making (and story-telling) achievement of truly staggering proportions.
Apparently despite the so-called law of diminishing returns, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II is one of the most exciting, moving and spectacular films of not only the franchise itself, but the year so far. Boasting a truly breathtaking array of explosive set-pieces, one of the most organic and tender romances of all time and a final confrontation which pays dividends to just about everything that came before, returning director David Yates has crafted what is simultaneously the perfect conclusion to a much loved cinematic series and a truly astonishing film in its own right.
While the film, importantly the second instalment in a two-parter, might resume with somewhat of a muted introduction, the audience is efficiently and effectively brought up to speed at Shell Cottage before they – along with Harry, Ron and Hermione – are thrust back into the action with a spell-binding assault on Gringotts. Such issues as needless tension (why do they cause a scene at the bank when they could just present Bellatrix’s wand and progress unnoticed?), incongruous mispronunciations (can Alan Rickman really not pronounce pensieve? Sirius?) and unfortunate deviations from the book (am I the only one who wanted to see Sybil Trelawney bombard werewolves with her crystal balls?) are easily forgivable, however, as the rest of the film proves so thoroughly entertaining. Even the epilogue – a scene which most fans would have quite happily seen lost in translation – is wonderfully realised.
There are quite simply too many memorable moments to note: The Battle of Hogwarts is flawlessly executed, Ron and Hermione’s embrace in the Chamber of Secrets is utterly charming and our brief insight into Severus Snape’s enigmatic past proves hugely rewarding. Radcliffe too impresses with an unexpectedly astute and nuanced performance, his reaction to a last-act revelation reminding you just how complex a character Harry Potter actually is. While a few deaths and character beats may fall unfortunately by the wayside, it is to Steve Kloves’ credit that so few characters fall victim to the equally impressive but potentially overwhelming stunt-work and special effects. Whether it’s Seamus Finnigan (Devon Murray), Professor Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith) or Molly Weasley (Julie Walters), each of Rowling’s creations gets at least a line or scene in which to shine.
Boasting assured and franchise-best performances from the central cast, welcome and carefully woven references to the extant series, a truly magisterial score from composer Alexandre Desplat and a core relationship that roots the action and adventure in very human territory, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II is one of very few films that lives up to the hype. Beautifully sold – and incidentally reviewed – by its advertising campaign, this really is the motion picture event of a generation.
Extras: While the culmination of thirteen years’ solid investment – as stated by J.K. Rowling in a welcome introduction – alone should be enough to make this DVD nothing short of essential buying, the filmmakers have gone to great lengths to ensure that you remain entertained long after the credits have finally rolled. Perhaps most revealing is a documentary titled When Harry Left Hogwarts, an eight-part series chronicling production on the final movie. Set amidst the ruins of Hogwarts at Leavesden Studios, we pay witness to cast interviews, read-throughs and discussions with workmen who are just looking to finish up and get home for the night.
Also nestled among the special features are focus points which cover everything from an introduction to Aberforth Dumbledore, to costume changes and the creation of Hogwarts’ magical shield, a heartfelt and insightful spotlight on the women of Harry Potter, the usual deleted scenes and a set of adverts for both the Pottermore website and the tour in London. With an indelibly misty-eyed atmosphere, if you thought the première footage was devastatingly nostalgic and unexpectedly upsetting, you ain’t seen nothing yet.