We already have a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II review, and a ruddy good one at that, but having spent the last week (never mind the last decade) watching The Boy Who Lived defeat mountain trolls, destroy Horcruxes and snog the face off of Ginny Weasley I couldn’t pack up and depart Hogwarts just yet. So, without further ado, now the conclusion…
I never wanted any of you to die for me.
Do I even need a spoiler alert? With three Horcruxes down (the diary, the ring and the locket) and just four to go, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) must pick up where he left off if he is to defeat Lord Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) once and for all. Bartering with the goblin Griphook (Warwick Davis) – entry into Bellatrix Lestrange’s (Helena Bonham Carter) vault at Gringotts for the sword of Griffindor – Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) must utilise all they have learned in order to make it past the extensive security. Recognising Voldermort’s presence in the cup of Hufflepuff, the trio are betrayed and left to make their own way out of the wizarding bank – swordless. Cue: dragon.
Parting ways with the Ukrainian Ironbelly, Harry’s connection with Voldermort indicates that the next Horcrux lies within the walls of Hogwarts. Assisted by Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth, Harry, Ron and Hermione are shown the way back into the castle, lead through the secret passageway by none other than Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis). Identifying the remaining two Horcruxes as Rowena Ravenclaw’s Diadem and the Dark Lord’s pet snake Nagini, the trio split up in search of both the diadem and a means to destroy it while the school’s staff, students and the Order of the Phoenix prepare Hogwarts for battle.
There will be some, the odd soul as yet uninitiated with J. K. Rowling’s celebrated source material, to whom the above might might as well be written in Parseltongue. To them all this talk of Horcruxes and Hogwarts, Hallows and Hufflepuff, must read like utter Gobbledegook. Should that be the case, and it is certainly no fault of mine or director David Yates’, I offer this series of retrospectives, links to the rentable film series and the novels before them. One decade on this is our world; just as you wouldn’t tune into the last episode of Lost and expect it to play like the first, this is aimed at one audience, and largely one audience alone: the fans.
If you’ve stuck with the series, literary or cinematic, endured the duff notes on and off the big screen and embraced the wizarding world for all that it is worth, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I did all the leg work, getting us just where we needed to be. My reservations regarding the previous film’s end-point proved premature, a quick session of plot 101 and we’re good to go, the momentum left to build until we’re veritably hurtling towards the jaw-dropping finale. This is the shortest Potter movie of the lot and it certainly feels it, with little water left to tread we all too soon find ourselves back in Hogwarts, the end achingly nigh.
To say I cried at Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II would be an understatement of towering proportions. The biggest compliment I can bestow on this final chapter is that it hit me like a bat-bogey hex. It is testament to not only the work of Yates and his team of filmmakers - Alexandre Desplat, I love you – but the underestimated talents of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint that a story so high on silly should deliver an emotional punch of such ruthless affect. Both in its epic grandiosity and its treatment of reconciliation and tragedy, the film positively brims with emotional resonance.
Whether you are devastated at the sight of death, touched by the respect afforded to what came before – CORNISH PIXIES! – or simply humoured by the richness of character (Helena Bonham Carter was born to do Emma Watson impressions), it is unlikely you will enjoy a more fulfilling experience this year. Already likable presences, Harry, Ron and Hermione now have complete dominion over your affections, whether you have read the books and are aware of their fates or have simply followed the actors this far; the bond of their friendship is one of the most powerful, vibrant and moving fictional relationships imaginable. While some characters might not achieve the life – or death – that they deserve, the treatment of the central trio is nothing short of perfection.
This is ultimately Harry’s story, however, and while a certain kiss might warm the cockles of your heart it is Radcliffe’s journey that will set them on fire. The depth of character is simply astounding, Rowling’s creation brought to life by an actor who – once upon a time – could barely rub his scarred forehead with much conviction. That he even survives the appallingly misjudged prologue – every bit as cringeworthy as it is in the novel – with his dignity intact just goes to show what majesty Radcliffe has over his character.
That this much nuance and character development is achieved in the shadow of a bombastic pyrotechnic or rampaging giant just serves to illustrate the richness of texture. This is a war movie and it delivers incredible bang for its buck. As a camera tracks our heroes’ movements around the castle, in and out of crumbling corridors and over bloodied corpses, the background detail truly astonishes. The escape from Gringotts – already a impressive spectacle in its own right – pales in comparison to the battle of Hogwarts, so awash is it with familiar faces, breathtaking action and proclivity for surprise. While J. K. Rowling’s blueprints serve the story well, Yates’ eye for an arresting set piece works the material beautifully, finding a new – but forever faithful – alchemy of his own.
I honestly couldn’t have asked for more – well, I suppose I could have done, but that would have just been ungrateful – Yates delivering a movie which honours the past, respects the Rowling’s books and finally gives Alan Rickman something to do other than excrete elocution lessons. As we leave Hogwarts for the last time – awash with rubble and barely recognisable – it is with the utmost closure on what has truly been the motion picture event of a generation.
Lumos: Most of the events of the film, starting with the raid of Gringotts, take place over the course of a single – super productive – day.
Homenum Revelio: I’m not being ungrateful or anything, but WHERE THE HELL WAS GRAWP???
Check up with the other films so far in the Harry Potter Retrospective here.