Page to Screen: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (2011)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
based on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

Is there really any way to preface this? It’s the final Harry Potter film, bringing fourteen years of near constant Potter releases to a close. It’s the end of an era and, in a weird way, the beginning of a new one. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the first of the upcoming rash of two-part films and thus the first to be picked apart to see if the formula is a viable one for book adaptations. (To be fair, this isn’t completely new—1973’s The Three Musketeers was, after filming, split and released in two parts, with the latter part being The Four Musketeers.) I was able to attend the evening screening of the first part before the midnight screening, so let’s see how this goes.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 picks up after Dobby’s funeral and follows the trio as they seek out the last Horcruxes and, of course, head to the ultimate showdown between Harry and Voldemort. As Hogwarts gears up to defend itself from the forces of darkness and hatred that seek to destroy it, Harry must race against time to find and destroy the Horcruxes so he can finally kill Voldemort once and for all.

I’ll be honest—I was not expecting Part 2 to essentially consist of the Battle of Hogwarts. Yes, I’m pleased that it does, but it also makes for a strange structure. There’s a brief pit stop at Gringotts to pick up the cup of Hufflepuff (which goes unexplained), and then it’s off to Hogsmeade for the main event. I was never quite sure what splitting the film would be like; because they knew ahead of time that this would happen, I imagined something similar to Jacqueline Carey’s The Sundering, which manages to give both halves of the duet a traditional narrative structure. While Part 1 does a good job of creating that structure so you don’t feel cheated by it, Part 2 is essentially just the ending—I did feel like I was, more or less, watching one movie separated by a trailer for The Dark Knight Rises. It’s not a bad choice, and I actually think it’s a bold one, especially if they never release Part 2 on a standalone DVD, since it can’t function on its own. But I still hope The Hobbit doesn’t do this.

As in the first part, the acting from the adult cast is fantastic and the younger cast has significantly grown into their roles. Of particular note in Part 2 are Alan Rickman and Matthew Lewis. While Rickman doesn’t have much screen time, what he does have is fantastic; this part actually opens with Snape looking down at Hogwarts, which was been essentially transformed into a military camp for the Dark Arts, his face carefully blank. But where anyone will tell you Rickman shines is the scene that corresponds to the chapter “The Prince’s Tale” in the book, where Harry explores Snape’s memory. It’s nonlinear but cohesive, showing Snape’s journey and how much he has done for the woman he loved but who never loved him and for the man who was his only friend. Rickman knocks it out of the park. Lewis is brilliant as the films finally give Neville the moments he deserves, be it as a confident underground leader or the first to stand up to Voldemort because it’s the right thing to do and not the easy thing to do. He got the bulk of the cheers Thursday night, I’ll tell you what. I’d also be remiss not to mention Geraldine Summerville, who plays Lily. We’ve seen her before in the film series, but never actually interacting meaningfully with her son. The stillness, the grace, and the overwhelming love she brings to this small but vitally important part has such impact, as the entire story hinges on her love for her son. And I haven’t even mentioned Maggie Smith’s McGonagall, whose short showdown with Snape drives home exactly where she will always stand.

Whereas Part 1 was, visually, more claustrophobic to reflect the fugitive, underground state of the characters, Part 2 is more whimsical in Gringotts and more epic in Hogwarts. Since it’s essentially composed of the Battle of Hogwarts, it’s almost entirely an action scene. The Harry Potter films have always done a good job of grounding their special effects and making them look realistic, and these action scenes have weight and tension. I’ve always loved how the films use almost fencing-like gestures for wand work, especially in duels; it keeps the magic from feeling too easy. The action flows naturally from tense scenes to lulls in the battle to some scenes that border on horror—the Room of Requirement going up in flame is especially terrifying. (Two people burn to death in this movie. The more you know!) While the movie has been forced to streamline things—I, for one, would have loved to actually see more on the Dumbledores and Grindelwald than what is cruelly teased at—the Battle of Hogwarts and its aftermath has been committed to the screen faithfully.

(I won’t mention the epilogue save these two things—it still feels a little indulgent, as it does in the book, and Radcliffe is the only one who looks good in the aging make-up. In fact, good job, young cast! You have all become incredibly attractive. Godspeed on your post-Potter careers.)

Bottom line: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is essentially the Battle of Hogwarts—but it’s been lovingly brought to life. The cast remains wonderful—Rickman, Lewis, and Summerville in particular—and it’s a suitably epic conclusion to one of the biggest stories of the past decade. Well worth a watch, as long as you’re watching both parts.

I saw this film in theaters.

You can read my review of the first part here.

3 thoughts on “Page to Screen: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (2011)

  1. I do wish Rowling had never included that epilogue. It seems just far too pat and smug, considering what has gone before, and I think it’s the ending she wrote long before the books had developed as they did.

    I have to say that I have no great love for the films – the last one I saw was Goblet of Fire – though I am very fond of the books. I’ve never been convinced by any of the cast, and I prefer to imagine Rowling’s world for myself.

  2. I like the epilogue. Yes, I do. I would only have liked it better if JKR had included something to tell us that George came out all right and didn’t, I dunno, end up in some horrific downward spiral of magical drugs and depression. It is indulgent but when I was reading it, I felt like I deserved a little indulgence after all those years of emotional turmoil. #nailingcolorstothemast

  3. I love your summary of the movie, it’s just right. The pacing is weird, but fitting. I think I’ll like it even more when I can watch the two movies back to back on DVD. Snape was insanely good, as was Neville. I do with we’d gotten more of Dumbledore’s past and I didn’t need to see the bloody fetus creature in the train station for what felt like 5 minutes, but those are my only real complaints.

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