Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Ten years ago, millions hopped on board the Hogwarts Express and were transported into a world of witches and wizards, chocolate frogs and levitating feathers. It was the start of what was to become an amazing cinematic achievement: eight films which, in the span of a decade, shattered box-office records worldwide while keeping together a core of actors and actresses audiences have come to love and enjoy. It is with a sense of nostalgia and appreciation that audiences now witness the epic finale to the series in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”

“Part 2” begins right where “Part 1” left off, with Lord Voldemort taking the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s tomb. The wizarding world is now under his reign. Dementors keep watch over Hogwarts and Severus Snape is now headmaster. Before “it all ends,” Harry still must finish the task Dumbledore entrusted him with: the challenge of destroying the remaining Horcruxes, which contain parts of Voldemort’s soul. The destruction of these cursed objects is integral in defeating him once and for all.

Harry does not waste any time continuing his quest, as he immediately asks to meet with the goblin Griphook and Mr. Ollivander for answers. From there, Harry, Ron and Hermione embark on their last quest, which will take them to familiar places from the past and eventually back to Hogwarts for the film’s spectacular climax.

Everyone has surely realized by now that the movies aren’t exactly carbon copies of the books. Still, the screenwriters have an important role in making sure the story is adapted properly on the silver screen, and cutting out material is an essential and necessary part in this process. Great filmmakers have taken liberties at leaving out material for their cinematic adaptations, but this is where “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” suffers the most.

Daniel Radcliffe, in his last time as Harry, gives a solid performance as not just “The Boy Who Lived,” but as a hero who understands his role and takes the necessary action and sacrifice. Both Radcliffe and Potter are far cries from who they were a decade ago as an actor and character respectively.

Harry’s best friends seem lost in his shadow. After strong performances from Rupert Grint and Emma Watson in “Part 1,” their characters seem merely thrown in for “Part 2,” providing a few lines when necessary and the comic relief when needed. Their romance seems rushed and shallow, and their dialogue wooden and convenient.

It is in this unfortunate manner that director David Yates leaves his mark on “Part 2.” Yates, who has directed every “Potter” film since “Order of the Phoenix,”  split J.K. Rowling’s seventh book into two parts to presumably cover as much of the book as possible. A good idea, especially in light of the dense storyline and the large amount of information conveyed. While “Part 1” suffers from a bit of slow pacing throughout its 146-minute run, Yates makes it up in “Part 2” by cramming the rest of the book into 130 minutes of screen time by cutting out and changing significant dialogue exchanges between characters.

The result is a movie that jumps from one plot point to the next, and even the action sequences, while visually impressive, seem rushed. This applies particularly to the battle of Hogwarts sequence. Although the special effects are indeed spectacular, the camerawork is erratic and shaky, and every participant in the battle becomes a mere body in the spectacle. Besides the few main characters, the dozens of students who stay behind fill in just as bodies to fill the spaces.

Imagine how terribly beautiful it could have been if Yates had contrasted the many nameless faces of the Death Eaters to the many individual students and friends who declare their allegiance to Harry Potter out of faith, friendship and love. It is their sacrifice that empowers Harry to do the same for them. Like Ron and Hermione, though, Luna, Neville, Seamus and many others become convenient props and one-dimensional characters at best.

There are characters besides Harry who do stand out, and they are portrayed by veteran actors and actresses who, despite their limited screen time, dominate with their mere presence. Ralph Fiennes once again nails the pale, psychopathic Lord Voldemort. Maggie Smith as Professor Minerva McGonagall is powerful yet graceful, almost regal. Even Robbie Coltrane, in the few lines he has, brings out the best of the always faithful Hagrid. It is Alan Rickman, however, who steals the show as Severus Snape, showcasing his skill as a great actor in one of the better segments of the movie.

“Part 2” indeed does run like the second half of a movie. While entertaining and emotionally charged, “Part 2” still hurries along at a rapid pace, a bit too eager to get to the final battle. While the characters don’t receive enough attention, our connection to them is enough to make them real. Ten years of growing up with them will do that to you.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars