- Rated PG-13
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
aying goodbye is never easy, especially when you’re dealing with perhaps the most popular long-form story of this generation. You really have to applaud the team behind the "Harry Potter" films, because no one envies the arduous task that they had in bringing the series to a close. After all, not only was it a massive risk to split the seventh book into two movies, but there’s also the impossibly high expectations that come with any finale, not to mention the bittersweet feeling that fans were likely to have no matter how it turned out. It's with great pleasure, then, to see that director David Yates has handled all of the pressure in such fantastic fashion, delivering an unbelievably satisfying bookend that is not only Yates’ finest entry yet, but one of the best films in the series.
Last seen discovering the all-powerful Elder Wand inside Dumbledore’s grave at the end of “Deathly Hallows: Part One,” Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has since rallied his troops and headed for Hogwarts in the hopes that Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) will come out of hiding to protect his friends. Of course, Harry isn’t hiding at all, but is instead still busy trying to track down and destroy the remaining Horcruxes containing the pieces of Voldemort’s soul, which takes him on a quest alongside Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) through the vaults of Gringotts Bank and eventually back to Hogwarts itself, where a massive battle is taking place between Voldemort’s Death Eaters and the teachers and students at the school.
To say that “Deathly Hallows: Part Two” differs greatly in tone from past installments wouldn't be a total exaggeration, as Yates has ratcheted up the tension and wizarding action to the point that it’s almost like a full-fledged war movie. Characters die left and right, and though a lot of the death and destruction primarily takes place off-camera, there’s still an undeniable feeling that, for maybe the first time ever, the stakes are real. The series certainly hasn't featured nearly as much spilled blood as it does here, and though it's true that the films have continued to get progressively darker and more adult as they’ve gone along, it's admittedly still a little shocking to see such creepy imagery on display – particularly a scene involving a disgusting fetus with Voldemort’s likeness.
It’s not just the material that feels more grown-up, but the actors as well. Though it’s been fun following Daniel Radcliffe’s journey from a cute kid to a serious thespian, he’s always been surrounded by a host of veteran actors, and therefore was never really depended upon to carry a movie entirely on his shoulders. But this film is different, with most of the supporting cast (including Grint and Watson) relegated to the background for a big part of the movie. Radcliffe steps up his game as a result, displaying maturity and a real understanding of the character that he’s been playing for the past 10 years.
But even with most of the secondary characters consigned to mere cameos, many of them still get their chance to shine. Helena Bonham Carter has a bit of fun playing Hermione in disguise as Bellatrix, while Neville (Matthew Lewis) and Mrs. Weasley (Julie Walters) both get heroic moments that bring down the house. Alan Rickman also caps off an incredible, decade-spanning performance as Severus Snape with his best work to date. He doesn't have much to do, but an exposition-heavy flashback sequence where the character's true loyalties are revealed is one of the film's biggest highlights.
More than anything else, though, “Deathly Hallows: Part Two” is just pure entertainment from start to finish, zipping along at a blistering pace with non-stop action throughout. The film does slow down a bit in the final act to give the big finale room to breathe, but that’s hardly a bad thing. After all, this is the moment everyone's been waiting for, and by not rushing through it, Yates grants the audience the opportunity to savor every second. The only truly negative thing about the experience is the 3D, which is pointless as usual. Of course, between the emotion that Yates wrings out of the story and the visual spectacle of it all, the movie is already magical without the burden of a third dimension.