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July 20, 2011

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Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Posted by on Jul 20, 2011
HP7 Part 2

How do you successfully wrap up an epic saga in just a few short hours of screen time?  Well, in some cases, you don’t – at least not completely.  Harry Potter, the epic fantasy saga with a massive fan base, spent 7 books following the stories of Harry, Hermione, and Ron and their battle against He-who-shall-not-be-named.  The movies numbered one more, with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows being split into two films.  So with the knowledge that not ALL of the detail from the final book could be crammed into these two films, we must simply ask – how’d they do?  Honestly, they did OK.

BEWARE: This review is chock-full of spoilers.  If you’ve read the books then you’re going to be OK, but if you haven’t and still want to be surprised by the movie, you should probably move along.

One of the biggest challenges in turning detailed and complicated books into films is keeping enough detail to ensure the plot line still makes sense.  Part 2 had some serious plot holes, which left viewers with a sense of muggled mental confusion.

  • First and foremost was the issue of Harry’s survival, and the whole scene at King’s Cross.  Flashback interactions between Dumbledore and Snape reveal that Harry had to die in order to kill Voldemort – for Harry himself was partially a Horcrux.  Harry realizes this, alerts Hermione and Ron that the snake is the final Horcrux (besides himself, that is), and willingly traipses into the Forbidden Forest to die at the hand of the Dark Lord.  Voldemort strikes the killing blow and Harry finds himself at a train station very much like King’s Cross where a shriveled up baby-sized Voldemort is dying… and Dumbledore informs him that he can in fact go back to his life.  His willing self-sacrifice makes his survival possible (just as his mother’s did for him years before), but this is not explained in the film, making Harry’s survival appear to be a giant cop-out on Rowling’s part.  Of all of the concepts in the entire series, this was the most important one NOT to skimp on.
  • Plot Hole number two surrounds our favorite slow chubby kid suddenly turned sexy stud – Neville Longbottom.  Hagrid has returned in chains (where did he come from in the first place?) carrying a ‘dead’ Harry Potter while surrounded by the Dark Lord and about ten billion Death Eaters.  Voldemort asks who would like to willingly come over to his side and avoid being killed, and after Draco walks over, Neville steps up and moves to the front.  He then begins an epic and defiant speech for the forces of good.  Now, in realistic terms, there is no way that Voldemort would have let him speak so long – he would have just killed him and said, ‘Next?’.  And then, when Neville’s tirade is done, Voldemort zaps him, but our little friend does not die.  Now we, the fans, know that this is due to Harry’s sacrifice and how it both weakens the Dark Lord and strengthens those he ‘died’ to protect, but this isn’t explained anywhere in the film.
  • The third major plot hole surrounds the alternate explanation of Dumbledore – who up until this point has been depicted pretty much on par with Jesus – just a little older, carrying a wand, and sans le resurrection.  Through the appearance of his still living (and still bad-ass) brother, we are given a 2 minute insight into the fact that maybe Dumbledore was not perfect, and was simply preparing Harry for what he knew would take his life.  It was done SO quickly that we were left doubting his brother’s sanity rather than the actual potential validity of his statements.

What? Emotions? No no, I don't have any of those.

Not all of HP7 part deux was tried and found wanting.  The overall flow of the movie was excellent, there were very few (if any) unnecessary scenes, and the acting was on par.  Especially good was Helena Bonham Carter as Belatrix, but that may be more due to my love of that character and actress rather than this specific performance.  But to the credit of this flick, these specific portions were masterfully done:

  • The Revelations and Redemption of Snape – Ever since the moment when Snape killed Dumbledore, there had been an itching in the back of my head that something was not quite right.  The way his true intentions were revealed in the film was expertly done, with Snape’s tears allowing Harry to view his memories – memories of his childhood, his love for Lily Potter, his vow to protect Harry, and the intricate plan that by killing Dumbledore, he would be in a position to act for good from inside the heart of the Death Eaters.  That itching was cured, love and admiration for Snape returned, and one of the most brutal betrayals set straight.  We were able to see Snape as more than the emotionless wall that he had been in all the other films. 
  • The Malfoy Redemption– I have always had a soft spot for the Malfoys.  Yes, Draco is often a tool (who sings this song!), and Lucius is just a faux-badass who turns all wimpy whenever Voldemort shows up. However, something about them has always given me the impression that they are just confused, wanting attention, and wanting to be cool rather than being straight up evil. So when

    I wanna be a Death Eater, so friggin' bad

    the movie showed their intense inner struggles, with them finally sticking to their guns wands, I was pleased.  Draco is really affected by the fact that Harry came back to save him, and Narcissa decided to proclaim Harry as dead, at the risk of her own life.  At the end, Draco’s walk over to the Death Eaters turns out to be one more defiance of evil, as we see all three Malfoys leaving the scene, walking away from their allegiance to the Dark Lord.  Bravo, bravo.

  • Hermione and Ron – Romance has always been sparse and juvenile in the Harry Potter films.  This has been acceptable because the characters were juveniles.  However, the years have progressed, and Ron and Hermione are not the elementary wizards that they used to be.  And just as their wizarding skill have matured, after the rough romantic portrayal seen in Part 1, the romance between these two is strong, passionate, and realistic.  From just simple looks (be they loving or judging), to the climactic kiss, their relationship is the real deal, and while they may be young, their love is strong – and we can see and feel it.  Tres Bravo.
Yeah, I’m dead. PSYCH!

When a saga concludes, there is generally a lengthy denouement to assure the readers that the characters we know and love will live (or die) happily ever after. At the end of Part II, we get a scene from 19 years into the future.  The inclusion of this scene was necessary – the delivery of this scene was mediocre.  We see the same 4 actors playing ‘grown-up’ Ron and Hermione Weasley, and Harry and Ginny Potter, while all of them look about 2 years older.  Their children are sharing a train car en route to Hogwarts, with enchanted chocolate frogs and every flavor jelly beans, and life is back to normal.  Fans can breathe a sigh of relief – Voldemort is dead, the terrific trio is alive and happy, and Muggles are still oblivious to the secret life of magic.  But when the entire movie theater bursts out laughing during the majority of the final scene, it makes you wonder how content fans everywhere were with the two-minute wrap up of one of the most beloved fantasy tales of our time.  I leave it for you to decide.

  • HusseinObamaWillKillUSA

    Sorry but I think your take on the finale is skewed. Look, we all know that books turned into movies always leave the reader of the original story wanting more and criticizing how they turned the book into a crappy film. I think they did a pretty good job. Rowling’s books are  more sophisticated read and very detailed, That’s why you hear about people “Me Included”
    re-eading them. Maybe if they made another seven movies the book would have been better explained.The First book in Armistad Maupins series on life at 28 Barbary Lane is one of the only books turned into a mini-series that really nailed the book. However it was more of a simple story. The subsequent sequals that were turned into mini-series stunk. Rowling’s books rocked. The movies rocked for what they were and I think hindsight is 20/20 and maybe someone could have explained some things better but they didn’t and we should be happy that there were only a few things to complain about because all in all they were a pretty great theatrical escape!