Directed by David Yates
Disc 1: Theatrical Movie on Blu-ray
Disc 2: Special Features on Blu-ray:
Disc 3: Theatrical Movie on DVD
“In the epic finale, the battle between the good and evil forces of the wizarding world escalates into an all-out war. The stakes have never been higher and no one is safe. But it is Harry who may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice as he draws closer to the climactic showdown with Lord Voldemort. It all ends here.”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” is rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.
Mainly because that’s pretty much all it has. It should come as no surprise that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” is not a movie in and of itself. Picking up immediately where Part 1 ends, we find Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and friends holed up on the sea shore planning how to get their hands on the evil Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) next Horcrux and bring him closer to final defeat. Little do they realize that Voldemort himself has gotten his hands on the Elder Wand, the most powerful weapon in the wizarding world and may be well nigh unstoppable.
Cue explosions. The final, final, final (this time we mean it!) “Harry Potter” film is mostly just the last act of the combined Harry Potter finale stretched out to more than an hour. Partly because it still has a hefty amount of exposition to deal with in the form of relevant back-story which for some reason hasn’t been filled in yet, but mostly because director David Yates wants to do justice to the final battle between the forces of good and evil.
And do justice he does. Although “Deathly Hallows – Part 2” doesn’t lack for action sequences in the early going–opening with our heroic trio breaking into the wizarding bank Gringotts and escaping on the back of a dragon–it’s not until the return to Hogwarts (almost entirely missing from “Part 1”) that the film kicks into high gear. Someone, somewhere has been keeping a list of all the “Harry Potter” required fan moments of the entire series, from just the right villain meeting his end to just the right couple getting together, and Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves spend the last nearly 90 minutes of the film paying them off.
Rather than coming off as an empty paean to the fans, though, the filmmakers’ desire to focus on the characters as real people even in the midst of pitched battle keeps even the shallowest viewer of the series engaged in what could have easily been just mindless action set pieces and explosions. Every conflict, every battle has real consequences on the weight of 10 years worth of getting to know who these characters and caring what happens to them.
That said, some are given more time than others, especially Matthew Lewis’ Neville Longbottom, who is finally given the chance to emerge from plucky comic relief to full blown hero and proves up to the challenge. In general, the young child actors have grown to the point where they can handle these moments as well, creating a satisfying acting experience which doesn’t suffer the disparity between the adult and child actors the early films often did. Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) also continue to get moments to mature into a more complex characters.
But they often are only moments. For all of the tremendous screen time given to “Deathly Hallows” between its two parts, the focus is entirely on Harry and his best friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). With the benefit of the first two acts already out of the way the angst and drama of the film is largely replaced with more esoteric musings on the place of death in our lives and how to face it. Yates’ steady hand and the growing acting abilities of his stars, though still edging towards earnest over deeper emotions, make this more affecting than adventure film philosophy usually manages.
It also maintains the real word aesthetic begun in “Half-Blood Prince,” especially in Eduardo Serra’s dusk-tinted cinematography. Although with so much of the film set in the halls of Hogwarts Castle, “Deathly Hallows – Part 2” is less about creating new environments than showcasing the design of previous films. And then blowing them up.
The major flaw still remains that like the last few films “Deathly Hallows – Part 2” is a film for fans more than anyone else. With just a few exceptions, anything beyond the hunt to weaken and kill Voldemort is tacked on without context and can only be completely understood by someone well versed in the source material.
The choice to stay as close to the source material as possible has been the series double-edged sword for its entire history. It gives the filmmakers the stepping stone of a compelling story and characters, but it also takes some of the bad ideas with it and seldom seeks out an identity of its own so as not to take the risk of alienating anyone. So we end up with several tension breaks for extended exposition in the second half which should have found a place earlier. Plus a horrible explanation for how Harry will defeat Voldemort which is given very little set up and gets sillier the more it is explained. They’re not insurmountable problems, but the filmmakers only put token efforts into dealing with them; for better or worse they are tethered to them and can’t break free.
But as problems go there are worse ones to have. The source material works more often than it doesn’t and the filmmakers have a good grasp of how to leave it entertaining but restrained.
Even if you’re not a big fan of the series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” hits just the right notes for a big finale. A mixture of actually characterization, solid storytelling and excellent craftsmanship make it–maybe not a new bar for adventure filmmaking–but a worthy entry and conclusion.
Besides the features spotlighting Rowling, there’s also “The Goblins of Gringotts.” In it we see Warwick Davis and around 60 other little people as they get makeup and costumes for the bank scene. It’s really interesting to see the casting process, the makeup, and the involvement of Davis’ entire family in filming the scene. Also included are about 6 minutes of deleted scenes. None of them are very significant. Then there’s a 2 minute teaser for the new Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London.
Back on the main movie disc you can watch the film in Maximum Movie Mode hosted by Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom). I have never liked this because I personally prefer my bonus features separate from the film. But a few of the featurettes can be watched separate. They cover the costumes, Neville’s last stand, the magic shield visual effects, the Hogwarts sets, and other points of interest.
The Blu-ray comes with a digital copy, but be forewarned that it’s one of the streaming Ultraviolet digital copies, not one you can download and keep locally. I look forward to the day it goes away. Also noteworthy is that a demo of the Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 game is included on the disc.