© 2011 Ray Wong
"It all ends," says the tagline of the final film of the hugely successful franchise that is Harry Potter. As we say goodbye to Hogwarts and the characters we've grown to love in the past ten years (more if you count the books), we also marvel at how greatly the series have changed through the years.
As the story begins, we're quickly reminded what just happened: Harry (Daniel Redcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) barely escaped while Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) successfully get hold of the Elder wand by raiding Dumbledore's (Michael Gambon) grave. Meanwhile, Hogwart is in a totalitarian state under the rule of headmaster Snape (Alan Rickman).
Harry and his friends' first priority is to find the remain horcruxes in order to destroy Voldemort before he finds and kills Harry. They only have a faint idea what and where the horcruxes are: two of the objects belong to Hogwart founders Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw. On their quest to search for the horcruxes, Voldermort becomes even stronger and raises his army against the rebels, and is set to attack Hogwart, where Harry is in hiding.
With the help of his friends, Harry is able to locate the horcruxes and destroy them, thus weakening Voldemort. However, after Snape was killed by Voldemort, Harry learns from Snape's memory that Snape was really a double agent: his love for Harry's mother prompted him to devote his life to protect Harry at all cost. Furthermore, Harry realizes that Voldemort, through his attempt to kill Harry as a baby, accidentally made Harry one of his horcruxes. In order for Harry to destroy Voldemort, Harry must sacrifice himself and die first, so his friends could have a chance against and defeat the dark lord.
After playing Harry Potter for ten years since he was 11, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow Part 1) has matured as an actor. His final chapter as the hero proves to us that the young actor can leave this iconic role and succeed in anything his heart desires. Radcliffe is strong, sensible, and emotive. Rupert Grint (Harry Potter) and Emma Watson (Harry Potter) have less to do in this final chapter, but they, too, have grown as actors.
Ralph Fiennes (The Reader) is, as usual, in great form as the evil Lord Voldemort. However, instead of playing the role with pure evil, Fiennes shows enough dimensions to give the character depth. Michael Gambon (The King's Speech) returns as Dumbledore and makes us miss him. Alan Rickman (Alice in Wonderland) continues to amaze as Snape, one of the most complex characters in literature/cinema.
The women do well as well. Maggie Smith (Nanny McPhee Returns) shines again as Professor McGonagall, who has mostly played a bit role in the recent films but becomes a true leader in this final chapter. Julie Walters (Mamma Mia!) and Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland) don't have much to do here, but have a nice final showdown.
Steve Kloves (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1) continues to streamline JK Rowling's hefty book. He has to make difficult choices when determining what to cut (without enraging fans or confusing those who have not read the book) to keep the plot and character development under control. Fortunately, as the story comes to its finishing mark, character development is secondary and Kloves can focus on the plot. There is a few nice twists and one big reveal near the end that casts a new light on the entire series (in case you are one of the few who never read the books). The scenes with Snape are particularly strong, ominous and emotionally charged.
The last half of the final chapter aptly takes us back to Hogwart, where the heart of the entire series is. It is, indeed, quite emotional to see Hogwart being attacked and destroyed, and some of our favorite characters perish in the final battles. At the same time, Kloves has the thankless job of telling an omniscient story from the points of view of so many characters in such an epic scale, in so little time (130 minutes). I feel that some scenes are too rushed, and certain expositions are missing so the casual audience who have not read the books may be confused. Certain plot twists also seem rather contrived. I don't know if the problem lies with Mr. Kloves or Ms. Rowling.
David Yates (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1) has hit a stride so this final chapter seems like a mere extension of what he's accomplished with the previous films. His pacing is good. The production is handsome, and the special effects are top-notch. The score by Alexandre Desplat is amazing. Unfortunately, like the script, he rushes through some of the pivotal scenes, short-circuiting some of the more emotional elements. And while the epilogue is essential to wrap up the entire series, it does seem rather anticlimactic.
Even with its flaws, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a great ending to a phenomenal series. It is possibly one of the best films in the series.
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters
Director: David Yates
Writers: Steve Kloves (based on novel by J.K. Rowling)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence and frightening images
Running Time: 130 minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 8
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 9
Editing – 8
Production – 9
Total – 8.0 out of 10