Amid cheers and tears did a storytelling hallmark of my adolescence end this past Tuesday evening. At a press screening in New York City, I saw JK Rowling’s sprawling epic come to a close in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. I started with the books 14 years ago and this movie was a fitting finale and interpretation of one of my favorite books in the series. While I usually stick to TV news and notes here on the Fridge, I am undoubtedly the biggest Harry fan of us all and am delighted to write this review.
Warning: this post contains spoilers for the movie – what the filmmakers included, what they didn’t, and how they did it. Hopefully there are no actual spoilers because y’all have read Deathly Hallows a respectable number of times!
The film wastes absolutely zero time at all, as within a few minutes we’ve left Shell Cottage and snuck into Gringotts with Helena Bonham Carter doing a most amusing impression of Hermione-as-Bellatrix. I like that screenwriter Steve Kloves and director David Yates included Hermione’s accidental politeness as she portrays Bellatrix, since it’s so very Hermione. The trio’s descent to the vaults and the subsequent dragon escape was great, and threw you right into the action, feeling like no time had elapsed since we shed our tears over Dobby at the end of Part 1. I particularly liked that Hermione took the first leap onto the dragon and the boys followed, demonstrating just how far she’s come since her bossy, anti-rule breaking Sorcerer’s Stone days.
Harry’s flashes into Voldemort’s mind were well placed and just manic enough for the audience to truly see how disturbing they are for Harry, and just how unhinged Voldemort has become. Voldemort’s rage over his realization that the diary, ring, and locket have all been destroyed and the cup taken is chilling. We see Ralph Fiennes gliding among the dead in Gringott’s main hall, his bare feet covered in blood and his Death Eater lackeys cowering around him. I felt this scene of barely concealed, power-hungry rage was one of Fiennes’ finer moments in his portrayal of this evil creature.
One scene that felt a little rushed was Aberforth’s rant in the Hog’s Head. It has so much more resonance in the book, since we get the backstory with Ariana, Grindelwald, and the Dumbledores. I understand why that plot was sacrificed in the movies, since it lacked any action whatsoever and it is extremely hard to communicate the way Harry feels over Dumbledore’s lack of answers and inability to share his life story. Noted actor Ciaran Hinds is the spitting image of Michael Gambon, and a great casting choice here.
Now let’s get to Hogwarts. Harry’s entrance through the portrait hole into the Room of Requirement made me cheer, not only because everyone (Neville! Ginny! Cho Chang! Quidditch team! We love you all!) was so happy to see him but because we’d finally landed back inside the castle we know and adore. I understand Kloves & Yates’ toggling around of the plot here, and having Harry appear among the assembled ranks in the Great Hall in place of the scene in Ravenclaw tower. It gave Harry a chance to call out Snape, and Dan Radcliffe conveyed the pain and urgency of that interaction extremely well. Even better, we had the chance to see McGonagall duel with Snape! As Fridge contributor Tek said, seeing Maggie Smith in action brought a tear to his eye and made him remember just how perfectly she embodies McGonagall.
Everyone got their moment in the final battle, which was split into three parts evenly divided by Snape’s death scene and his memories, and the scene in the Forbidden Forest. I personally got chills when McGonagall called upon Hogwarts to defend itself and the stone statues leapt to life. McGonagall’s delight over finally getting “to use that spell” was wonderful, and we rejoiced along with her. The Order’s protective spells around Hogwarts was magically done as they sealed the castle off from the approaching army. In the midst of this, Luna demanded Harry’s attention in the way only Evanna Lynch can elucidate, and he visited the ghost of Helena Ravenclaw to seek out the diadem. While Harry was occupied, Ron and Hermione went down to the Chamber of Secrets to destroy the cup. This scene was a welcome addition that we didn’t get to see in the books, and Hermione’s determination and bravery really came through. Plus it gave Ron and Hermione the chance to have their first kiss in private and not in front of Harry, which was nice. Three cheers for finally acting on seven years of tension! Ron’s subsequent defense of Hermione in the Room of Requirement against vile Draco and henchmen was amusing, as he tore after them in a fit of temper yelling “THAT IS MY GIRLFRIEND YOU’RE ATTACKING!” I love Ron. His shrieking as he ran from the FiendFyre was pitch perfect Rupert Grint all the way.
The battle itself was, of course, epic. Giants and huge spiders tore down the castle as Death Eaters blasted their way through. Voldemort, true to the book, held back a bit as he waited for Harry to seek him out. This brings us to Snape’s big moment – his death. For no other reason than Voldemort wanted the Elder Wand to obey him properly, he slit Snape’s throat and had Nagini attack to kill. Snape’s tears of memory and his last look at Harry were masterfully done, and I felt truly terrible for all he’d been through. Alan Rickman, of course, rocks. Poor Snape – the memories of Lilly, especially him holding her in death as baby Harry cried in his crib, were perfectly chosen and showed us how big a part of Snape’s life she really was.
And now, at last, we come to Harry. His pain as he walked through the wounded and dead was palpable, as was the final realization in Dumbledore’s office that he had to die. Radcliffe deserves every accolade he gets for these scenes alone. (Sidenote: so glad we didn’t see Fred actually die. I couldn’t have handled that. Lupin and Tonks died off screen as well.) His final walk through the castle and into the forest was quickly done, but his use of the resurrection stone and the appearance of his parents, Sirius, and Lupin brought my tears in full force. This is where you really need to have read the books, since that scene is so gut-wrenching and excruciating I was crying half out of the mere memory of reading it. Voldemort whips out the Avada Kedavra right away, and the King’s Cross scene with Dumbledore is brief but effective. We all want to get back to the battle anyway!
Voldemort now feels comfortable in openly walking back into the rubble that is Hogwarts, with Hagrid toting Harry’s body. Ralph Fiennes is disturbing to behold when he laughs, and you will know what I mean when you see it. As is his welcome of Draco to his side (“Argh! Hugs from Uncle Voldy!” –Fridge contributor 3eeve). Neville has a great mini-monologue as he tells Voldemort where it’s at – Harry might be dead, but his influence lives on! At that precise moment, Harry leaps out of Hagrid’s arms and the fight is on once more. In the midst of Harry’s dueling scenes with Voldemort, including the two flying around the castle trying to choke each other (visceral and awesome! I want to choke Voldy!), Molly Wealsey is fighting Bellatrix and Hermione and Ron are trying to kill Nagini. Neville, sword in hand, shifts into full-on action hero mode and fans will love his crowning moment. Molly delivers the line everyone is waiting for, and Bellatrix falls. Might I add that the audience in the theater cheered and clapped for every one of these great character moments, a wonderful energy that makes seeing these films even more enjoyable.
We all know how it ends – the Elder Wand won’t kill its’ master, and Harry triumphs over Voldemort at last. I kind of wanted him to explode with a great bang or something more forceful, but he kind of crumbles apart and dies, his ashes scattered to the wind. I understand why the filmmakers chose a more subtle approach, since there was so little of his soul left, and I always want evil villains to be impaled violently and/or their heads to split open like a dropped watermelon anyway. Regardless of how, it was done. I loved the last shots of everyone partying tiredly in the Great Hall, and of our beloved trio walking hand in hand out of the castle. The epilogue with grown and aged Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione was as expected, and though some will dismiss it as a little cheesy, it’s supposed to be a little cheesy. All WAS well, after all.
What I missed from the book: very little! This is a first for me, as I am highly critical of deviations from the sacred texts of Ms. Rowling. Both Parts 1 and 2 of Deathly Hallows were so true to the book and so well done that I have no complaints, merely wishes to see more. Perhaps the sight of Kreacher coming up from the kitchens, murder in his eyes and all the house-elves in tow, would have been a nice touch. Or Percy rejoining the family (although that was not dealt with in the films), or a shot of Nearly Headless Nick. I also noticed that a line I really loved from the trailer was missing! “Why do you live?” “Because I have something to live for.” was not there! I felt like that line really embodied the essential difference between Harry and Tom Riddle.
In conclusion: a sublime, energy-filled finish to a fantastic series of films!