Harry Potter

film 8 of 8

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt. 2

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 5, 2014

Director David Yates starts this final entry with a couple of stately-paced dialogue scenes. These kids are now on par with whatever distinguished Thesp that might happen to show up. Design and camera continue to be wildly above reproach. And the whole world is on tenterhooks, essentially a captive audience. Still, that’s kind of daring, isn’t it?

Pretty nervy, and they pull it off, too. Mind, these scenes are very good. At least we’re willing to submit to them. Could it be that they’ve taught us, that we’ve learned to be patient, attentive viewers? If they have, and if we are, then we’ve discovered that stately minimalism can also electrify, if one has the ears to hear.

After the opening they all go to the bank. The Hermione-as-Bellatrix thing is kind of fun, both textually and intertextually. (Are the later cleavage components slightly questionable? Maybe that’s too much the dad-of-daughters talking.) There’s a cool confrontation, which shifts into that temple-of-doom-like roller coaster. We get some coat-turning, and some pyrotechnics. Then it’s back to Hogwarts for a whole bunch of battling, which takes us all the way to that sort of sheepish, slightly dubious epilogue.

That’s about it. I liked it! What impresses here isn’t so much the movie itself, though if you were splice it with the last one the result might feel more balanced. There are shortcomings. The horcruxes may work as symbols—techno-devices, kids!—but in terms of plot they kind of peter out. The same goes for Molly W.’s long-anticipated victory over Bellatrix. Whiff! There’s six films’ worth of lead up, and all for nothing. Also they might have redrafted Neville’s speech a time or two more.

But why niggle?  I won’t, anyway. As has been the case throughout this whole dynastic/nostalgic journey, what impresses are the moments. These were once rooted in the source material, but now they emerge just as much, and quite organically, from the films themselves.

Can you picture them, or replace these with your own? The way that Ginny steps in front of Harry in the banquet hall, or the way the adults join her, magnificent seven-like, just a few minutes later. That exhilarating, electrifying moment when Maggie Smith stops restraining herself. (“Hez neem ez Voldemor-rt!”) That Rickman/Snape gets to act. Something about his patronus, and where we’ve seen it before. Something about decency out of difficulty, or impossibility. Harry’s whispering reunion with his dead. His mother’s Celtic countenance. His Narnia-like self sacrifice. Dumbledore’s return, that whole graceful, peaceful, sweetly painful after-life scene. “You dear boy.  You brave, brave man.”

So a few plot things, a few motifs and mechanics have gone by the wayside. But these last bits remind and represent how well Ms. Rowling and her offspring have done with her first, final, most fundamental themes. They’re not that unusual, though that’s not anything to reprove. It’s not cliché, but the familiarity of archetype and all the great moral systems: how tribulation and traumatic death would seem to be antithetical to loyal friendship and abiding love. How they actually reinforce and deepen each other. This has been an awful part of the world’s history, and every individual must eventually pass through valleys and shadows as well. What a thing, then, to see those former children, now so big and on the brink of everything else, stand in the ruins and look hopefully toward the future. It need hardly be said that all of our and everyone else’s children shared furiously in the whole of this. You can ask yourself some questions. For instance, what if the whole world had followed Lloyd Alexander like this? In the end, though, the result is the same: them, plus us, plus all of our best efforts, equal sufficiency, even apotheosis.

What a run!