Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman,
UK Release date: 15 July 2011
Certificate: 12A (130 mins)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a strange sort of film in that it would be simply impossible for it to stand on its own. It wastes no time filling you in or reminding you what happened in the first part, nor does it take any time setting up and drawing you in but plunges immediately into the story. It can be a bit disorientating for someone who has a vague knowledge of the books and only saw the previous film when it was in the cinema eight months ago, but you will easily get into the swing of things. It will probably be utterly bewildering for someone with no Potter knowledge at all. It continues to focus on Harry, Ron and Hermione, and on Harry’s personal journey. Although this film is purportedly the second part of a story, in terms of cohesive plot, it is in actuality the third part, starting with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. But there is also the larger story of Harry’s development, and in order really to understand the film, one needs to follow the entirety of the larger story arc from the first film to the last.
The series as a whole is unusual in the way it transforms, as the books do, from beginning to end. They start out very much as films for children, who will identify with the experiences of school: new friends, bullies, lessons. But they are also full of an innocent joy in a different world of magic and strange creatures. The story of Voldemort is largely peripheral in the first few films, but gradually, as Voldemort returns to power, the films become darker, encompassing the whole of the wizarding world. This change is reflected in the classification which rises from PG to 12A in the fourth film. Although there is no gore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and much of the violence is implied, the level of violence, particularly on the part of Voldemort will be a cause for concern for some parents, especially of young children.
The advantage of this film over previous ones is that it assumes you have been fully initiated into JK Rowling’s imaginary world, and there are no more lengthy explanations. By this point, Harry has learned nearly everything he needs to understand the wizarding world and Voldemort’s role within it, and so have we. Having been released from the obligation of explaining every detail, the film does move more quickly than previous films in this series, but it still has difficulty in maintaining momentum. There are too many moments where the timing is misjudged, and suspense is drawn out just long enough for boredom to begin to set in.
This film continues the tradition of the entire series, which sees a host of the very best British actors lending their considerable talent to films dominated by child actors and computer-generated beings. Though the adult figures are mainly relegated to the background, it is gratifying to see Maggie Smith given more screen time as Professor McGonagall takes charge in the defence of Hogwarts, with just enough scope in the role for Dame Maggie to display both her dramatic and her comic abilities.
It is a pity that more time could not be given to the memories bequeathed to Harry by Professor Snape. It is a time for Harry and all of us to confront our prejudices and misunderstandings. The sequence of images provided for a very moving part of the book, but the constraints of the medium mean that it is given short shrift in the film. It is a shame that we move through this bit so quickly because it gives us a great insight into Professor Snape, one of the most interesting characters of the entire series, arguably the only one with any real depth. However, Harry is the focus of the story, and in film every minute is precious.
At the end of Snape’s memories, Harry discovers the final task that Dumbledore had planned for him. This scene is very well done; I found it shocking, even though I already knew and was prepared for it. It is here that we see most of all the way Harry has changed over the years. Gone are youthful pride and arrogance; he no longer rails against who he is and the coincidence of fate that made him different. There is only courage and the mature acceptance of his responsibility. While there has been much debate over the influence of these stories on young minds, it is indisputable that Rowling’s stories always underline important virtues such as courage, loyalty and selflessness.
Between the books and the films, Harry Potter and Hogwarts have been a big part of the experiences of our younger generation, and for many people, this film will certainly be unmissable.
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