Once upon a time, Harry Potter was a disenfranchised orphan with a funny scar coming to terms with a legendary reputation he had no part in forging. With a chattering of whispers following him wherever he went, the boy who lived set out to fulfill a destiny already written. It was vague and a bit muddled at first, but eventually, that mission came into focus. He must grow up and kill Voldemort. En route to that predestined conflict, he met, befriended, battled, kissed, cursed and fell in love with an army of characters who shaped him and filled in the missing details. Soon, those friends, enemies, animals and advisors too had destinies. They had their own families, their own dreams and their own circle of friends. Further and further the web spun until Harry Potter was no longer just about Harry Potter. The disenfranchised orphan was one among many, the central figure who’s providence intertwined the paths of dozens both readers and viewers had come to love.
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is the climax. It’s the fulfillment of not only Harry and Voldemort’s prophecy but the conclusion of every destiny infused in that mammoth and enchanting web. It’s a battlefield, stained with emotion, memory and the blood of those departed too soon. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is where seven movies, complicated and confounded, come to die, both the reward given and the price paid for years of invigorating foreplay. I wish I could tell you it honored that toil by letting all the brave men die heroically and all the villains scream into shallow graves, but the truth is that would have been impossible. Harry Potter began with a disenfranchised orphan, and it ends with a disenfranchised orphan, side characters be damned.
One of those side characters is Griphook, and Part 2 opens with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) offering the goblin Godric Gryffindor’s sword in exchange for help sneaking into Bellatrix Lestrange’s (Helena Bonham Carter) vault. It’s supposedly impenetrable, but with a little luck and polyjuice potion, Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) make their way inside. There the trio find yet another horcrux and destroy its contents, much to the chagrin of the Dark Lord. He knows what they’re up to, and hell hath no fury like a Slytherin scorned, whether he be Voldemort or Snape.
In Dumbledore’s absence, Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) has been ruling Hogwarts with an iron fist. The bruises on both Neville and Seamus’ faces attest to that, as do the death eaters and dementors encircling the castle. They’re all on high alert because they know it’s only a matter of time before Harry sneaks into the castle. Unfortunately for them, he’s already there, flanked by Lupin, Kingsley and a garrison of students willing to die for the cause. Wands are unsheathed, curses are cast and the new headmaster is quickly run out of the castle, content to retreat and join Voldemort’s horde preparing to lay siege.
That promised confrontation comes in waves, a continuous hurry up and stop, back-and-forth knit between quiet back stories and even quieter visions. Lost in the chaos is a body count easily numbering in the hundreds, populated with a few familiar faces and scores of unfamiliar henchmen. There’s a destiny to be fulfilled, and that, of course, pushes all other bloodshed to the background. Voldemort is waiting in the forest, preparing for a dual fashioned in lightning scars and unforgiveable curses nearly two decades in the making. It too comes in waves, stopping for a few detours to see old friends and perhaps add depth to a moment that never needed it.
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 has a momentum unlike any film I have ever seen. With a backstory as vast as any non-Biblical, non-Homer, non-Tolkien epic, it opens running and hurdles through the finish, save a few lengthy and intimate pauses for closure. One of those pit stops, belonging to Severus Snape, is incredibly beautiful and layered. It may well go down as the most touching moment in any of the eight films. The other, belonging to Dumbledore and Harry, is awkward and slow. It will go down as the worst moment in any of the eight films. Maybe that brilliant success and colossal failure, separated by only a small gap of screen time, fall at the feet of director David Yates. Maybe they’re owed to author JK Rowling. Regardless, that quality polarization was inevitable.
Everyone involved with Harry Potter, from those who created it to those who cherished it, wanted the eighth movie to surpass all expectations. They wanted fists to pound, tears to flow and for it all, every single moment of screen time, to mean something. Unfortunately, webs this large are messy. They can’t be folded into glorious two hour ta-das, much as we would all like them to be. The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a serviceable conclusion to a fun ride. It’s not magic. Then again, there’s just no way it could have been.
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