In 2001 producer David Heyman was determined to bring the magical world of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series to the cinema. Ten years and 6.3 billion dollars in profit later, Heyman and director David Yates present to the world the finale of the Harry Potter movies. It all ends here and what an absolutely beautiful end it is.
The final movie creates enough wonder and solemnity to serve as the appropriate finale and offers an overwhelming feeling of closure for the loyal fans of the boy who lived. Reminiscing back ten magical years ago when it all began, Part II offers a stark contrast between the innocence of Harry’s first year of Hogwarts and the severity and danger of his quest to kill Voldemort.
Note to any potential viewers – “Deathly Hallows Part II” is not the ideal entry point for one who has yet to watch a Potter film. The last installment of the Potter movies picks up exactly where Part I ended, as it should, and thus the beginning of the movie simply doesn’t feel like a beginning. Yates wastes no time reminding the viewer of the events in Part I as it is expected that you should already know what happened. Part II opens with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) continuing their search for the seven horcruxes, objects in which Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has hidden away pieces of his split soul. Within ten minutes Harry, Ron and Hermione already find themselves in peril and the viewer has already been sucked into their magical world.
By establishing the story line so well in “Deathly Hallows Part I”, a movie often criticized for being a long, slow and dreary movie, Yates has allowed himself two hours and ten minutes of jam packed action and incident for the final installment.
The visual effects are out of this world, literally. The wand battles, dragons, goblins, crumbling castle, copious amounts of fire and rubble are seamless. Furthermore, Fiennes’ CGI look as the snake-nosed Voldemort has been perfected and no longer looks silly. With the addition of 3D, something I was quite weary about, the movie truly transports the viewer to Hogwarts. Instead of pelting the viewer with tons of rubbles and spells flying out of the screen, Yates instead opts to use the 3D as a tool to portray depth, something that enhances each setting of action especially the forbidden forest.
While I attempt to dance around spoilers, I can rave about the grand reunion of so many of the great characters that audiences have fallen in love with on screen over the past ten years. The Harry Potter films have become the who’s who of British acting and watching them all interact during the hour and a half long battle of Hogwarts literally left me speechless.
Fiennes has, over his 4 films, perfected his Voldemort counterpart. Gone is the character that seemed so bizarre he was almost humorous. A very real, very serious and very deadly character has taken his place. Fiennes is just plain scary this time around as he mercilessly kills with a very freaky pleasure all who try to get in his way.
As far as fan favorites, Maggie Smith as Professor Minerva McGongall, a character introduced to us within the first moments of the very first film, has her hour of well deserved fame in Part II. Smith perfectly portrays the loyal and protective professor who holds the lives of all of Hogwarts’ students in her hands. When she watches Hogwarts, her home for so many years, crumble around her the pain in her eyes takes immediate hold of the viewer. It was enough to make my theater so quiet that all you could hear were the quiet sniffles from the collective tears of the audience.
Part II pulls it all together; no loose end is left untied, including loose ends that the viewer may not have known existed. For the first time, the viewer can truly put into perspective that the story of Harry Potter is bigger than the adventures of the boy who lived. Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), another character that has been a strong presence since the beginning, reminds us in this final chapter that Harry’s story is one about life, death, loyalties and above all else love. Rickman’s absolutely flawless performance resonates with the audience well after the last credits role. The viewer can see through the film’s, and arguably the entire series’s, most pivotal moment that perhaps Harry has not sacrificed the most. We finally see the motives of Professor Snape and Rickman successfully translates Snape’s unbearable pain when the Prince’s Tale is finally shared with the viewer. Upon the end of the Rickman’s spellbinding performance there was not a dry eye left in my showing — and please remember it was a showing full of journalists reviewing the movie with a critical eye.
Of course, I must mention the superb job done by the golden trio Radcliffe, Watson and Grint. As actors. each has grown into their roles and in Part II each performs the best I’ve ever seen them on screen. With the high amounts of action and the surging emotions, much is asked of the now adult trio and, my gosh, they deliver. From Radcliffe’s anger and pain as he delivers a near perfect performance that captures the finality and sacrifice Potter must portray, to Watson and Grint’s portrayal of two teenagers caught in the battle of the century while simotaneously trying to keep their hormones under control. I’m not quite sure how they did it, but Radcliffe, Watson and Grint illustrate the powerful consequences (life or death) of their actions while constantly reminding the audience that this trio that the entire world’s fate depends on is made up of 17 year olds.
Ultimately, with a combination of visually stunning effects, brilliant directing and a cast that represents the best of Britain, it is no question that filmmakers saved the best Potter movie for last.
After 1,090,739 words, 3363 pages, 199 chapters, 17 hours and 14 minutes of film, 8 movies, 7 books, one boy who lived and countless millions of childhoods, Harry Potter is over. The film’s tagline “It all ends here” notes the enormity of the conclusion to a story such as Potter’s. As I stood to leave the theater I could hear critics saying, “let’s go home.” I smiled, wiping my tears away, thinking back to the conclusion of the very first Potter movie as Harry boards the Hogwarts Express back to London. He smiles at Hermione while he looks back at Hogwarts saying, “I’m not going home, not really.” Because after all, as J.K. Rowling, the one who started it all, said last week, “Whether you come back by film or by page, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”
Thank you for everything Harry. In both the wizarding and muggle world all is well.