MFR Rating: ★ ★
Warning: The following review contains important plot information. If you have not read the books then firstly, what is wrong with you? Secondly, you may not want to read further.
I was remarkably surprised by Deathly Hallows Part 1. It was a real achievement and had a wonderfully tight sense of hopeless, foreboding gloom throughout, despite fundamentally being obvious buildup to the main event. I thought I may be able to re-enter Harry Potter’s onscreen universe, having sat out from films 5 and 6 despite being an avid fanatic of the books. And so, I’d reluctantly bought my way back into the franchise having felt pleasantly satisfied with the pace and direction of the first half.
Unsurprisingly, Deathly Hallows 2.0 begins from where its predecessor left off, with Voldemort triumphantly capturing the elder wand from Dumbledore’s tomb. Cut straight to a painfully sinister image of Hogwarts, my spine tingled at the sight of the dementors’ encirclement of the great castle, Headmaster Snape glaring menacingly into the distance. Lovely, I thought. I’m back in the zone.
But then we find ourselves cutting straight to Harry in a long dialogue heavy sequence with Griphook the goblin as they try and untangle where they should go next. I joked with my friend beforehand that perhaps we should have a “Previously on Harry Potter…” sequence like on most serialized TV dramas in order for forgetful viewers like myself to remember just where the narrative has left us in terms of deathly hallows, elder wands and horcruxes. This is certainly the least stand-alone film imaginable. No room to remind us where we left off – that’s fine. You’ve seen the first film. Let’s keep moving. Plenty of room for Daniel Radcliffe to monotonously draw out some exposition and lead us the the next level of our video game. Let’s rob Gringotts. My friend made an excellent point which summed up my feelings quite nicely. Robbing Gringotts looks quite exciting and will no doubt threaten to take your head off if you were unfortunate enough to be watching in 3D, but the thing that’s set up in the book is that robbing Gringotts is a great event. “Yeh’d be mad ter try an’ rob it”, Hagrid informed us back in Philosophers Stone. To rob Gringotts is preposterous, outrageous, utterly illogical. But in HP7bPt2, it just feels like a plot point. Another square on a storyboard. It moves us from M, to N, to O. Everything in this film that should be fantastical just falls a little flat.
The majority of the film is understandably taken up by the climatic Battle of Hogwarts. Ralph Fiennes is terrific as Voldemort and really does capture the character’s malevolence wonderfully. I’m sorry to start going all fanboy but You-Know-Who aside, we really don’t know our enemy. Fenrir Greyback is, in my opinion, one of the most sinister characters in the entire book saga but here he is almost completely brushed aside. Bellatrix LeStrange, played by the impeccable Helena Bonham-Carter struggles to get a line in edgewise. But it’s ok because she’s on screen long enough for Mrs Weasley to deliever her ‘bitch’ line and cue annoying audience applause. And there she goes. As soon as I get to say Hello To Jason Isaacs™, Lucius Malfoy is snatched away. This is Voldemort versus Hogwarts, the rest may as well be stormtroopers, which is a shame as I’d hoped the benefit of giving us two parts would allow time to add a little flesh for us to attach to our dark marks. And the same can be said for the other side of the battle. Tonks and Lupin are dead. Oh dear, that’s sad. Wait, Tonks is even in the movies? Fred’s dead. Cue sad Weasleys for a second. But only a second. Cut. Let’s not even mention Colin Creevey.
But fanboy issues aside, the whole battle may be a triumph of special effects but it felt cold, soulless and quite frankly, dull. The lack of charisma from the three young leads is staggering. Absolutely no moment performed by any of the three left any mark on me whatsoever. And with everything they had to work with – friends dieing around them, feelings of guilt, confliction, mortality. This is the climax of a great saga for goodness sake. Harry prepared to face death with the look of a man slightly confused reading a bus timetable. Ron bumbled on offering the occasional moment of misplaced comic relief and Hermione just did her thing and looked pretty. These are our heroes. We care about them like friends, their friendship and bravery defines them as characters but they just feel devoid of any sense of urgency or passion. I know I chose to watch in 2D, but I didn’t mean it like that.
But it’s not only the young actors who look a little uninspired, when Aberforth Dumbledore recounts his disturbing and shocking family history, he looks utterly bored with the whole affair. Snape’s death felt incredibly sudden but on reflection that ruthlessness was probably apt and the inclusion of his memories in the Pensieve was integral, it’s just such a pity it had to be so rushed and editted more like a music video than a fundamental character reveal we’ve been waiting 8 films to understand.
After 8 films there’s always going to be an element of ‘goodbyes’. But it doesn’t feel so much like “farewell, so long, godspeed and thank you” but more “oh, see you later then”. Harry’s final destruction of the elder wand is performed with the vigor of someone snapping a twig. So that’s the ancient, all powerful wand we’ve been hearing about. Survived countless battles over centuries, but really a bit flimsy. Same can be said for Radcliffe’s acting. Oh, and then we’re treated to the epilogue. You see how Harry snapped that all powerful wand? Ruthless, huh? Maybe Director David Yates should have taken a leaf out of Harry’s book. We’ve just seen what is meant to be the epic finale of an extraordinary adventure, followed by 3 minutes of what plays out like unintentional, cringeworthy comedy before the titles roll? It doesn’t work, it doesn’t work at all. There’s a reason they had to go back to reshoot that bit, because it’s utterly redundant and uncinematic.
HP7b2D lacks a punch. I can understand the difficulties the film’s writers may have encountered trying to plot the less-than-cinematic elder wand narrative but I can’t understand why I felt so little for these characters I had cherished on paper and grown to care for once again in the first part of Deathly Hallows. There’s so much tiredness underneath. The gloomy foreboding which worked so well in the first film needed to be replaced with every ounce of cathartic emotion, pace and energy being cranked up to maximum. But more like a drizzle than a storm, it’s unmemorable, disappointing and never gets close to the climax the audience deserve.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (3D and 2D) is out now in the UK and US. Certificate 12A (UK).
Review by David Rank