a critiQal film review Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

Plot: The end begins as Harry (Radcliffe), Ron (Grint), and Hermione (Watson) go back to Hogwarts to find and destroy Voldemort's (Fiennes) final horcruxes, but when Voldemort finds out about their mission, the biggest battle begins and life as they know it will never be the same again.

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  • ...this 8th film is a fitting conclusion, wrapping things up nicely while allowing viewers to say their last goodbyes to the characters they have come to know so well over the past decade.

Some times a movie comes along that viewers spend all summer waiting for. In a summer that has already seen Thor (2011), Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) and Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) – and with Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) still to come – there is really only one movie that everyone has been clamoring to see this summer – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

Now that it’s here, there wasn’t a chance we were going to miss seeing it opening weekend. But, would Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 going to be the epic conclusion to a series 10 years in the making, or is there just no way any film could live up to viewer’s expectations by this point?

At first, Daniel Radcliffe seemed to fit the Harry Potter role in looks only. With his horn-rimmed glasses and mop of brown hair, he seemed exactly what readers pictured. Unfortunately, viewers found out early on that although he could look the part, he wasn’t exactly up to the task of acting it. He managed to muddle through the first couple of pictures, finally coming into his own with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005).

In the finale, with his stubble evident on his chin, it’s a much more grown-up Harry Potter than the young newbie viewers first met in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), and Radcliffe seems more than up to the task now. Even while battling deeply unsettling issues of life and death, his grim determination sees him through, and his weariness over the issues he has dealt with seem etched not only on his face, but in his eyes. It’s a much more confident Harry Potter than anything we’ve seen up to this point, never once doubting he’s doing what must be done. It’s a much tougher – and camera-attracting – Potter than anything previously, and one viewers will follow easily (if with a bit of sadness) on this final journey.

His longtime friends, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, have also grown up on screen, with Granger showcasing talent long before her male pals could catch up (see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) to see the best example of her outdistancing her co-stars in talent). Ron Weasley’s Rupert Grint, unfortunately, went through his awkward growing period recently, and viewers still remember a bit of that gangly teen, despite his growing having settled down by this point. Still, as with Daniel Radcliffe, it will be hard to see him as anyone but Ron Weasley for quite a while. Emma Watson, however, seems to have surpassed her Hermione character, leaving viewers feeling that while she may have started her career with Hermione Granger, it definitely won’t end there.

And that’s just the three main members of this star-studded finale. Over the years, the Harry Potter series has included quite a few memorable names among it’s roster, and many of them – including Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham-Carter, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, John Hurt, Warwick Davis and even Gary Oldman – return for this finale. With the large battle sequences that make up the crux of their parts this time around, not a lot of them get solid screen time. The only exceptions are Helena Bonham Carter, in a hilarious play-up as a disguised Hermione, and Alan Rickman, whose Snape character turns in another solid performance.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy to bring back characters on film as it is in a novel, so there are some noticeable absences this time around, including Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), Cedric Digory (Robert Pattinson) and, most noticeably, Crabbe (Jamie Waylett, who had to be written out after his arrest and conviction on drug charges).

As the final film in an 8-part series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has a tough job. It’s got to wrap up the film series in a way that will appease fans, while also including enough nostalgia to give viewers a chance to say goodbye once more to their favorite characters. Thankfully, J. K. Rowling’s novel had this formula down to a T, and the film does a solid job of providing a solid mix of both new and old to finish off the series the right way.

With that double task, one would think this would the longest Harry Potter yet, at 2 hours and 10 minutes, it’s actually the shortest film in the series. It’s surprising, since it means that most of the sequences are intentionally brief, giving viewers nary a chance to catch their breath – and also no real chance to stop and say goodbye. Maybe that’s on purpose, as without a chance to stop, viewers don’t really notice how fast the film is moving until it’s all over. They just stay caught up in the moment, aware they are witnessing history in the making.

Despite it’s shaky beginnings, the Harry Potter film series has managed to keep the same cast – even the young ones – throughout the entire series. More importantly, they have managed to keep viewers enthralled for a total running time of more than 19 1/2 hours of film. That’s quite a feat for something that started out as just another children’s story about an orphan boy.

This final tale is a fitting conclusion to the series, and while it may have it’s shortcomings, the epic feel of this landmark finale is easily evident. By the end, viewers will be happy to have been able to take this decade-long journey with Harry Potter and his friends.

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