Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 | David Yates, 2011
Note: This review reflects my first viewing of the film. Upon a second one, my opinion of it was raised, but some of these complaints still apply.
I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 last Thursday at a midnight show, but I have held off from writing a review because I wanted to let it settle for a bit. This is not normally the case, but I decided to do it for this particular one because, frankly, I was disappointed as I left the theater. This simply would not do, especially for my most anticipated movie of the year and so I decided to wait. Now, after letting things cool down for a bit, the movie seems better in retrospect, but it does have some humongous flaws. I really don’t feel like writing a formal review, so I will simply list the things that worked and did not work for me. Oh, and beware of spoilers.
• The top-notch production.
Stuart Craig deserves to be rewarded for being the most impressive and most consistent aspect of the whole series. Eduardo Serra’s cinematography is beautiful and captures the atmosphere of the books. The costumes, makeup, and visual effects are also outstanding.
• The performances
The whole cast, from the big players like Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, to the actors who are in it for a few minutes, like John Hurt and Ciaran Hinds (completely unrecognizable as Aberforth Dumbledore), give masterful performances. Radcliffe gives his best work in the series, as he finally has a more complex role this time around. But the movie belongs to the supporting players. Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith, and Alan Rickman finally have more to chew on with their roles, and they knocked it out of the park, especially Rickman.
•The Prince’s Tale
This particular chapter is the best thing that J.K. Rowling wrote in all seven books, and David Yates and his team do it justice. Of course, it would not have worked without Rickman’s awesome performance.
What didn’t work:
• Everything felt rushed
I understand that this is only half a movie, and that it is supposed to be an action movie. However, the uneven editing, and the obvious desire of the studio to keep it below 2.5 hours makes it feel more like a series of vignettes instead of a clear and cohesive narrative.
Also, as a result of desiring a shorter running time, there are some humongous plot holes. For example, Hagrid doesn’t show up in the movie until the last act of the movie, and when we do finally see him he’s tied up by the Death Eaters. We, the fans of the book, know that the spiders carried him off during the battle, but they don’t show that. And it is hard to believe that they didn’t shoot the film or that they story boarded an effects sequence depicting this. Also, the Mrs. Weasley vs. Bellatrix, one of the most iconic parts of the book series is shortened to about one minute, and as a result, the iconic line spoken by Mrs. Weasley loses some of its awesomeness.
This, along with what Yates said about the running time of his preferred cut of Order of the Phoenix, leads me to believe that in the future that at least his four films will get much needed extended cuts. I guess that WB is trying to mimic what was done with The Lord of the Rings, but the thing about those is that the theatrical cuts felt complete because they were Jackson’s preferred cuts and people that had not read the books would understand them easily. And the extended cuts were for the fans only. Obviously the Potter extended cuts would be for the fans only, but that does not mean that we should be shorthanded with the theatrical versions.
• Not much emotional impact
In the book, one of the most emotionally powerful moments was Fred’s death. It is so because one moment he is being playful with Percy, the brother that abandoned them for years, and all of the sudden he drops dead, surrounded by three of his brothers and Harry. In the movie, we just see his dead body for a second, and Ron crying. Now, that scene worked because Ron is crying, but then they cut to the dead bodies of Tonks and Remus and I felt indifferent towards that moment. They tried to get some “awwws” out of the audience by making them look like they were trying to hold hands (and they most certainly got a reaction from the audience), but if you think about it, it is impossible that they would be in that position still since the bodies had been moved.
• Did not deliver on the epicness
So, all along we were promised that this was going to be an epic of epic epicness, a balls-to-the-wall action movie unlike any we had seen before. But it wasn’t. Other than McGonagall’s fight with Snape, the Statue scene, and Neville’s bridge scene we don’t see much of the battle at Hogwarts. It’s just Harry’s quest for the remaining Horcruxes. Even in the showdown with Voldemort, the castle looked like it was empty, but there were supposed to be all these Death Eaters and good people fighting it out, but the most we saw was a couple of people in the background. And I hated how they handled the Harry/Voldemort showdown. In the book it all happened in the great hall, the most iconic set in the series with everyone watching, and it ends with Voldemort dying like a human being and the crowd erupting with cheers. But no, in the movie it happens outside, with no one watching, and the bad guy just crumbles away like magic. It goes against everything that Rowling was going for with her ending, but alas.
• The score
Now, I’m not faulting Alexandre Desplat for this since the music he wrote is beautiful. I’m faulting the director and the producers for actually using it. It did not fit the movie. Since this is supposed to be an epic, we need epic music. John Williams would have written perfect themes for the final showdown. Can you imagine a Williams composition like “Duel of Fates” being used during the Harry/Voldemort showdown? It would have been amazing. Hell, even if they had gotten Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, James Newton Howard, or even Clint Mansell to do an epic score it would have been so much better. There is a reason why the best music moments were when they used Williams’s actual music from Sorcerer’s Stone. Again, it’s not Desplat’s fault since his music is great, but he just doesn’t work for action movies. They say that Williams actually agreed to do the scores for the whole Deathly Hallows, but since he also had to score War Horse and Tin Tin he decided to drop Potter. That’s a shame, as it would have made the movie a lot better.
• Terrible directorial choices
I guess this can be attributed to all of the previous comments. Now, Yates does fine work most of the time, but there are some truly terrible choices of his. It may not have been his choice, but the killing of Nagini did not need to be extended, and it actually damaged Neville’s moment. Also, all the flaws and plot holes resulting from the editing can be attributed to him for giving his seal of approval. I also bet that the way the final showdown played out was his doing. His worst decision, however, was the placement of the epilogue.
The epilogue is the absolute worst thing that Rowling wrote in the entire series. But actually, Yates makes it work. It’s not as saccharine, and the absence of Rowling’s awful writing helped (I’m a fan of hers, obviously, but this was not her finest moment). But it should have been left as an after-credits sequence, as a reward for those who hanged around until the end, and as an excuse for those who missed it to go back to watch it once more. But where it is actually placed, it feels tacked on and pointless.
Hopefully the eventual extended cuts of all of Yates films will fill in all the plot holes in the movies and the ending will be made stronger. As it stands, it is a good ending, but the one this series deserves