- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
- Directed by David Yates
- Rated PG-13
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- Official Movie Site
- IMDb: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Rotten Tomatoes: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
“It’s complicated,” says boy wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) toward the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, explaining how he acquired some sort of mystical sword, and indeed much of the eighth and final film in the Potter series is quite complicated. If you aren’t a die-hard Potter fan, you might want to at least hit Wikipedia to refresh your memory before seeing the new movie. Dozens of characters make their appearances over the course of more than two hours (often just to utter a few words before being killed), and many viewers will need a concordance just to remember who these people are. That gives the story a sense of scope and grandeur, but it really comes down to a pretty simple thing: Harry and his friends are good, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his followers are evil, and good must triumph over evil. That’s your basic summer-blockbuster formula, and Part 2 delivers on it, offering up exciting action set pieces and a rousing finale to the somewhat overlong series.
After a few movies filled with a great deal of wheel-spinning, Part 2 wastes little time in setting the plot into motion: Voldemort has acquired a seriously powerful wand, and Harry and his ever-present companions Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) must find and destroy several Horcruxes (objects containing pieces of Voldemort’s soul) before finally confronting the evil wizard himself. The bulk of the movie involves the siege of Hogwarts, which has gone from the airy wonderland of the first installment to a dark, troubled place, its young inhabitants more prisoners than students. As Voldemort and his allies mass outside, Harry, his fellow students and the beleaguered professors (some of whom have been barely been seen for several movies) rally together to defend the place that has come to mean so much to them. Harry’s existence is the key to saving the world, as the movies have emphasized since the start, but Hogwarts is the heart of the series’ world, and seeing its denizens band together to preserve their beloved institution is more inspiring than Harry’s eventual one-on-one showdown with Voldemort.
There’s a sense of inevitability to that matchup that makes it a little empty after so much buildup. Obviously Harry has to fight Voldemort, but the confrontation feels more perfunctory than epic, less the culmination of eight movies’ worth of story than one final obligation before wrapping things up. The delaying tactics of the past few installments were often frustrating, but they also offered opportunities for the characters to grow and develop and to connect with the audience; Part 2 is all about grand battles, with little room for emotional exploration. The most affecting moment comes not as Harry vanquishes Voldemort or saves Hogwarts, but as he lies injured and retreats into a sort of fantasy world, conversing with his late mentor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). In a brief but lovely exchange, Dumbledore makes a case for the power of language and the stories we tell each other; it encapsulates the enduring appeal of the series more than all of the special effects and action sequences combined.