The first five Harry Potter books were read by my family members, so I read them too. They're great books, but since my family quit reading them, I haven't gotten around to buying a set to read the last two chapters of the story, leaving the last three Potter films to hold up on their own merits. Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 did just that, reminding me of all the things I liked about reading Rowling's writing, and conveying enough of the details (a few minor quibbles aside) to prevent me from feeling like I was missing out on the richness of the books (at least while they were going, anyway). Hallows 1 got me really excited, adding a particularly pleasing element of danger, which is probably challenging to bring to the first half of a two-part movie.
It pains me to say that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 did not have the same effect on me. I admit, if you read all of the books, you might feel the movie shouldn't have to bear all of the weight; the films have always felt like companions to the series rather than replacements, and expecting a film finale to pack the punch needed to deliver on the first five books may be asking too much. Yet, even taken specifically within the spectrum of the film series, this is a frequently lifeless, uninventive exercise, delivering too much of the same instead of going out with a bang.
When we left Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson), they were hiding out, looking for the last few Horcruxes. The journey to find the rest of them takes them to the vaults at Gringotts', and eventually back to Hogwarts, where an all-out war between good and evil is about to rage. It's baffling how these scenes lack the tension of similar scenes in the previous chapter, where Harry and friends had to journey to places where they might have been confronted or caught and it felt like a real risk. Here, it's like the characters can go wherever they want with all the time in the world, and even when things go wrong there's no sense that anything bad is going to happen. Even in a scene where the characters are hiding right next to a window with Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) on the other side, there isn't the slightest hint of tension.
In a movie where hundreds of wizards face off against hundreds more, smashing apart Hogwarts, Part 2 is almost completely devoid of scale and scope. Yates' big problem is his refusal to visualize anything bigger or in any way different from what has come before. Harry and Voldemort face off several times during Deathly Hallows Part 2, and I don't think it's wrong as a viewer to expect it to seem bigger or at least a little different from similar moments in other chapters. Instead, Yates does what he knows, and it's disappointing. Even scenes that do new things (I'm thinking of a major scene in the third act) are fairly boring to look at. Warner's terrible post-conversion may be partially to blame here: for a film that essentially gained almost a year when the studio decided to convert just 2 instead of both final chapters, there's no sign that that time was spent wisely. It's only slightly better than the post-conversion granted to WB's Clash of the Titans, and that's saying something.
It also doesn't help that Yates has saved the shortest for last, when both parts of Hallows could've gone on for ages without impacting fans' interest. I might be wrong, but I got the distinct sensation that Part 2 was jumping from moment to moment (like Mrs. Weasley's big line) without the build these moments may have had in the books. Why the film doesn't spend more time on the material is a mystery; it certainly wasn't done to beef up the movie's emotional core, because for the first time in the entire series, the sentiments being conveyed come off as almost completely treacly. There are several meaningful messages being conveyed in Deathly Hallows Part 2, both thematic and character-based, and I can only imagine how well they were delivered in the book. In the film, they land with disappointing clunkiness -- not a fault of the actors, who are as good as they've ever been, but the writing, which boils everything into hollow platitudes, and again, Yates' direction, which lacks that certain something. I'm an easy mark when it comes to getting misty-eyed at a movie, and not one moment of Deathly Hallows -- even moments I could tell were coming from the first five books and have been waiting to experience -- even came close to making me well up.
In terms of the franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a sure thing. With the books finished, the final Potter film is the last major event for fans, and judging by pre-sale records, this is already potentially the biggest film in the franchise. As someone who has yet to experience the finale in its original form, I looked forward to the film as a surrogate experience, and I was thoroughly underwhelmed. Hallows Part 2 isn't the worst of the series by any means (the first two are worse), but everything that happens feels perfunctory, paying off the promises of Part 1 without any of that film's electric momentum. I've always hoped the Potter films, at their best, would stand on their own, but Deathly Hallows Part 2 is only a potent reminder that the books are the real deal.
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