I was there in 2007 waiting for my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the night of its release. I’d only started reading the books two years prior thanks entirely to Ralph Fiennes unveiling as Lord Voldemort and subsequent Kedavra-ing of Cedric in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. My appetite for all things Potter from that moment on resulted in my first ever midnight book release. All these years me and my sister planned, with much anticipation, to do the same when the final film(s) were released theatrically but as is so often the case in the Potterverse, life gets in the way.
It’s incredible the difference waiting two whole days can have on a viewing experience. If I had gone with my sister and fellow Harry Potter “enthusiast” (to put it mildly), I bet the only thing to break the utter silence would be the odd guffaw and sob instead the incessant belches and giggles and frantic whispers I was subjected to. I felt the self-imposed delay of my review was necessary after that unfortunate experience—the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the most significant cinematic event of my life thus far so it’s only right that it be done properly.
Speaking of, I initially loathed the idea of a Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2. Why bother now? J. K. Rowling and producer David Heyman didn’t feel the need to split Goblet of Fire or Order of the Phoenix, far longer chapters in print than Deathly Hallows. Yet, after seeing Part 1 and now Part 2 I can say not only is the split justified but Steve Kloves’ near-perfect adaptation and concise cleaving of Rowling’s seventh and final novel won me over.
In structure and tone, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is completely different from Part 1. Essentially, it is a war film and director David Yates ably illustrates the grim reality of the stakes facing our trio of Gryffindors while somehow managing to stay in the realm of PG-13. Yates masterfully wields a powerful command over the cinematography once again—this is Harry Potter at its bleakest with only a few brief rays of sunlight piercing through the gloom of Voldemort’s inevitable descent upon Hogwarts.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts 1 & 2 are far and away Yates’ best efforts to date not only in style but in substance, an area where both Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince were occasionally lacking. By splitting Deathly Hallows in two, Yates’ fast-paced, almost entirely visual style has room to breathe. He strikes a balance between visual and expository narrative momentum that has eluded the Harry Potter franchise since Alfonso Cuarón’s revelatory Prisoner of Azkaban. Nothing is rushed in Deathly Hallows, the loose ends are tied in a bow, and everything (well, almost everything) makes sense.
The Elder Wand is a highly complex plot device for the average movie goer—perhaps even for younger fans of the novels and almost certainly too complex for their parents. I admit I was perplexed as to exactly how Harry triumphed over Voldemort in their final locking of wands. I have since familiarized myself with Rowling’s magical lore (it’s the allegiance that transfers, not the wand’s power) but surprisingly this had little affect on my second viewing because grasping the convoluted plot mechanics of Harry and Voldemort’s final duel is inconsequential in comparison to the crystal-clear emotional significance of Harry’s struggle over absolute evil.
This is in large part thanks to titular hero played by Daniel Radcliffe who, more so than any other entry in the series to date, carries Deathly Hallows Part 2 and oftentimes without his companions Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. Radcliffe does fantastic work—his best to date—making Harry a root-able yet hapless protagonist who knows he can count on his friends and is keenly aware of his enemy’s weaknesses. Radcliffe’s come a long way since Sorcerer’s Stone or Chamber of Secrets and Deathly Hallows Part 2 sees him acting comfortably side-by-side (or often toe-to-toe) with the strongest thespians Britain has to offer.
Of course, a hero is only as memorable as his villain and Ralph Fiennes’ Lord Voldemort finally gets his due screen time after what were essentially cameos in Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows Part 1. Fiennes’ portrayal is the stuff of legend and his take on the ruthless, soul-splitting murderer will surely be placed among the pantheon of iconic cinema villainy along the likes of Darth Vader, Hannibal Lector, and The Joker. And unlike many villains who strike me as one-dimensional, getting to see Voldemort at varying levels of power until he is eventually viscously thrashing like a wounded animal is one of the most compelling and well-realized evil-doers to date.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 isn’t perfect—there are nitpicks and omissions and alterations to take issue with—but it is great. Harry Potter’s universal themes of friendship and love, its struggles against bigotry and the lust for power, its enchanting settings, captivating tales, and iconic, beloved characters have and will continue to surpass any momentary trivialities and these classic works will continue to live on in our hearts and minds for generations to come.