On July 15 many of us as a generation watched “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”, the final chapter of a series that helped define our childhood come to a close on the big screen.
There was a massive amount of hype built up and many hopes rode on a satisfying conclusion to a series that has earned a reputation for a massive level of varying quality from film to film. But how did the film actually live up to its audience’s expectations?
The first half of the film is somewhat of a train wreck. The first 20 minutes or so consisted of long, awkward, and clunky scenes of plot building and exposition. This allowed the filmmakers to spend roughly the next hour completely ignoring anything vaguely related to character depth or plot advancement so that they could focus instead on wacky sight gags and constant visual overload.
Warwick Davis returns as a goblin who helps Harry Potter and his friends break into Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Apparently all goblins are evil, as Potter seems to have no issues with drugging and indirectly killing people who are presumably just doing their job. Either that or the producer, when confronted by these problems, simply yelled “screw the moral issues, we need more dragons!”
It was like watching a highlight reel from the fourth and most brain-dead installment in the series “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”
At this point I found myself awkwardly shifting in my seat, wondering when we could stop spending time watching Potter ride around on a mine cart or fight a dragon and instead get on with something interesting and engaging.
Finally, roughly around the time our heroes arrived at Hogwarts, things began to take on some semblance of plot coherence. Of course, there was one scene that left me utterly baffled. Potter returns to Hogwarts to rescue it from Severus Snape, its new headmaster, by leading a rebellion.
Immediately afterward there is a scene where all of the members of Slytherin House are rounded up and sent to the dungeons. One would think that if this sort of thing was really necessary, the practice of imprisoning children who identified with a blatantly evil house of Hogwarts would have started a long time ago. Still, the well crafted escalation of tension made most of the minor plot issues easy to overlook.
There is one scene in the second half that stood out. A montage of memories from Snape, detailing his falling in love with Potter’s mother, his struggles as she rejected him and his emotional destruction at her untimely death. Alan Rickman truly did an amazing job at causing the audience to empathise with a character who many had hated since the first movie. Especially compared to the rest of the movie, this scene was beautifully executed.
Most of the rest of the film continues to build to an appropriately epic finale. This finale is then followed by one of the most bizarre scenes I have ever witnessed. Potter and his friends, now middle-aged with pot-bellies, usher their children off to school. It seemed entirely unnecessary and clunky, not to mention horribly creepy.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” offered a small nugget of true quality, but to get to it the audience was forced to wade through an hour of mindless sludge. It is not fantastic, but compared to most of what we’ve seen being churned out by Hollywood it has a good deal more heart. Hollywood just sometimes forgets what it does best and tries to be an over the top visual extravaganza.
“Harry Potter” has always shined brightest not when focusing on magic, but when focusing on the simple, human side of its protagonists, and there is plenty of humanity to be found in this final installment if you look closely enough.