Published on July 20th, 2011 | by Jordan Petersen0
REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is an absolute triumph. No matter how many people point out the miracle of this film’s existence, it bears repeating. So there, I’ve repeated it.
That’s not much of a start to a review of a film like this, though. I hardly feel as though it’s my place to sit here, alone at my computer, and tell you what I thought of it. Any criticism of this film especially — good or bad — deserves a conversation. We ought to be able to sit together and talk about it. Perhaps no film has more thoroughly entered the public consciousness than this one, standing as it does at the end of such a franchise.
But that’s the nature of this medium, the film review. And so I’ll write it for you, and you’ll read it without me there, and you’ll agree or disagree with what I say and it’s possible you and I will be able to talk it over someday. Regardless, I hope that I can in some way contribute to your experience with this massive cultural monolith.
I could spend the rest of the review on how incredible it is that these films even exist. Or the fact that Daniel, Rupert and Emma — along with the rest of the outstanding, mesmerizingly talented actors who supported them — successfully breathed life into fictional characters for over a decade. I could go on about how the films stack up to one another, and then explain that even though a few of them were quite wretched, they are together unarguably wonderful.
Instead, I’ll just talk about this film, the last of the franchise. All the rest of what I want to say will have to wait for the intimacy of dinner tables, house parties, quiet living rooms and the conversations that will surely surface again and again for a generation.
So let’s talk about David Yates, because he saved this franchise by elevating it to cinematic greatness, starting with the fifth film, and ending with this final masterpiece of adaptation filmmaking.
One of Yate’s greatest strengths is his fearlessness in exercising restraint. I went into this last film with the expectation that it would be something of a nonstop action thrill ride, since Part I had been so determinedly subdued. I was surprised (quite pleasantly), to find similar subtlety in Part 2, arguably the most grandiose of the series. Yes, there is spectacle aplenty, styled wondrously by a team of visual filmmakers who deeply understand their craft — but all that fire and fury would be powerless without the quiet moments against which they are so expertly staged.
It’s mostly a matter of pacing, emotionally moving the audience from one scene to the next, sequence after sequence, and keeping everything strung together into one cohesive whole. This is a devilishly difficult task in any film, but especially so in a film as busy and noisy as this one. Yates and his immensely talented crew pull it off, however, delivering a profoundly rich and textured film without sacrificing the impression that it is all of a piece, whole and unified by theme and purpose.
Perhaps the simplest way to summarize the worth of this film is to say that it works. The resonance is there. The action, the story, the style, the substance — it’s all there. Everything that needed so badly to work, to conclude the most impressive cinematic accomplishment of a generation in a satisfying way, did.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 may not be the greatest film ever made, but it’s good enough to be called great — and with conviction. I will even go so far as to say that the world could not have hoped for a better incarnation of J.K. Rowling’s final book in this internationally beloved franchise. This is, for those who seek entrance into her fantastical world, as good as it can get, and so much better than anyone had any right to expect. ♦ ♦ ♦
Jordan Petersen is SOUND’s resident sensei of all things movie-related. He is currently a film student at Brigham Young University. Check out Jordan’s filmmaking blog at twentyoneninety.blogspot.com.