Film review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

14 July 2011

Written by: Suzannah Macbeth

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 has been released Australia wide, and hundreds of fans clustered at cinemas in the wee hours of Wednesday morning for the first screening. There is no denying it: the final instalment of J.K. Rowling’s indisputably original stories packs a powerful punch. But it left an unsatisfying taste, for several reasons.

Director David Yates has once again done a phenomenal job, but Steve Kloves’s interpretation of the screenplay is weak and ultimately lacking. The movie works on the assumption that viewers have read the novels, with vital information left out of the film. The backstory to the life of late Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (played by Michael Gambon) is conspicuous by its absence. His brother Aberforth (Ciaran Hinds) makes an appearance and refers to a sister who may or may not have died, but the remarkable tale of Dumbledore’s struggle between good and evil is simply left out.

Furthermore, many significant deaths are glossed over. Rowling slaughtered a number of leading characters for maximum impact in the final book, but in the movie they are simply shown dead, with there is no screen time for their actual deaths. There is also a vague mumbling about Remus (David Thewlis) and Tonks (Natalia Tena) having a baby… but it’s treated as unimportant. Also lacking in screen time was the bumbling but loveable Robbie Coltrane, who plays half giant Rubeus Hagrid. Amazingly, Hagrid gets only two lines of dialogue in the entire script, and not until the end of the movie.

The dialogue sags in a lot of places, dragging out potentially touching moments and making them feel cheesy and overemotional, while at other times failing to impress at all.  For example, when Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is believed dead, the only one who seems to care at all is his girlfriend Ginny (Bonnie Wright), but her feeble ‘No!’ is quickly stifled and the scene progresses without anyone else batting an eyelid.

Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are given an extra scene in the Chamber of Secrets, which is nothing short of brilliant, but their kiss, that fans have waited ten long years to see, is short, awkward and shot from the entirely wrong angle.

And of course, Voldemort. Ralph Fiennes is laughably miscast as this profoundly evil supervillain and it has never been so clear as in this final movie. He frolics about, delivering his lines with effeminate grandeur and chuckling heartily at his own jokes. He even breaks character long enough to embrace Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton). The final showdown with Harry is painfully anticlimactic – it is over in a few minutes and even has some subtle homoerotic fumblings in it.

All these flaws aside, one has to concede that the visual effects are absolutely staggering. In particular, the battle scene at Hogwarts is stunning, as is the dragon that escapes from Gringotts. Acting is superb throughout the film, with the excellent Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) getting plenty of screen time. Molly Weasley (Julie Walters) executes a thoroughly spectacular kill of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter, also eerily brilliant) and Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) is wonderfully charming as the tentative hero.

But the absolute show-stealer in performance terms is Alan Rickman, who plays double agent Severus Snape with Oscar-worthy aplomb. The Prince’s Tale is beautiful and poignant, and the grief on Rickman’s face at a key moment is devastatingly real.

Of course, we all wish that Rowling had never included the nineteen-year-later epilogue, and no amount of brilliant filmmaking can save this from being the cheesy piece of tripe it is. However it is shot in a way that nicely mimics the closing scene of the first Harry Potter movie, The Philosopher’s Stone, adding a little closure for fans. It would be nicer still if Radcliffe had, after a decade of playing the same character, finally figured out what to do with his hands.

Despite its flaws, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a worthwhile film, full of danger, suspense, heartache and joy. If you do walk away disappointed, just remember: it’s a bloody brilliant book.

Corina Thorose is completing a Graduate Diploma of Journalism at La Trobe University.