‘Harry Potter’ ends in spectacular fashion
With swatches of monochromatics, swirling smoke, inevitable tears and thunderous applause throughout, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” sums up the decade-long movie saga, where, in 2001, we first met the famously scarred orphan Harry Potter living in a broom closet with relatives unfit to raise children. Now, 10 years later, in a deeply satisfying (if bittersweet) conclusion to a series that has defined a generation of young and old readers alike, Harry shows us the transition he’s made from being a wonderful boy to becoming a brave man.
But it’s not just the movie characters who have grown up before our eyes. As Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) have transformed into powerful adult wizards, so, too, have their real-life counterparts blossomed into stars and starlets. Radcliffe now has a beard, Watson is on the cover of July’s Vogue and Grint … well, Grint is still just Grint. And it’s only natural.
When the first movie was released in November 2001, Chris Columbus was director, a man whose directorial touch was light and humorous. Pranks abound, and the only character who died was the villain. Now, in chapter seven, part two, beloved characters are slain in combat. Friendships and allegiances are strained to — and past — the breaking point. Mortality is the constant, overarching theme. It’s dark and grave, only fitting for the war that unfolds before you. For those who have grown up with the stars, you will be moved. You may cry. Growing with these characters and actors has proved poignant. From their days as vulnerable youngsters roaming the halls of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry to defending that same school with their very lifes, they have become irresistible. Honestly, who else could you imagine playing Harry now? Who else could show us this world of wonder and excitement?
“Part 2,” directed by David Yates (director of the last three “Harry Potter” installments) and the second film of the seventh tome in J.K. Rowling’s international best-selling series, continues directly where “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” left off. (“Part 1” is best described as incipient, a bruising wind-up noted for the death of Dobby and the near-endless bickering between the main trio. However, “Part 2” enjoyed a much brisker pace because of this foundation.) Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, “Harry Potter” movies) has claimed the title of headmaster of Hogwarts. The Ministry of Magic has fallen. And Voldemort, otherwise known as He Who Must Not Be Named (Ralph Fiennes, “The English Patient”), has become ever more powerful.
Harry and Co. continue their exhaustive hunt for the Horcruxes (items in which Voldemort has sealed off a piece of his soul in an effort to gain immortality). The Deathly Hallows — three legendary magical items — are introduced, both to explain certain actions of Voldemort and as another method by which to defeat him.
War soon ensues between the forces of good and evil, and causalities happen. On both sides. Love is declared, hastened by the looming threat of death. And, in the end, the story that has captivated millions worldwide will draw to a close.
Radcliffe, by nature of his character, was admirable in his acting; he held the plot together, while Watson and Grint, understandably having less to do, provided great support. All three have some impressive moments in the movie, but let’s not forget about the adults.
A franchise known for being a platform for some of Britain’s best actors, it did not disappoint. Everyone from Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, Maggie Smith, Jason Isaacs to David Thewlis stepped up. But the stars of this set would have to be Fiennes’ Voldemort and Rickman’s Snape.
Fiennes, part of the series since the fourth movie, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” has added visceral touches of cruelty and sadism to the sharply featured Voldemort, his spidery hands and whispering hiss sending chills down your spine.
And Rickman, portraying Harry’s longtime antagonist, carries the movie to emotive heights, with his pale skin and greasy black hair conveying death in ways words cannot.
And a special shout-out is due for Smith’s Professor Minerva McGonagall, who bounces between school stalwart and gleeful commander-in-chief.
Part of the magic of the “Harry Potter” movies is that, thanks in no small part to the actors, a series that is essentially a children’s tale of good versus evil has morphed into an epic of human struggle, of overcoming obstacles no normal child contends with, of delving into the grays of life. That’s no small feat. And as the icing, this all is done without eye-blinding special effects. Instead, the characters and their stories overshadow the effects (even if the dragon is terrifyingly realistic). Such is the mark of a great story brought to the screen with the respect it deserves.
The end of childhood came — steady, inexorable, fatalistic — at the credit roll of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” But, in spectacular Harry Potter fashion, what a way to go.
Five stars out of five, and a critic’s choice.