Fitting finale for a remarkable achievement
‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Director: David Yates
And so we come to the end. After 10 years and eight movies, Harry Potter and You Know Who face off for a finale that makes for a very satisfying ending to the longest, most successful movie franchise in history.
That in itself presented almost unbearable expectations. I found Part 1, which premiered last November, almost elegiac. Its pace seemed slow and out of sync with previous films as if director David Yates intentionally stretched the story to fit the two-part mandate. This last film picks up just where that one left off, as if you had stepped away for a minute to get a popcorn refill and rejoined the action. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) sits at the burial site of Dobby, a “Free Elf” as noted on his tombstone. Joined, as always, by his pals faithful Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and grounded Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), the action moves quickly to Gringott’s, where Harry seeks one more of the dreaded Horcruxes that give Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) his power.
One terrific thrill ride on an underground coaster and a live-saving lift from a dragon later, the action moves to Hogwart’s, where it will stay for the final showdown that involves almost every living character from the previous films. Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), a minion of the Dark Lord, is now the headmaster following the death of the beloved Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). Darkness has fallen over the institution as Death Eaters float on high awaiting, what we all know is coming.
The success of these movies through the years is owed, in part, to technological advances that make the all-important magic come to life. It also lies in the restraint the various directors have used in making the special effects (which kept improving with each installment) part of the story — not the whole story, and by grace or luck, the initial casting of the three leads. Radcliffe, Grint and Watson have matured from sweet children into fine young actors. And they have grown up. It was a shock when Harry pulled off a wet shirt to see he has — oh, my! — chest hair.
While I expected Yates to put on a fine show for the Hogwart’s siege and the battle to the death that follows because everything has led to this, what I didn’t expect was the surprising poignancy of this film. It’s found in the stolen moments the characters enjoy between saving the world — a quick kiss between Ron and Hermione, and another between Ginny and Harry and other scenes —which give this last one its heart and soul.
The three-Kleenex moment comes as Harry realizes his fate and accepts it with the help of some of those closest to him. Later, he and Dumbledore will share one last council together — the father figure teacher and the pupil, once an innocent boy, but no longer.
Radcliffe, currently wowing Broadway audiences in “How to Succeed in Business,” has never rested on his Potter status, but rather used it as a launching point to explore and broaden his talent, which is evident in the progression of films.
The same casting genius employed most of the working actors in the British realm, and I’ll miss the fun in seeing Shakesperean thespians such as Kenneth Branaugh as Gilderoy Lockhart, or the inimitable Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonigall enjoy their turns as some of J.K. Rowling’s many, many memorable characters. In addition, there’s Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix LeStrange and Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn. And Fiennes is a most terrifying villian. In this last episode, it is Rickman as the conflicted Snape who stands out the most as his true nature is revealed in a stunning montage. It is the character’s finest moment, and Rickman makes the most of it.They say all good things must come to an end. And each of these movies was a good thing — although some were a bit better than others. It’s a remarkable achievement that makes saying goodbye that much harder. So how long before the deluxe DVD edition?