After 10 years and seven previous movies, the Harry Potter saga based upon the astronomically popular novels by J. K. Rowling, reached its stellar and triumphant conclusion with the nationwide release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” several weeks ago. To say that everybody’s favorite boy-turned-man bespectacled wizard goes out in a blaze glory is the epitome of understatement. This movie has it all: unceasing action, continuing mystery, heartwarming romance, dazzling special effects, riveting battles, and unremitting charm. And don’t be surprised if this film contends for a number of Academy Awards including best picture and best director. This film fittingly picks up where the first part ended, and we find Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his two best friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), preparing to embark upon a mission to locate and destroy the final Horcruxes that the evil Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has hidden. The Horcruxes are various items in which Voldemort has placed parts of his soul, and all of them must be destroyed to render Voldemort capable of being killed.
Making matters even more difficult for our terrific trio is the fact the Voldemort has managed to obtain the coveted Elder Wand, the most powerful wand ever made and one of the three treasures comprising the Deathly Hallows. The other two are the Cloak of Invisibility, which prevents others from seeing its owner, and the Resurrection Stone, which can summon people’s loved ones back from the dead. The person who possesses all three of these items will be the Master of Death.
Before embarking on his journey, Harry meets with Ollivander (John Hurt), the owner of a shop specializing in wizard supplies, to have two wands analyzed and evaluated. He tells Ollivander of his plan to find Voldemort, who now has the precious Elder Wand, and Ollivander explains how wizards come by their wands and issues an ominous warning.
“The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter. If it’s true what you say and he has the Elder Wand, I’m afraid you don’t stand a chance.”
And Harry replies simply, “I suppose I’d better kill him before he finds me then.”
Let Harry’s final adventure begin. A traditional plot summary of this film may reveal too many of he myriad surprises in it, and so instead, I will simply run through some of the amazing segments that make up the movie. The first place Harry’s quest takes him is on a visit to the vault of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), a place overflowing with various treasures that seem to have a mind of their own and make escaping from the vault a real problem until Hermione finally enlists the help of a spectacularly rendered CGI white dragon.
A dip in a wilderness lake follows, and this results in an epiphany for Harry, who finally realizes why he has been linked to Voldemort by a kind of mental telepathy most of his life. To find out more about this, you’ll have to see the film for yourself. Of course no Harry Potter story would be complete without a visit to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where the frightening Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) now reigns as headmaster after having killed Harry’s beloved Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). But as the film progresses, we learn that Snape may not be as evil as he appears through a revealing glimpse at his background.
Among the film’s many spectacular scenes is the war waged between Voldemort’s Deatheaters and the students and staff at Hogwarts. These scenes rival, and perhaps even surpass, many of those similar war segments in the “Lord of the Rings” films. When Snape is forced to make an unexpected exit from Hogwarts, the indomitable Professor Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith) takes charge of the school and prepares it for battle as Harry frantically searches for a Horcrux hidden there.
Of course all of this is a prelude to the climactic final encounter between Voldemort and Harry, and this confrontation proves to be worth the 10-year wait. It is at once suspenseful, exciting, shocking, and satisfying. And after this, the film concludes in a manner that should leave every Harry Potter fan alive smiling and nodding in approval.
For those who have had the experience of watching all eight films in the series, it has been quite a broom ride. In addition to sharing some incredibly exciting adventures with Harry, Hermione, and Ron, fans of the series have seen Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint grow and evolve from adequate child actors into seasoned professional performers worthy of Oscar consideration. In the film’s production notes, all three of the stars explained what being a part of the films has meant to them.
“I couldn’t even attempt to sum up what the role of Harry Potter has meant to me, but I can say that I never took the opportunity to play him lightly,” Radcliffe said. “It may have been the same character, but like anyone else, Harry changed a lot over the years so, as an actor, I looked at each film as an opportunity to do something fresh and to develop another set of skills.”
“I feel very privileged to have played Hermione,” Watson said. “I think she’s someone young girls can look up to because she’s always true to herself. She’s very smart and an incredibly courageous and loyal friend who keeps a cool head in extremely difficult situations. It was wonderful to be able to bring across those elements of her personality throughout the films.”
“I know I’ll miss playing Ron because there was a time when I was him more than I wasn’t him,” Grint explained. “And I really liked the development of his character. He started out as a kid who was quite easily scared and it was nice to see him grow up to be brave and resourceful, particularly in this last movie where they are in such an unpredictable and dangerous place.”
In addition to being a masterpiece of special effects and incredible cinematography, the final Harry Potter film offers fascinating insight into various characters through the skillful use of flashbacks that punctuate the main action. The film also contains some incredibly touching and moving moments, and one of these occurs when Harry encounters Dumbledore in a place that very well could be heaven. At the end of their conversation, Dumbledore leaves Harry with a bit of very interesting advice.
“Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who deserve it. Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living and above all those who live without love.”
In addition to the outstanding performances turned in by Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson, the acting in this film from Smith, Rickman, Harris and everyone else for that matter is consistently superb. When the first films in the series came out, it was obvious how much more accomplished these adults were as actors than the then child stars. But that is no longer the case, and it will be very interesting to see where Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint go from here.
All those who have seen and loved the Harry Potter movies will have things about the films that they’ll never forget. It might be the excitement of the Quidditch matches or the wand battles or Snape’s glare or the long-awaited kiss between Hermione and Ron or whatever. But for me, the image that will stay with me forever is of Nagini, that magnificently unnerving gigantic snake that belongs to Voldemort. Never again will I retire for the night without checking under the bed. Of course, if I encountered Nagini staring back at me, you would never again read another word from me on this blog.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” (It gets an impressive nine.) definitely is the most consistently exciting and impressive movie of the summer thus far. It certainly is worthy of Oscar nominations in a number of categories, and it offers a fitting end to a great series. And when you consider the films as one work, you realize that the movies have grown more complex as the three main actors matured. Rickman expressed this idea best in the production notes.
“It’s about engaging the imagination because those are ‘muscles’ that also need to be developed as a child grows up. In order for that to happen properly, there have to be some big themes to think about. What’s right and what’s wrong? Who do I trust and who don’t I? What does it mean to be brave…and what does loyalty mean? It’s all in there.”
Amen, Professor Snape.