So here we are, at the end of an era. With the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, we witness the close of a literary and cinematic phenomenon. And in the immortal words of Ron Weasley, it’s bloody brilliant.
The final instalment of the franchise sees Harry, Ron and Hermione continuing their quest to destroy the remaining horcruxes – those tricky little fragments of Voldemort’s soul – so that the Dark Lord can finally be killed. Forced to return to Hogwarts, the school becomes a war zone as the series reaches its final, extraordinary climax, and Harry faces up to his destiny.
Part 2 is, by all accounts, an unbelievable feat. Where the first part plodded along, from one-scene-in-a-tent to yet-another-scene-in-a-tent, the second part is an exhilarating rush of action from the word go. Its grip on you never falters; but the wonderful achievement of it is the depth it retains. No matter how epic the action gets, our focus is still securely and unremittingly on the characters themselves. And it’s in this film, more than any of the others, that they each come into their own.
Harry himself, in particular, is a revelation. Somewhere along the line, Daniel Radcliffe seems to have matured into a remarkably capable actor, and his hold on this iconic, bespectacled character has become a brilliant display of subtlety and hidden depth. Similarly, Rupert Grint continues to encapsulate the comedic genius of Ron Weasley, and even Emma Watson manages to put in a decent run. We’ve grown up alongside these young actors and their respective characters, and seeing them as fully matured adults is a bit of a haunting experience; as their childhood comes to an end, I feel like we’re leaving ours behind, too.
The supporting characters are, as always, wonderful, and in this final film director David Yates gives them a chance to shine. Maggie Smith is especially brilliant as the surprisingly feisty McGonagall, and Alan Rickman is finally given the screen time he deserves as Severus Snape. The main tragedy of the adaptations has consistently been their lack of focus on his character, the most intriguing and delightful figure of the books. But Rickman, in this final film, has been allowed to make up for it by providing the best scenes of the entire series – especially as the mystery behind his character is finally, poignantly revealed.
All in all, it’s a stellar achievement. There are flaws, of course: the dodgy final scene comes to mind, and the romance between Ron and Hermione is disappointingly anti-climactic. But Yates more than makes up for them. He’s managed to blend action-packed blockbuster with emotional depth, and a real artistic flair; something too many Hollywood directors are failing to grasp. On the whole, the films have been a bit hit-and-miss, and at times they’ve been downright awful. But boy, does Mr. Potter go out with a bang.