To judge Part Two as a standalone film would be grossly unwise, as the finale is really the product of a story build-up that stems from the very first Potter celluloid, and anyone jumping on the bandwagon at this point would feel very lost indeed as this is not made for latecomers but for those who have invested in the tale from the very beginning. The series of films may not be cinematic masterpieces, but none of them are outright shit either like most that get spewed out of the Hollywood factory of sputum. Part Two is an uncommon sequel/finale of a franchise that benefits on the strength of its predecessors, only that the fireworks really do happen on this one. Whereas Part One was contemplative, moody and atmospheric, Part Two drops the meandering road-trip narrative and goes for an all-out war movie with the Hogwarts castle as the battleground between good and evil.
If that sounds quite black-and-white to you, thanks then to Alan Rickman who completely steals the entire show, transforming the sneering, vile Professor Severus Snape to a portrait of human fortitude and aching longing. Rickman elevates a film that is so hellbent in giving searing battle sequences. The flashback halfway in the film is perhaps the most poignant, tear-soaked sequence in the entire Potter film catalogue. That aside, everyone is bringing out their game on the table here – the main trio, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint bring consistent, increasingly mature performances, most particularly Radcliffe, whose world-weary hero resembles that of a man who learns to accept responsibility, fate and death. Pretty much all the big stuff in life. The film also marshals an assembly line of British thesps, all having their own miniature moments, with Dame Maggie Smith as the absolutely badass McGonagall marshalling Hogwarts’ knights to protect the castle exteriors, Julie Walters calling Helena Bonham-Carter a bitch and avada-kedavra-ed her to smithereens, and Ralph Fiennes fully fleshing out the sinister skin of Voldemort so superbly that we’re allowed to glimpse his vulnerability and even fear of uncertainty. There’s also a genuinely heart-tugging reunion of Harry and his family in the forest that will crumble any of the hardest audience.
And yet, it’s still far from a perfect film. If we are to nitpick, the opening scenes cry of tedium (thanks to a much-needed Gringotts heist chase, spectacularly done), the battle sequences halfway are sometimes lacking punch and pizzazz, Harry and Dumbledore’s white-washed reunion looks and feels awkward, and there are too many characters being killed off screen. David Yates, always the matter-of-fact, sensible filmmaker, delivers a brooding, menacing experience but he never gets quite the gut-punch catharsis by Rowling’s books; the same can be said to the screenwriter Steve Kloves, who seem to be ticking off a list and pleasing fans rather than letting the screenplay soar. A cinephile’s wishful thinking – we only wonder what sort of finale an artistic director such as Cuaron could make out of Part Two?
Deathly Hallows: Part Two delivers a rousing, grandstanding finale to a franchise that inspired popular imagination. This may not be the best in the series, artistically speaking, but David Yates marshals a film of many plot MacGuffins and gives the Potter phenomenon a worthy, emotionally resonant send-off.