The end of the end of Harry Potter
It was a long time coming. First the book, then through part 1—we’ve had years to say goodbye to Harry Potter. And yet, I wasn’t ready. Walking into the theater, I got really sad. I was eighteen and a college freshman when I started my time at Hogwarts. I’m twenty-eight and an adult now. I shouldn’t be maudlin over a young adult series, yet I am. I generally don’t have a hard time leaving behind the places a good book creates inside oneself, but I never wanted to leave Hogwarts. Of all the literary worlds I’ve read about or imagined, the only one I would actually want to live in is the world of Harry Potter. Please. Like we all wouldn’t want to be there. So yes, I was choked up going into the theater and only half-ready to say goodbye.
I loved the movie because I am a fan of Harry Potter and I don’t really care if the thing was just sequenced shots of peep dioramas—I was going to love Deathly Hallows part 2 no matter what. And there was a lot of greatness in it. Alan Rickman threw down as Snape; the execution of his death scene was handled brilliantly. I loved the addition of the boathouse on Hogwarts’ lake, I love that even in the final film the producers and crew behind the HP franchise continued to add to and build in the world. The boathouse allowed showing Snape’s death without actually showing it. The look on Harry’s face as he witnessed Nagini attacking Snape through the window is heartbreaking.
And oh god. The look on Snape’s face when he holds Lily Potter after she’s died. His raw anguish, his very real suffering and palpable love juxtaposed against the totally heedless way he storms over James Potter’s body on the stairs and his total lack of interest in the crying baby. That captures Snape’s love perfectly. It’s a total, all-encompassing love, sure, but it’s a selfish love, too. Alan Rickman was stellar. There are murmurings of a possible Oscar campaign for him. I’m not sure he was physically in the movie enough to really convince the Academy to nominate him, but what he accomplished in his brief scenes was the best acting in the entire franchise.
My other favorite acting moment was in the very beginning when Voldemort realizes Harry and his friends are destroying horcruxes. The look of pure terror in his eyes is why you shell out the money for a guy like Ralph Fiennes. Buried under makeup and CGI, Fiennes still communicates with only one look the fear and the madness that are overtaking Voldemort. Watch that again and tell me it isn’t a brilliant piece of acting. Everyone else acquits themselves nicely. The Holy Trinity of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint developed into decent enough actors. They each show glimpses of abilities beyond decent but generally they stick to the basics with their characterizations. I’m not complaining. They get the job done and they do it well. Just not like, Rickman/Fiennes well.
The standout for me was Alexandre Desplat’s (The King’s Speech) score. For both parts of Deathly Hallows the filmmakers brought in some new blood with Desplat, who is currently my favorite working movie composer. His score is haunting and stirring and serves the much, much darker tone of Deathly Hallows part 2 very well. Another standout is Matthew Lewis, who shocked the internet last week by showing up at the London premiere looking nine kinds of hot. Neville Longbottom got a few key scenes and he carried them off well, injecting some needed humor into the movie, but also providing a foil for Harry. I got the feeling in the book that, in Harry’s absence their last year, Neville really emerged as a leader at Hogwarts. I’m glad that the movie preserved that. Also, Lewis is super hot. Did I mention that?
As for the technical stuff at which Harry Potter usually excels—it’s all there. The VFX are great, costuming was wonderful (I want to be McGonagall for Halloween), and if the direction suffered a bit for choppy editing, it’s easily overlooked thanks to an assured tone and pace. I know some people have bitched about the pace but have you read the book? From the break in at Gringott’s on it’s a downhill run. The movie kept a similar pace. So yeah, I really loved Deathly Hallows part 2.
Except for a minor logic gap and an epic motherfucking continuity fail. First, the logic gap. Cho Chang is in the hideout Neville has created in the Room of Requirement and she’s wearing school robes. If I remember right, Cho does show up at the Battle of Hogwarts (along with Wood?), but she’s a year older than Harry so she shouldn’t be wearing school robes at this point. Not a huge deal, but I definitely noticed and raised an eyebrow. What was a much, much bigger deal—it elicited a horrified gasp from the 200+ people in my theater—was the young Lily Potter and her big BROWN eyes. The books and the movies have spent over a decade emphasizing how Harry has his mother’s eyes and here is Radcliffe and his baby blues locked in a stare-down with Snape before Harry visits Snape’s memories. Snape’s dying words, “You have your mother’s eyes” are followed by Harry NOT having his mother’s eyes.
How do you even mess that up? The ONLY casting requirement for the little girl who would play young Lily Potter is “must have blue eyes”. You can’t show me a close-up of Radcliffe’s blue eyes along with the line, “You have your mother’s eyes” and then cut to a kid who DOES NOT HAVE THE SAME EYES. This is driving me nuts. I simply must stop myself from caring about this but it’s a glaring mark against a franchise that has been so careful and dedicated to every detail over the years.
Still, those things aside, I found Deathly Hallows part 2 to be a satisfying, thrilling end to the Harry Potter franchise. I also thought that this movie, more than any other, handled the theme of “those we love never really leave us” the most elegantly. They got through that idea without bashing us over the head with it (although Harry’s scene with the ghosts of his dead loved ones came pretty close to head-bashing), and they used it to show how that can give us courage and inspire. Deathly Hallows part 2 struck all the right notes of action, adventure, friendship, courage and love. I wasn’t ready for the end but now that the end is here, I can embrace it. Thanks for ten good years, Harry.