After 10 years of being the dominant pop culture phenomenon, Harry Potter seems poised to finally fade into the background with the release of the final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. It is not going to disappear, not with the theme park and whatever is going on with Rowling’s new pottermore website, but with no significant new content on the horizon, Potter’s popularity will certainly diminish. Luckily, for Potter fans, Deathly Hallows Part 2 ends the series with a suitable bang.
The Potter movies have never been great films, they were mostly adequate conversions that entertained with good renditions of favorite scenes and by capturing roughly, half of the charm of the books, and Deathly Hallows Part 2 is no exception. It has the truly magical feel of the Potter Universe, even if it is not wholly successful as a film. Like the previous films, Deathly Hallows Part 2 alternatively lingers too long on some scenes and cuts too quickly on others. Since Part 1 did all the legwork and set-up, Part 2 is allowed to take its time to create an excitingly satisfying final showdown. And it delivers; Part 2 is nothing if not exciting.
While Part 1 focused totally on Harry, Ron and Hermione, Part 2 has chances for most of the supporting cast to shine. Luckily, Potter’s supporting cast is basically a who’s who of fine actors. McGonagall (Maggie Smith) and Snape (Alan Rickman) are as good as always and Ralph Fiennes is suitably disturbed as Voldemort. The list goes on so long (Warwick Davis, Helena Bonham Carter) it is easier to point out the ones whose roles were oddly diminished. Most notable among them are Ginny Weasley and Hagrid. The Weasley family is present, but individually there is little for them to do. And Hagrid, arguably the most important character in the series after the main trio, is barely there at all. Still, even with those oversights, Part 2 does a good job of highlighting the large cast the series has built up over the previous seven movies while never truly moving the focus off the conflict between Harry and Voldemort.
Deathly Hallows Part 2 is much more action oriented than the usual Potter film and there are some truly amazing sequences, such as the Gringotts escape and the fight with Nagini. During the attack on Hogwarts, the film does a good job of conveying the chaos and confusion of the battle, but it is all impersonal. The focus is literally on Harry; the combatants in the background are impossible to distinguish. The deaths from the books are not changed, but they happen off screen (The book gets away with this by having time to linger on the deaths more, the movie must keep moving.) They end up feeling less like terrible losses and more like marks on a checklist.
Even with its problems, all of its chaos and oddly slow moments, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is about as good as a straight adaptation of the book could hope to be. The sheer amount of material to cover makes a conversion of any Potter book an exercise in precise selection of importance. A looser adaptation might have made for a more coherent film (and series of films) but there is no way that Potter fans would have tolerated it. Nor would they have had any reason too.
In the end, Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is no great deviation from the rest of the series in terms of quality or style. By the nature of being only the second half of a story it is more action focused than the previous films, but it makes for a perfectly satisfying conclusion to this revered series.