Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Posted on July 14, 2011 at 8:00 am

Before I tell you about this film and about how much I liked it, I want to say thank you to J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers for the care and devotion they gave to this extraordinary story.  On the page and on the screen, this tale of The Boy Who Lived, from sleeping in a closet under the stairs and his first days at Hogwarts to the final confrontation with He Who Must Not Be Named (or perhaps He Who Must Be Named to be Confronted), it has been genuinely thrilling, deeply moving, and thoroughly satisfying.

There has never been and may never be again a story so electrifying over so many pages that has been so devotedly and expertly translated to the screen, with, remarkably, the same cast throughout (with the exception of the original Dumbledore, the late Richard Harris) to preserve our sense of seamless immersion in its world.  Those of us lucky enough to start at the beginning and follow from the publication of the first book in 1998 (1997 in the UK) can measure our own passage of time against the characters’ as Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the rest grew up with never a false step or disappointment to speak of.  The world of Harry Potter puts its surprises in a world that is completely believable because it is so thoroughly imagined.  Perhaps the movies’ greatest achievement is in matching the visual detail to not just the descriptions in the books but to the narrative richness of a fully-realized world.  Even the 3D glasses are Harry-fied.

And now, eight movies later, it takes us back to where it all began.  Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is The Boy Who Lived.  He was just a baby when his parents were killed protecting him from the Dark Lord known as Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) to those brave enough to whisper his name.  Most just call him He Who Must Not Be Named or try not to mention him at all.  For seven movies, Voldemort has been getting stronger as Harry has been getting older.  Now it is time for them to face each other.

The parallels between them are strong.  They both have the rare gift of parseltongue, the ability to understand the language of snakes.  The wand that chose Harry was the twin of the one used by Voldemort.  In this last chapter, Harry finds out that they share more than he knew and that defeating Voldemort will require him to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

As we learned in the last chapter, in a sense Voldemort has to be killed seven times.  To make himself immortal, he has taken pieces of his soul and placed them in seven different objects, each well hidden and well protected.  As this film begins, Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) have made some progress but the most difficult are still ahead.  The separation of the soul itself is, for want of a better word, de-humanizing, and as a result of this dis-intigration Voldemort is disfigured inside and out, adding to his ruthlessness and power.

Part of the wonder of the books is the way small details that seemed merely deliciously atmospheric in earlier chapters turn out to be essential foundation for what comes now.  We learned early in book one that the most impenetrable place on earth was the Gringott’s bank, run by goblins (those of a certain age might remember Jack Benny’s bank which was similarly, if more humorously, secure).  Well, now our heroes have to break into the bank’s vaults and how will they do it?

The use of polyjuice potion is another reference to the first book, then an impetuous adventure, now deadly serious.  Helena Bonham-Carter’s palpable pleasure in playing the deranged and evil Bellatrix Lestrange (Rowling has a Dickensian way with names) in the previous films benefits from too many years confined (literally) to corseted tea party roles.  It is Bellatrix’s vault they must enter, and so here, Bonham-Carter has to turn herself inside out, playing Hermione disguised as Bellatrix.   The balance of tension and comedy is exquisitely nerve-wracking.

Again and again, Rowling brings the story back to its origins and so after a movie away from school we return to Hogwarts, where the great battle begins.  The more we remember of what we have seen so far, the deeper our understanding, whether it is the satisfaction of seeing something come together we have waited for or the surprise of seeing someone exceed our expectations by being more than we or even they thought possible.  Everyone grows up, and we grow along with them.

Director David Yates moves the story smoothly into 3D, though you won’t miss much if you stick with the 2D version.  The battle scenes are well staged and the pacing is excellent.  If the final chapter got an unexpected and distracting laugh from the audience, it is a small problem in light of the grand sweep of a thoroughly enthralling epic, seamlessly organic, exciting, romantic, funny, and smart, one of the great cinematic achievements of the studio system.  Well done, Harry, and a thousand points to Gryffindor.



Parents should know that this film has extended fantasy violence with battle scenes, with many characters injured and killed, some graphic and disturbing images, grief and loss, brief strong language, and some kissing.


Family discussion: Why is it important that Harry calls Voldemort “Tom?” Which character makes the most surprising decision? What did it mean when Dumbledore said, “It’s your party?” Which is your favorite of the movies in the series and why?

If you like this, try: the previous Harry Potter films and the books and the Pottermore website

Related Tags:


3D Action/Adventure Based on a book Fantasy Series/Sequel

15 Replies to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”

  1. I often wonder if Ms Bonham-Carter has taken to this role like Johnny Depp has taken to Capt. Jack Sparrow. Bellatrix seems so suited to Helena. She surely releases here a lot of what has been constrained by the many corsets from other roles!

    I have been very anxious to read your review, and am quite relieved you like this film this much. The scene I am most eager to see is that interlude near the end between Harry and Dumbledore – a mystical post-death moment that may be too subjective to make a clear transition to the screen. If the producer, director, and editor can pull that scene together, they have indeed created a wondrous film. (the mishmosh in the 3rd Pirates movie is a good example of a miss)

    I have always though from my first reading of the first book, keep a watch on Neville – there is more to that boy than meets the eye.

    My wish for Ms Rowling is that she, like the actors in the films, can escape Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic and discover equally satisfying and enthralling adventures with new characters in a different genre.

    A pint of ButterBeer and a toast for a project well done and well completed!

    1. I was concerned about that scene, too, jestrfyl, and I thought it was handled superbly. And I’m interviewing Neville, or at least the actor who plays him, tomorrow, so stay tuned! Thanks for a great comment.

  2. I have to say, I’m a bit sad to see this wonderful series, both in book and film come to an end. I’ve read them all with my older grandchildren and am now happy to enjoy them again with the younger grandkids. It has been rather like watching my own boys grow up and leave home. That may sound silly to some, but the bittersweet feeling of wanting your children to grow and live their lives fully is not unlike knowing and enjoying the fact that Harry, Hermione and Ron will now go on to live theirs. For me, there will always be fictional characters I’ve loved and admired so much that I feel at loose ends when I turn the last page. That’s what good writing is all about. If we cannot ‘invest’ ourselves in the characters,well, we just may not finish the book, right? So yes, thank you Ms. Rowling for taking us on this wonderful adventure with you. What great allegorical stories you gave us. There are so few books, let alone a series of them, that so richly define the battle between good and evil and show us all so beautifully that good will triumph each time if we stay true to ourselves and love deeply. Yes, Well done, Harry indeed!

    1. I feel exactly the same way, Mary, and you expressed it so beautifully. Thanks for a great comment!

  3. We saw the film yesterday (and not at midnight…we scored tickets to a 5:30 show!) and simply loved it. It really was everything I had hoped. It stayed very faithful to the book (although they didn’t include the bit with Percy) and the imagery was so beautiful. Pacing was perfect. I agree that the scene with Dumbledore was handled very well. I had been most concerned with the epilogue, and found myself almost hoping they would leave it out at it could so easily teeter in cheesy, but I think their willingness to be spare with dialogue made it work. I cried like my own children were going off to school. Overall, this will rank amongst one of my favorite films of all time.

  4. Nell, as always, you frame it perfectly. I was totally satisfied by the end of this story, although I had to listen to my kids whine about how much better the books were. The book(s) is always better. No getting around that ever. But this movie was a fabulous ending to a great series. I left the theatre satisfied. Brilliant.

    1. Thanks so much, Joanie. I’m so glad you and your family saw this wonderful film — and that your kids are passionate readers for whom the books will always come first.

  5. Hi, Nell. It’s been a long time since I visited Movie Mom and I’ve missed your always excellent take on the movies. (My 82-year old mom broke her hip at the end of last year, and my brother and I have been very busy moving her into assisted living and cleaning out her apartment. But, now the dust is finally beginning to settle so I hope to return a bit more often.)

    You are so right about the almost miraculously high quality of the “Harry Potter” movies. If J.K. Rowling were not such a smart lady, she might have resisted many of the necessary changes that were made to turn the stories into films, but she is a smart lady and she didn’t let her ego get in the way of those changes made by Steve Kloves and Warner Brothers. From the casting of the leads, the teachers, the villains, to the amazingly rich Victorian (or is it Edwardian?) atmosphere of Hogwarts, the movies have been amazing.

    Slight spoilers ahead:

    I saw “Deathly Hallows Pt. 2” on Saturday and am planning to see it again shortly. While I agree with some of the critics who found part of it a bit rushed, I did think the battle scenes, especially the climactic confrontation with Voldemort, were well-handled. I confess with some pride that I guessed the final line that was spoken by Severus Snape to Harry (I always thought that line should have been in book, as it seemed obvious that was the intent of “Look at me.”)

    Overall, I loved seeing several characters, including Neville, Molly Weasley, and Snape get their due, though I missed the death scene of an important character that was left out. Ralph Fiennes was fabulous, as were Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, and Daniel Radcliffe. I re-read most of the book the next day and then started on the first book again. It’s hard to let go of these wonderful stories.

  6. Nell-
    I listen to the Movie Mom reviews in the car on the way to work and I sadly missed this one this summer (I took the day off to sleep after seeing Harry Potter!) I agree that Helena Carter was perfectly suited to the role of Bellatrix, although I have to say I was disappointed that she didn’t get as much screen time as I expected. I love this series very much- I grew up reading Harry Potter and the end of the franchise was for me, and many others, the end of my childhood. The only part of the movie that peeved me was Voldemort’s death. I think one of the most powerful things about Voldemort’s death in the book was that he wasn’t, as he claimed, extraordinary, he was just a human. The confetti effect made him seem rather superhuman in the movie. Overall, this movie is fantastic.
    To answer one of your questions, I think it’s so important that Harry calls Voldemort “Tom” because it’s one of the things that Voldemort hated the most about himself. He fashioned himself a new name to hide behind, to disguise his connections to his Muggle father, and to make himself seem bigger than he was. Harry, in a way, uncovers Voldemort by calling him Tom, and calling him by the name he despises, shows that he won’t bow down to Voldemort’s rules. And going back to calling himself extraordinary- the ordinary name “Tom” shows his humanity.

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