Cast Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman.
Director David Yates
What for Some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images
Running time 130 minutes
The end is here and it rocks.
There are a number of reasons “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” is the most satisfying of the Harry Potter films. First off, the story finally comes to its long-awaited conclusion. After a decade of wishing for some sort of resolution, that’s no small thing.
But the sheer velocity of the film also helps. While prior Potter films had to deal with intricate puzzle pieces, adolescent angst and large helpings of mumbo jumbo, “Deathly Hallows Part 2” pretty much gets to galloping within a few minutes and then never really slows down. This is a film that seems to literally charge at the viewer, and after seven movies necessarily weighed down by waiting for a big ending, the charge is exhilarating.
That charge does leave some blurs in its wake, however. Cherished characters who’ve been central to earlier films — Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), Professor Sybil Trelawney (Emma Thompson), even Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) — stream by with little more than a glance. But then if director David Yates had done a farewell tour of charming characters, it would have added an hour to the film’s running time.
Instead Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves wisely opt to focus on heroes Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), Big Bad Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and the forever pending story of evil-or-is-he? Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, born to the part). The time for details and enjoyable quirks is past; in “Deathly Hallows Part 2” it’s High Noon at Hogwarts and peripheral characters best stand back.
The story itself is fairly straightforward. Harry’s search for the magic objects that hold much of Voldemort’s power has brought him back to his beloved school, Hogwarts. Voldemort knows Harry is hiding out in the halls and surrounds the school with a horde of evil minions. Both sides draw their wands and go at it.
That going at it is a joy to watch as Yates unleashes the best fantasy battle scenes since “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, with stone warriors facing off against bloodthirsty giants, deformed-looking goblins feasting on dead students and enough wand-wielding to blind the meek.
But of course it all eventually comes down to Harry versus Voldemort. And in the midst of all the chaos, the big questions that have hung over Harry throughout his life are resolved in a generally winning way, thanks to series author J.K. Rowling. It’s doubtful anybody will be asking for a refund.
There is, though, a chance some parents may wonder what the film’s images are doing to their offspring. If the Potter books and movies grew progressively darker as Harry aged, well, that darkness reaches a midnight shade here. The violence quotient and scare index may be too much for some kids to handle.
On the other hand, fans of physical chaos will likely be ecstatic. The janitors at Hogwarts are going to be busy for a long, long while.
Ever since the third Potter film, “Prisoner of Azkaban,” the Potter movies have been helmed by a succession of directors who’ve been able to balance the fantastic and the personal with more than a touch of class.
At the same time the Potter movies have featured a parade of possibly the finest British thespians ever assembled, a parade that’s capped off by the addition here of Kelly McDonald as the ghostly Helena Ravenclaw.
And yet this gargantuan undertaking inevitably rested on the young shoulders of its unknown (a decade ago) leads. Whoever cast Radcliffe, Watson and Grint deserves major credit for the success of the series; all three actors grew into their roles near-perfectly.
As film undertakings go, the only thing comparable to the Potter series is “Star Wars,” and everyone knows how poorly that played out. “Deathly Hallows Part 2” sends Harry off into the pop culture pantheon on a thrilling high note. Well played. Well played indeed.