In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the Potter franchise ends not with a bang or a whimper, but unending fields of grey. Not shades of grey. Not grey to represent moral ambiguity. Just literal grey. No colour was used in the creation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
This is not to say that it’s a bad film (although it does have a bad title), For something that has been effectively ten years in the making, dragging seven films of baggage behind it, this is a movie that relies too heavily on the projections of its audience; David Yates has provided a near blank canvas upon which actors run through motions endowed only with the meaning that the audience chooses. Yates has forced us to do the heavy lifting, spending hundreds of millions of dollars without investing any of it in emotion or gravitas.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 kicks off where the first ended: Voldemort has the Elder Wand, Harry, Ron and Hermione are still hunting for horcruxes, and the two super powers are getting ready for their final showdown. As the majority of the exposition was done with in the first part, we don’t have to deal with anything like character motivation beyond a sketch. The stage is set, and the set pieces are not quite flimsy enough to fall over and crush everyone under their soggy weight.
Enjoyment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is predicated on two things: enjoyment of the film series, and enjoyment of the entire franchise as a whole. If you didn’t like any of the other films, then there’s not a chance that you’ll enjoy this at all. If you’ve not read the books, you’ll have the capacity to be confused, or to be disappointed, because some things are either not explained at all or simply waved away.
If you’re a teenaged girl, you’ll have the opportunity to titter like nothing you’ve seen since Half Blood Prince. If you’re a teenaged girl, this movie was made for you. Harry Potter may have many fans and many faces, but teenaged girls are the ones he’s always going to come back to.
Personally, I’ve had a checkered history with these efforts. While Chris Columbus’ films were fairly dismal exercises, the others have certainly had their moments. Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban was certainly elevated to the status of “art” by a lot of viewers, Mike Newell’s Goblet of Fire introduced the world to Robert Pattinson’s corpse and David Yates has always managed to strike on moments of atmosphere and scenery if not all of the emotional depth required by the story.
Yates is not able to offer as much variety here as he has in the past, and he has concluded the series on a relatively flat note that I had to work too hard to get much out of. Daniel Radcliffe does not bring the requisite weight to carry the film, and Emma Watson and Rupert Grint can’t help him because they’re given practically nothing to do. Ralph Fiennes acts with his non-existent nose and most everyone else is relegated to little more than a cameo, including Miriam Margolyes, who has not been seen since 2002’s Chamber of Secrets.
The film is incredibly violent for what began as a children’s series, with people dying frequently and bloodied corpses littering corridors, but none of the violence is backed by meaning. There are some poignant shots, but too few; the story isn’t particularly difficult to follow, but we’re given no reason to care beyond what we already know. Some emotional manipulation on the part of Yates would have helped greatly, because we’re presented almost everything on screen without directorial comment. You had best store up your reserves of goodwill and emotion for these characters and this franchise because there is not a lot here to connect with.
Looking over what I’ve said, this sounds like an indictment of the film, but I really did enjoy it, to an extent. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is exactly what you make of it. Unfortunately David Yates has created a serviceable effects film wholly devoid of personality: bring your own, you won’t find any here.