Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow, Part 2, review
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 – the eighth and final film in the blockbusting series – begins with our teenage heroes fighting for their lives, and for their entire world.
The first scene of David Yates’s film picks up where his previous instalment left off: with a shot of the dark lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) noseless face in triumph as he steals the most powerful magic wand in the world from the tomb of Harry’s protector, Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). With it he will become invincible.
In the very next scene, we find Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), looking unfeasibly vulnerable and young, as they struggle with the vast responsibility of stopping Voldemort in his tracks.
What chance do these adolescents have against the powers of darkness?
But this is a film about the triumph of the weak, a theme captured in two of its most memorable scenes.
The first is a marvellous set piece, in which our heroes escape from the vault of Gringotts Bank on the back of a beautifully rendered CGI dragon.
The maimed beast gouges out bits of London’s rooftops, as it swoops across the capital’s skyline, before flying off into the wild, free once more.
The second, which stands as surely the most beautiful and important moment in the whole series, involves the mysterious Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman).
It is a rare sun-kissed episode in a film characterised by darkness, as we learn of the glowering professor’s faithfully kept secret.
Harry looks into Snape’s memories and sees his mother, Lily, as a young girl, making a flower blossom in her hand: the other children call her a freak, and run away. Hiding nearby is a young Snape. He animates a leaf and sends it towards her.
Hardly anything is said, but the truth and pain of human relationships are here expressed with an elegiac tenderness that brings a tear to the eye.
Perhaps the greatest triumph of this final film is its ability to overcome the deficiencies of J K Rowling’s writing. In the last Harry Potter volume, she failed singularly to muster the epic feel needed; as a result, on the page, the concluding battle at Hogwarts was a damp squib.
But Yates here transmutes it into a genuinely terrifying spectacle, as bloodied students fight desperately against a horde of screaming black-robed Death Eaters.
Hogwarts itself comes to life to defend itself (giving Maggie Smith, as prim professor McGonagall, a lovely comic turn as she sends off an army of stone knights).
There is further wit from the weedy Neville Longbottom (Matthew David Lewis) who, having nearly fallen to his death, pops up with a cheery, “Well that went well”, and superb acting from Helena Bonham Carter as the raving black witch Bellatrix Lestrange.
Our central threesome, too, do not disappoint. Radcliffe’s erstwhile plankishness has transformed into a heroic stoicism; Watson has perfected the requisite winsome, fearful look, panting and gasping with the best of them; and even Grint can now do “emotional”, pulling off a big scene in which one of his brothers is slain.
This is monumental cinema, awash with gorgeous tones, and carrying an ultimate message that will resonate with every viewer, young or old: there is darkness in all of us, but we can overcome it.
This is not an end. How could it be?
In the last scene, as we watch Harry’s son go off to Hogwarts, we know that even if there will be no more books, these characters will live with us for ever.
* Philip Womack is the author of The Liberators and The Other Book