A film review by Craig J. Koban July 22, 2011


2011, PG-13, 131 mins.


Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe / Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint / Hermione Granger: Emma Watson / Bellatrix Lestrange: Helena Bonham Carter / Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane / Lord Voldemort: Ralph Fiennes / Dumbledore: Michael Gambon / Minerva McGonagall: Maggie Smith / Sirius Black: Gary Oldman / Snape: Alan Rickman / Remus Lupin: David Thewlis

Directed by David Yates / Written by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling.


I have waited…and waited…and waited for the HARRY POTTER film series to stop talking about delivering on its promise of the ultimate donnybrook showdown between its ever-maturing title character and its frustratingly enigmatic and under-developed villain, Lord Voldemort.  Was it too much, dare I ask, for this film series to stop pontificating about this climatic battle to end all wizard battles and finally just deliver it?  I don’t think so, and that’s precisely what bothered me with the frankly unnecessary HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 and many of the recent past entries: seven films and 14-plus hours into this story and we still have not had any satisfying showdown between hero and baddie and the monotonous build up to it has been, to me, an endurance test.

I know, I know.  I have been routinely chastised for being oh-so-tough on the cinematic adventures of the once-boy now approaching manhood wizard, Harry Potter.  Yet, as a hopeless “muggle” (that’s HARRY POTTER gobbledygook speak for “outsider” or “non-wizard”) to the narrative odyssey left by J.K. Rowling’s inordinately popular book series, I just found that the ten years worth of seven films (eight including this new adventure) have exhausted me more than thrilled or entertained me.  Of course, to the feverously loyal and obsessive Rowling/Potterite fan base, the silver screen adaptations are essentially critic proof.  To an agnostic follower of POTTER, I have more or less tolerated them. 

I guess that it is only inevitable that HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2, or HARRY POTTER 8, or HARRY POTTER: THE END…however you slice it…finally does deliver on what I have been waiting for, so on those levels the film succeeds and cuts through my criticisms of the series as a whole.  After the sloth-like expository nature of the needlessly long-winded 150 minute PART 1, PART 2 thankfully gets the momentum really running with a mercifully short 130 minutes, which is the shortest of all the series’ films and perhaps its best paced because of it.  And once all of the tedious and elephantine dialogue exchanges are done and the film develops a real breakneck packing towards the final act’s Battle of Hogwarts and the Harry versus Voldemort face-off extravaganza, even the cynical POTTER critic in me found it difficult not to get jacked up. 

Equally satisfying is that, as this story resumes, Harry (Radcliffe), and his BFFs Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are nearly done the last film’s somewhat sluggish and unexciting quest to destroy seven magic Horcruxes (that contain pieces of Voldemort’s very soul) so that we can get down to brass tax.  While the heroic trio is attempted to finish their near impossible task, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, with a CGI-altered face, sun deprived bleached skin, and a venomous inflection) has just uncovered one of the most powerful wands ever that he hopes to wield to defeat Potter once and for all.  When he is not pursing Potter to all ends of the world, Voldemort is hatching a plan to unleash an armada of Death-Eaters, giant trolls and spiders, and all of his loyal minions to strike out in an all-out blitz on Hogwarts so that he can devastate it into utter submission.   

I should point out that there is still quite a bit of exposition to PART 2, some of which still involves the quest for the Horcruxes (still a weakly cobbled together MacGuffin) and other times the script (by Steve Kloves, who has had the dubious and thankless task of adapting six of the seven books) dabbles into Severus Snape’s background and how his somewhat duplicitous nature and relationship to both Potter and Hogwarts' key overseer (now dead) Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon).  I found the sub-plots involving Alan Rickman’s Snape to be more compelling and intriguing than what the character has been given in the past, and I always have loved how Rickman has a deliciously mannered predilection for uttering his lines with just…the…right…dramatic…pauses.   I also appreciated how Snape’s much more rounded and interesting persona adds more of a twisted complexity to Harry’s final end game, which gives PART 2 more genuine suspense and thrills.  Not only that, but the way this side story recoils back on the entirety of the POTTER mythos is equally compelling.   

Peter Yates, who also adeptly filmed the last two films of the series, once again directs PART 2 with poise, assuredness, and a professional sheen.  Although he still may not be everyone’s ideal candidate for helming such a fantasy spectacle like this, Yates has always – even with the last two lackluster entries – managed to make these films look pleasantly and epically mounted.  He is greatly assisted by the dark and oppressively muted color scheme presented by Eduardo Serra’s ominous cinematography, which makes PART 2 arguably the most satisfyingly dark and dreary POTTER film of the bunch (it’s almost impossible now, in hindsight, to look back at the first film’s bright and colorfully innocent look).   

The production design and visual effects have hit upper echelons as well for the entire franchise’s history.  From scenes of thousands of dark wizards descending on Hogwarts that echoes images from the battles of THE LORD OF THE RINGS to the fantastical sights of all sorts of hellish beasties duking it out with the last vestiges of Hogwarts, PART 2 is a pure audio-visual nirvana of unearthly treasures.  Individual set pieces themselves are technically as bravura as ever, like an early sequence that has Harry and his friends attempting to sneak into Gingnotts bank past the accountant goblins and past a chained-up dragon and into Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault, which holds the last of the Horcruxes.  The wholes sequence is not only suspenseful because of Yates' restrained direction, but also because of how technically precise and confident the visual effects are.   

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 is still not air tight from disparagement.  As stated, the Horcrux quest – although thankfully brief – still holds back the first third of the film, not to mention that characters still do an awful lot of explaining as to the story particulars (great films should show us what they are about, not tell us).  There is also an epilogue presented (no need for spoiler warning here for die hard readers of the books) where we see the characters 19-years older; the shoddy makeup design here all but betrays the splendid and magnificent imagery that preceded it (perhaps Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint are still so youthful looking that any attempt at artificially aging them would have been tricky).  Then there is the last minute 3D upconversion, which PART 1 more-than-wisely abstained from.  Considering the muted and shadowy textures of PART 2 as a whole, the 3D adds little other than to make certain dark scenes almost incomprehensible to follow.  The cash-grab-excess minded decision to give this film a multi-dimensional facelift hurts it more than assists it. 

Perhaps I'm in the minority, but the film’s many wizard on wizard skirmishes and large battles are also kind of visually disinteresting.  Most of the time, when the magic users do go mano-a-mano, they essentially shoot out bolts of lightning, plasma-like clouds, energy and…whatever…at each other, which grows a bit tedious to look at as the film progresses.  There is also something correct to be said in terms of the climatic fanboy-gasmic final battle between Harry and Voldemort itself, which for as much as I liked the tension of the whole sequence, is ultimately kind of anti-climatic.  Voldemort himself, played in a very game performance by Fiennes, is given more to do in PART 2, to be sure, but the antagonist still remains a weakly developed one that perhaps spent far, far too much of this eight film series in the background as a spoken-about presence. 

If there were one final criticism I will relay it would be this: I have always found Radcliffe to be somewhat stiff and bland in his title role, but he, Watson and Grint have been given the wholeheartedly intimidating task of not only committing most of their adolescent lives to one film series, but they also have had to hold their own against some of the finest character actors from Britain that have populated this series.  I may have always had my issues with their individual performances, but I nonetheless believe that they deserve serious accolades for their steadfast dedication to this series.  The producers too deserve merit for having the perseverance of keeping this cast together for so long: one treat of the POTTER films – even in the wake of my lack of fondness for many of them – is how we have been given a very rare opportunity to witness both the actors and their respective characters grow and mature on screen.  Just consider the unthinkable of what re-casting these roles would have done to the franchise. 

Loyal devotees of these novels and films will no doubt have mixed and bitter sweet feelings of happiness and depression with HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2, seeing as their most beloved characters and storylines come to an end.  I myself have more feelings of relief, perhaps more because after enduring so much talky and dull build up over the last four films that we finally have an emotionally and dramatically satisfying end.  I know, I know...I have been tough on poor Harry, but the legacy of this series – regardless of my opinion on it – can’t be refuted (not including PART 2, the series has now become more profitable than even the six STAR WARS films, an unbelievable accomplishment).  At least this POTTER entry goes out not with a whimper, but with an euphoric bang and, as required, with a hint of magic too.


CrAiGeR's other



Harry Potter and the PRISONER OF AZKABAN  (2004) jj

Harry Potter and the GOBLET OF FIRE  (2005) jj1/2

  Harry Potter and the ORDER OF THE PHOENIX  (2007)  jj

Harry Potter and the half blood prince  (2009) jj1/2

Harry Potter and the DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1  (2010) jj

And, for what it's worth, CrAiGeR's ranking of HARRY POTTER films:












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