I intend to write a theological analysis on both parts of Deathly Hallows, but for now I will confine my comments to what I consider to be the inferior half of Deathly Hallows. Keep in mind that I have not read any of the books.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (DH2) is a well-crafted film. The acting, directing, dialogue, score and cinematography are all very good. DH2 is one of the darkest films I have ever seen (the feeling of constant dread is palpable), which is appropriate for the final epic-like instalment of the series. The atmosphere in Harry Potter (HP) films is one of my favourite things about the series and it is well done again here. I also loved seeing all those great British actors altogether one last time. As a final film (and a part 2), it was unnecessary to establish background or characters. By now, we had better know the story and we have already come to know and love the characters. In general, I enjoyed watching DH2 and found myself engaged from start to finish. Nevertheless (you were forewarned this time), despite the rave reviews from major critics, DH2 doesn’t even rank in my top three HP films, let alone have a chance to get into my favourite films of the year.
What didn’t I like? The bottom line is that the final HP film felt incredibly anticlimactic to me. To start with, we had the continued search for, and destruction of, the horcruxes. In DH1, this task seemed virtually impossible and was begun only with tremendous effort. In DH2, the horcruxes are found and destroyed with relative ease (just enough effort to keep the 3D action humming – and NO, I CERTAINLY DID NOT WATCH IT IN 3D and neither did almost half of those who had a choice, which is a hopeful sign for the future). Even the snake was killed with minimal and predictable effort. As for the great revelations I was expecting in DH2, the final unveiling of all the mysteries, there was very little to excite me. The moving scene of Snape’s death followed by Harry’s magical glimpse into Snape’s past were the highlight of the film for me (not least because I have always found Snape to be the most fascinating character in the HP films) but revealed little I had not already guessed from watching the previous seven films. The biggest revelation was discovering that Harry himself was one of the horcruxes, but that was also hinted at in previous films (we knew there was some kind of special link between Voldemort and Harry). And then there was the disappointment of the big final battle. The last instalment of HP is largely a battle film – how original! We have giants and spiders and giant spiders and many other strange creatures, and of course the endless magic - yawn. I have always found real magic tedious because it follows no rules that make any sense to me. That is primarily what has kept me from reading the HP books. DH2 had far too much magic for my liking (then again, all of the HP films have too much magic for my liking). But at least the battle scenes were not as long as those in The Return of the King.
So that’s what I didn’t like. Having noted my problems with DH2, I must repeat that it is a good film and I did enjoy most of it. I particularly appreciated the culmination of Harry’s character development which leads him to rescue, at great risk, two of his “enemies” and eventually to offer his own life to save his friends and the world. More discussion on this will follow in my theological reflection, but the relationship between Harry and Voldemort and the fight between them was certainly fascinating to watch, even if the ‘resurrection’ was not explained (a major oversight by the film’s writer). The idea of Harry as a role model for young people today is definitely worth promoting, even if Rowling and the filmmakers can’t find a way to avoid killing off the ultimate baddie (the embodiment of pure evil?) once again. There always needs to be one great evil to destroy so the world can be saved. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.
Stay tuned for my theological analysis of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In the meantime, DH2, like DH1, gets ***+, though I liked DH1 more and neither of them touch HP3, by far the best of the eight films. My mug is up.