From humble beginnings, big things come. Originally written by an unknown author in the cafes of the UK, the Harry Potter series has become one of the biggest things the written word has seen since Gutenberg thought it would be easier to have some kind of printing press. Wearing the crown of the series that either taught a generation of children to love reading or drove them all to witchcraft, the only thing bigger than the book have been the series of increasingly successful films that have closely followed the structure of the text, whether we wanted them to or not. Now that saga has come to an end, and it is not the whimpering kind that it is going out on.
The feature picks straight up where Part 1’s downbeat conclusion left off, as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe, December Boys), Hermione (Emma Watson, The Tale Of Despereaux) and Ron (Rupert Grint, Wild Target) are on the lam from Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, Clash Of The Titans) and his death-eaters. Having already destroyed several horcruxes, the trio sets out to locate and destroying the remaining pieces of he-who-can-now-be-named’s soul. With Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry now under the control of Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, Alice In Wonderland) they head there to end it where it all began and Harry, with the remaining members of the Order of the Phoenix, prepares for the showdown to end all showdowns.
If you haven’t been paying attention to the Harry Potter series up until now, you may be somewhat screwed in the opening moments of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Picking up quite literally where the last film left of, which should be rightly called the first half of this film, long-serving director David Yates wastes no time in throwing the audience in at the deep end with one set-piece after another. Yet for those of us who have only kept one mad eye on the series for the better part of the last decade, you will undoubtedly have enough tacit knowledge to easily slide into this final chapter. There isn’t much to penetrate here: this is basic Joseph Campbell “hero’s journey” fodder, complete with the ultimate confrontation with the virtual mirror image of Harry, Lord Voldemort. As such, this is the action-packed twin to the often moody and talking first act, and the place where lives are lost, hearts are won and bodies and wands lie scattered amidst the ruins of war regardless of the outcome. On this level, the film provides a satisfying conclusion to the saga, bringing the often length episodes to an end with a ripper of a finale, even if they did split into two films. Parents be forewarned: be prepared for a very dark final chapter, with a body count larger than your average drive-by and a some foul deeds committed casually by our story’s heroes.
Warner were a little bit cheeky drawing out the conclusion to this long-running series into a two-parter to milk the cash flow, although the audacity of the move has already been copied by the adaptation to arguably less-worthy tomes Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. The gamble appears to have paid off, with the first chapter alone earning just under $1 billion at the global box office, and the (unnecessary) 3D on this final part will no doubt go even higher. If you haven’t invested much time and energy in the Potter brand, chances are that many of the faces – a virtual who’s who of British cinema – will mean absolutely nothing to you as they whiz by on their way to an unseemly death or a heroic monologue. If one were generous we’d call them cameos, the less generous might refer to them as loose ends. While one suspects that for the Potter fans in the audience, there will be nary a dry eye in the cinema, the film does very little to connect audiences in any meaningful way with what is happening on-screen. Yet by the same token, these characters have been a part of our lives for an entire generation, with the pre-teen audiences who first picked up the books back in the late 1990s are adults now, potentially ready to introduce these characters to a new generation. We care because Harry Potter is as much a household name as Luke Skywalker before him, and it is a testament to the creators of the films that they have managed to maintain such a high standard of epic grandeur throughout the whole series.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:Part 2 is released in Australia on 13 July 2011 from Roadshow.