Faith & Film: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

harry_potterIt’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since Harry Potter was introduced to movie audiences. Now J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard and his friends Ron and Hermione have become internationally famous. The eight Harry Potter films have become the most financially successful movie series in history.

It has been a joy to see the movies become progressively more serious, and the young actors improve in their roles. The final image of Deathly Hallows II, framing Rupert Grint (Ron), Emma Watson (Hermione), and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) in a flash forward as young adults is lovely indeed, satisfying yet bittersweet. We know that these three, who have grown up before our eyes, will never be seen again in these roles. I know I will miss them, like old friends.

Deathly Hallows II takes off where the previous film left off. Beloved house elf Dobby has been buried, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione are off to seek and destroy the final horcruxes, small depositories containing parts of the evil Voldemort’s soul. Their journey takes them to Gringott’s bank and the safe deposit of Bellatrix Lestrange, and then back to Hogwarts School, now presided over by Severus Snape. With the death of Dumbledore and death eaters all around, Hogwarts is rendered a bleak place with no joy left in its hallowed halls.

The movie leads up to its final deadly encounter between Harry and Voldemort. Messianic image abound. Harry is “the boy who lives,” chosen to defeat the evil Voldemort. Once thought by some to be anti-Christian, Rowling embraces death and resurrection in this climactic battle over evil. Harry learns that he must die in order to live, and is even given something called a resurrection stone to hold. In a beautifully filmed sequence, Harry meets the deceased Dumbledore with whom he discusses matters of life and death.

Deathly Hallows II has been the best reviewed film of the series, opening to unanimous acclaim. However I found it a little disappointing. This final episode is so dark that it seems to have lost its charm. Part of the charm all along is seeing these remarkable young people dealing with extraordinary events, while, at the same time, having such adolescent dilemmas as who to take to the Christmas dance. That’s all behind them now. Much of the second half of the film has Voldemort’s enormous army poised to attack Hogwarts. The computer generated armies were so vast they looked like something out of “Lord of the Rings.” Old friends like Maggie Smith’s Professor McGonagall and Robbie Coltrane’s giant Hagrid appear all too briefly. Too much time is spent with Voldemort and his giant pet snake. The pacing is a bit slow as well. I even missed the Dursleys, Harry’s clueless Muggle aunt, uncle, and cousin.

Despite these reservations, Deathly Hallows II deserves to be seen. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ve probably already seen it. One of the things I admire about Rowling’s films is the way that improbable characters like Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom can be admirable and courageous heroes. Loyalty, sacrifice, community, and the common good are values of Harry Potter to be admired, and that good does finally triumph over evil. As in all great stories, there are many lessons to be learned. And, of course, that characters you thought you’ve known as purely evil all along can be more multi-faceted than imagined. (Spoiler alert!) Even Snape is revealed in a different light as well. I wish the film had spent more time on the development with Snape. Even though I had read the book a few years ago, I wanted more of an explanation.

As always, the sets are awesome. If nothing else, production designer Stuart Craig is long overdue for an Oscar for creating a wonderful magic kingdom, which, by the conclusion of the film, is ravaged by the climactic battles.

I will certainly miss Harry, Ron, Hermione, and their professors, friends, and colleagues. I believe they will live on for decades to come.

Tom Condon, OP