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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: movie review

Eight films and $2 billion later, a poignant send-off for 'the boy who lived.'

By Peter Rainer / July 14, 2011

Daniel Radcliffe portrays Harry Potter in a scene from ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,’ the final movie in the eight-film series that began with ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,’ released in 2001, when the actor was 12. The films have earned $2 billion in ticket sales worldwide – so far.

Warner Bros. Pictures/AP

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With the appearance of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," it has finally sunk in for a lot of people that Harry won't be having any new adventures, although at the film's recent London première, J.K. Rowling sent a crowd of enthusiasts into a froth by saying "never say never."

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The collective emotion arising from the last installment of the "Harry Potter" franchise, after eight films and a record-setting $2 billion at the box office (so far), is a sense of loss. Even for those of us who have not found the films transcendent, there is some regret. The films' rampaging innocence and invention seem worlds apart in quality from most of what passes these days as family entertainment.

The movies, closely following Rowling's books, and all but one expertly scripted by Steve Kloves, have grown inexorably darker since the series began in 2001 with "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

Harry's odyssey, which ends in "Part 2" with the inevitable showdown between Daniel Radcliffe's Harry and Ralph Fiennes's nose-challenged Lord Voldemort, was always pitched as a battle royal between the forces of light and dark. For many of their young enthusiasts, the books and movies probably represented, for the first time on the page or on screen, a true reckoning with the forces of death and sacrifice (although death, in the "Potter" universe, is often a transitory state). This is a big reason why the films (which are not so much adaptations of the novels as they are emanations of them) have become very personal affairs for their fans.

This intense attachment, of course, is not, in itself, a signifier of quality. The "Lord of the Rings" franchise inspired a similar cultishness, but that was OK. Those films were mostly very good. The "Star Wars" franchise, however, long ago lost its luster, if not its fanatical following, after an interminable run of awful sequels and prequels. As examples of fantasy filmmaking, as opposed to relics of worship, the "Harry Potter" movies do not, except in snatches, have the lyrical wonderfulness and visionary power that I associate with the finest examples of childhood imaginings on film – the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away"), for example, or "The Black Stallion" or "The Red Balloon" or Alfonso Cuarón's "A Little Princess." With the exception of the third installment, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," directed by Cuarón, the films have ranged from workmanlike (the first two, both directed by Chris Columbus) to highly accomplished, especially the two "Deathly Hallows" films, directed by David Yates.

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