Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a rare gift. Long-running film franchises generally either fade away or leave fans hanging. Director David Yates takes advantage of the opportunity to close the book on this series by creating a film finale that embraces deep emotional moments with the same passion that it celebrates huge action sequences.
That combination makes the final offering magical.
Part 2 picks up with the showdown of the forces of good — driven on by young wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) — and evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). The previously tranquil grounds of Hogwarts become the setting for the clash between these forces that’s waged with great grandeur.
The smartest thing the filmmakers did was to divide the final book into two movies. What on the surface looked like a ploy to milk a few more bucks out of the loyal fans, turned out to be two very different movies — each with a different strength.
Part 1 found its power in the close relationship of the three main characters played out by taking the magical elements into the real world.
Part 2 is more of an action film that occasionally takes a deep breath to allow for the touchstone emotional moments of the story. Under a less-seasoned hand, these two elements would have fought each other like students from Gryffindor and Slytherin. But Yates blends it all so smoothly that the very different tones support each other.
There’s a tendency in films with this much fantasy and fighting to overlook strong acting efforts. That would be a sin in a film with such talent. Alan Rickman continues with his work as Severus Snape and proves he’s an acting treasure; Ralph Fiennes manages to turn in an amazing performance despite his face being hidden behind so much makeup and special effects.
The key is Radcliffe, who has matured as an actor with each film. His growth has been the anchor to all of the films and it’s never been more obvious than in this finale.
There are two emotional scenes that are so pivotal to the movie any misstep would have sent the entire production into rubble. Radcliffe — under the continued sturdy directing hand of Yates — plays these scenes with grace, conviction and just the right amount of sentimentality.
It’s difficult to talk about the movie without giving away the culmination of major points that have been percolating since the first film debuted a decade ago. If you’ve read the books, just know that the film reflects a deep loyalty to J.K. Rowling’s original writings.
The film’s only tiny weakness is that there are a few scenes of extended dialogue that create some slow spots. These points were unnecessary because at this point in the film series, it’s only the Harry Potter-educated who will pack theaters and they need no lengthy explanations.
That’s only a tiny flaw in a film that takes every advantage of bringing the franchise to a proper conclusion. This may be the end of the film series, but just know with this well-crafted finale, all is well with Harry Potter.
(c) 2011, The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.). Visit The Fresno Bee online at http://www.fresnobee.com/. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.