‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2’ is the last, and one of the best, in the film series with the veteran cast and creative team back with a thrilling and satisfying finish.
After seven previous films over a 10-year span, $2 billion in domestic box office and still more treasure overseas, Warner Bros. has unwrapped the Harry Potter advertising line it hoped it would never have to use: “It all ends.”
In a classic storybook finish, however, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2” turns out to be more than the last of its kind. Almost magically, it ends up being one of the best of the series as well.
The Harry Potter films, like the boy wizard himself, have had their creative ups and downs, so it’s especially satisfying that this final film, ungainly title and all, has been worth the wait. Though no expense has been spared in its production, it succeeds because it brings us back to the combination of magic, adventure and emotion that created the books’ popularity in the first place.
It also succeeds because the franchise has stuck to its conservative creative guns and seen them pay off. With occasional exceptions like Alfonso Cuarón’s “Prisoner of Azkaban” adventure, the Potter films have rarely been daring, valuing superb craftsmanship and care over cutting-edge audacity. Now that we’ve come to the much-anticipated finale, that expert husbanding of a once-in-a-lifetime franchise has had a cumulative effect that is not to be denied.
Not only did the series’ three leads — Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson — turn out to be expertly cast, the production has been able to retain their services through all eight films. And they’ve been supported by such a deep bench of top-flight British acting talent (Ciarán Hinds is the latest to be added, playing Dumbledore’s brother) that when Bill Nighy joined the cast for “Deathly Hallows — Part 1,” he said he’d feared he’d be the only English actor of a certain age who wasn’t in a Harry Potter film.
All that talent couldn’t have come cheap, and the other consistent factor in the Potter universe is the production’s refusal to skimp or pinch pennies. That willingness to do whatever it took to bring Stuart Craig’s exceptional production designs to life no matter how painstaking the task is central to the new film’s success as well.
To give just two examples, more than 200,000 golden coins and thousands of other pieces were created to convincingly fill a vault at Gringotts bank, and so much furniture and objects were bought to make Hogwarts’ enormous Room of Requirement look more crowded than Charles Foster Kane’s storehouse that the set dressing department was busy for months buying up bric-a-brac. Nothing’s too good for our Harry.
“Deathly Hallows — Part 2” also benefits from sticking with experienced and capable people at the top. Screenwriter Steve Kloves has scripted seven of the eight Potter films, and David Yates has directed four of them. All this practice has allowed the creative team, including returning cinematographer Eduardo Serra, to relax into its best self without having to learn the territory all over again.
Splitting the final Potter volume into two films was also to the advantage of Part 2, as was the fact that this film deals only with roughly the final third of the book. This enables it to avoid the tiresome teen angst that hampered Part 1 and devote almost all its time to action and confrontation, starting with the film’s initial image of the dread Voldemort pointing the all-powerful Elder Wand to the sky and creating … the Warner Bros. logo.