In the final ever part of Harry Potter’s coming-of-age quest to vanquish the Dark Lord who killed his parents when he was just a baby, Harry, Ron and Hermione must discover the rest of the horcruxes, which contain what remains of Voldemort’s soul, and help protect Hogwarts from the Death Eaters.
What we thought:
There will be blood. And tears, plenty of tears, and even denial. But this really is it. The final instalment in the seven-book, eight-film saga of a boy wizard with a lightning bolt scar across his forehead and the future of the magical world resting on his tiny shoulders. In the novels, author JK Rowling created a world of wonder where kids were fully fledged, inspirational characters and the impossible was made possible with a brave heart and a flick of the wand.
Over the course of these eight movies we’ve seen Daniel Radcliffe (as Harry), Rupert Grint (as ginger sidekick Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (as know-it-all Hermione Granger) develop into awkward teenagers and, later, adults with an unflappable sense of who these characters are and what they’ve come to mean, not only to themselves, but the millions of fans who have inhaled these stories with the type of fervour never seen before in literature. Needless to say, they, and director David Yates, have their work cut out for them when it comes to wrapping it all up – forever.
We start pretty much where we ended in Deathly Hallows Part 1 with the trio at the centre of the story still living as fugitives as they bury their friend Dobby, the house elf, plot how they will track down the remaining horcruxes, and discover the meaning behind the Deathly Hallows – the three objects with the power to control death – and the very thing Voldemort (played by Ralph Fiennes) needs to be invincible.
Without Dumbledore to guide them, and Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic now fallen into the hands of the Death Eaters, hope is fading fast. In fact, the sight of Hogwarts under the reign of Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) is an incredibly disturbing one, recalling scenes of wartime labour camps, only this time it’s filled with children. Gone are the brightly lit halls, the quidditch field is reduced to ashes and every hallmark that made the school a place of refuge and enchantment is replaced with sinister shadows and, worst of all, fear.
If you thought Deathly Hallows Part 1 was particularly dark and treacherous, then prepare yourself for a world of anxiety and high emotion at the close. Those who are familiar with the book might feel safe in knowing what’s to come, but even that feeling of security is not to be trusted. This is high stakes stuff and no-one, not even your favourite, is safe from an avada kedavra curse.
Even though the final book is split into two full-length films, it has proven a challenge for screenwriter Steven Kloves to fully explore the heavy plot details contained in the book for the big screen. What proved a long and arduous task to identify, locate and then destroy the horcruxes on page is dealt with in no time at all in the movie. There is so much more meaty, closure-type story to get through – it really helps that two-hour-plus running time feel so inadequate – and so we get to spend more time with Harry as he resigns himself to his fate while his friends, many of them still children, form the last line of defence against the Death Eaters at Hogwarts. There are also very, very important relationship tensions to finally sort out and the much-anticipated kiss (you know the one) happens unexpectedly and rather beautifully. Heart-clutching stuff.
But more than that, there is the ever-present Severus Snape question. Professor Snape has long been the Gryffindor tormentor and shadowy potions master we all love to hate, impenetrable behind sheets of greasy black hair and that ever-present smirk. JK Rowling has called Snape a "gift of a character" and there is no denying that he is her best creation. So it’s always been a pity to see him reduced to a few scenes in the previous seven movies, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 surely, despite the name in the title, belongs to him. As played by the incomparable Alan Rickman, Snape gets his big moment, bringing almost everything we have come to know about this universe into focus. It heralds one of many tear-jerking moments to come in this final journey and proves just why Snape is a favourite among fans.
With such a spectacular cast of characters, overflowing with the best talent the UK can spare, it’s unfortunate that we only get small cameos from the likes of Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney, John Hurt as Ollivander and Robbie Coltrane as the faithful giant Hagrid. But there just isn’t time, not when we have spectacular scenes such as the multiplying treasures and dragon rescue in the vault to gawp at, or watch fantastic characters like Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) and Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) get their big heroic moments. This finale is all about our heroes (and anti-heroes) coming to terms with their destiny. It’s a tough ask of characters this young, but Rowling has always been at pains to show that courage, love and friendship will always be more powerful than any magic spell.
And then, of course, there is the final, bloody battle between Harry and the boy once known as Tom Riddle. By the time it arrives, nerves would have frayed to the point where watching these two greats face off has an oddly cathartic tone to it. It looks absolutely stunning - recalling gritty war scenes from Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers - and feels as big and momentous as the occasion demands. It plays out like this generation’s answer to the destruction of the Death Star.
But is it a satisfying end to 11 years of groundbreaking storytelling? The final, final scenes of Deathly Hallows Part 2 will possibly be debated long after we've moved onto the next fantasy franchise – and they certainly were a point of contention with the filmmakers themselves who decided to reshoot the scenes a number of times. Yes, it plays a little clumsily and doesn’t quite convince on a visual level, but it certainly was a big risk to take. It wouldn’t quite be Harry Potter if it didn’t bow out on at least a slightly controversial note.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a thrilling, emotionally complex and infinitely moving conclusion to one of the most compelling tales ever told. You’d be a Muggle to miss out.