Ten years in the making, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 has an incredible amount of hype to live up to. Three young stars, four directors, seven books, and eight years should add up to one hell of a ride. With so many important notes to hit, story threads to wrap up, and one hellacious final battle, the stakes were very, very high for the final installment of the franchise? Did David Yates and team meet the challenge? To put it simply: No, not so much.
As I haven’t been writing about movies long, I almost feel like I have to throw out my Harry Potter credentials before I go any farther. I’ve read the books, seen each of the movies opening night (except for Deathly Hallows Part 1, as I was hanging out at a private party in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando). I do not have a costume or anything hanging up in my closet, but I might just have a branded scarf laying around somewhere. So what kind of fan am I? I’d like to think I know what I’m talking about, but I can’t quote passages of text from the books or anything.
That out of the way, I will say that this will be a universally popular film. Pretty much everything that that fans are expecting to see is in there. Mrs. Weasley will expand her vocabulary, Neville Longbottom will be a hero, a hated foe will be redeemed and, 19 years in the future, a new generation will board a train. Do things happen exactly as they did in the book? No, but, as we’ve learned along the way, that isn’t always a bad thing.
The problem with all of that popularity is that Deathly Hallows Part 2 really isn’t that good of a movie. The pacing is inconsistent and plodding, and the movie suffers horribly because of it. It feels like we shuffle from action set piece to exposition sequence to memorable moment from the books with no rhythm, no sense of when something important is happening, or when it is just a slow transition to the next scene.
When battles at Hogwarts, large and small, were excised from previous movies, the most logical explanation was to avoid repeating similar set pieces. Who knew that, in actuality, David Yates just can’t direct action? At least when Michael Bay loses track of characters during the narrative of an action set piece, we will call that “Just another Transformers movie,” and it will look really cool. It is almost like Yates attempted (poorly) to imitate Bay. Luna shows back up at Hogwarts … after we see Harry, Ron, and Hermione sneak in the only passage left open. At one point in the battle, Harry is running amongst a crowd, and then suddenly is alone. There are slow motion sequences that last far longer than they ever should.
Those moments I mentioned earlier? They almost feel tacked on to the narrative as a whole. One of my favorite moments from the book is Molly Weasley’s duel with Bellatrix Lestrange. Where I always imagined this would play out in the midst of a battle, with both of the relevant Weasleys fighting off Death Eaters on all sides, instead it was staged almost in a corner, and comes across almost as wooden as the wands in the ladies hands. It is a shame, because (pop) culturally, that was a big moment, just because it was so out of character for the Weasley matriarch.
Believe it or not, it is difficult for me to criticize the movie. I really wanted to like it, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I were one of the few people on the planet that doesn’t. But I’m not going to give a free pass to some really poor decisions just because it is the last installment, and it hit several of the notes right. More than several notes, for what it is wroth. That is why, on the whole, people are going to like it. I just wish I could have been one of them.