New recruit Dana Kimpton bids farewell to ‘that’ franchise – has the world’s favourite wizard saved his best tricks for last?
Is it a cliché to say that I grew up with Harry Potter? Usually, I’m using that phrase to defend myself, as in “Yes, I am going to the midnight premiere even though I’m 21 years old”, but now that the final installment has arrived, there seems no other way to describe it. Yes, I grew up with HP. My mom read the first books aloud to me, back in 1997, before I read them on my own. When the first movie came out in 2001, I was the same age as the characters. I’ve seen four directors, two Dumbledores and, now, eight movies come and go.
The ending is satisfying. Whereas the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was quiet and sombre, the second is loud and theatrical – it unabashedly parades characters across the screen during the final Battle of Hogwarts, as if to remind us that the series has in fact had more characters than just Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grant) and Hermione (Emma Watson). (I had begun to have my doubts after the previous movie.) It’s action followed by action, but that’s really what we all wanted, wasn’t it? Best of all, the movie takes viewers back to Hogwarts and, I must admit, I had missed being away.
Director David Yates relies heavily on shots of Harry weaving through chaotic battlegrounds set to music – Potter’s task is to hunt for horcruxes throughout the school, while the rest of ‘Team Harry’ holds off Voldemort and company. (We’re supposed to believe that the hundreds of bad guys are too preoccupied fighting teenagers to curse Harry, or at least trip him as he runs past.) We see the scope of the battle between good and evil, and shed a tear for the massive destruction wrought upon Hogwarts Castle.
And the castle isn’t the only thing that’s looking beat up. We’re used to Harry looking battle-worn at the end of every movie, after the inevitable faceoff with Voldemort. Usually he narrowly escapes with a dirty face and a bloody lip. This time, all the characters spend the entire movie looking like they are on the losing end of a fight with the Whomping Willow. A bloody lip is the least of their problems. This time, people die.
But the movie does not dwell on the characters that are lost – there is a rather morose scene in which the survivors are caring for their dead, but it is short, and there is a nice job done of rounding out Snape’s character. Once again, we return to the pensieve, an object used to review memories, to find out what’s been grinding Snape’s gears all these years. The flashback montages are illuminating and well done, and Alan Rickman is finally able to show a little more emotion, which was nice after seven movies of slow speech and dripping disdain.
The special effects in Hallows are impressive too, though don’t waste your money on a 3D showing – the back-to-back-to-back action scenes let the crew embrace a variety of shots to show the castle under siege, and one of the coolest effects is when Professor Flitwick casts protective charms that form an invisible bubble around Hogwarts. I will never get tired of the effect when the camera seems to zoom through the bubble and the image is out of focus for a second, as if the lens has just passed through the barrier of spells. Yates does this a lot, not just with protective bubbles, but also when he is zooming through windows. Sometimes, it’s the little things that pull it all together.
The weakest part is the epilogue, but that’s hardly the fault of the moviemakers, as it’s horrendous in the book too – the worst thing is the hair and makeup that’s used to make the surviving main characters look like they’re in their late 30s. Let’s just say that some Hogwarts alumni age better than others.
Overall, the film was a good end to a defining series. Endings are difficult and bittersweet, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows focused more on the sweet, and watching it was a bit like watching a graduation. I laughed, cried, remembered old times and wondered what everyone is going to do now that it’s over. In a few years, we can come back and evaluate. For now, I’m going to quietly mourn the end of an era, and make plans to see it at least once more on the big screen.