During the London premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Emma Watson, among many others, was seen crying into the arms of producer David Heyman. Yes, the fantastic fantasy covering everything from love to mortality is finally over, and for many, so is the tangible object of their childhood.
In charge of this emotional last film is director David Yates (who signed onto the 5th movie Order of the Phoenix), someone who has tenderly woven the last four films together with greater responsibility each time. Together for all ten years of the production have been the famous tripling of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson; Harry, Ron, and Hermione, respectively. Unlike any other movie collection, the three have played these characters from carefree youngsters to emerging adults; they know the lives of Harry, Ron, and Hermione better than their very own selves. Back too are some of England’s finest, actors from the likes of Maggie Smith, Allan Rickman, and Ralph Fiennes, who in their time have raised their characters above their own special cameos and embraced every loving, cringing detail of Rowling’s intricate personages.
Part 2 picks up right on the heels of Part 1, a clip of Voldemort raising the elder wand jogs our memory. There is a certain silence that ties the beginning scenes together, maybe a sign from Yates about the serious nature of a quest to destroy souls. Hidden in small, valued objects, the Horcruxes that keep enemy Voldemort’s split souls alive provide the trio with challenges, some that seem real, and others that downplay their heavy role in keeping the Dark Lord breathing. Harry, now with hair erupting from his chin, attacks his fate, knowing head on, unlike the cloudy understandings of years past, what his destiny holds.
The last movie calls for extremities to be motioned forward, as well as adding more depth to seven years of familiarity. Alan Rickman is up for the task as Snape’s omnipresent pale face and greasy hair submerge into the cold aura of Hogwarts’ bleak, fascist state. Rickman’s pasty stare however illuminates and warms the ghostly eye shadow, an embodiment of human struggle that even magic cannot control. The same is true for Ralph Fiennes’ embodiment of Lord Voldemort, evil down to his core, his white-veined skin and snake nose are mere supplements to his frightening if not awkward movements and arm gestures. His loud confidence impeccably shows his weakness in such a way that even his slithering whispers amongst students lack an air of astute understanding.
Flora and fauna all collide in battle at Hogwarts and while Part 1 took us away from the friendly torched and bricked castle walls, the final chapters reunite us with Harry’s early days. This time the towers’ warm glow cedes way for a conclusion. Consequently, each character has jointly become a part of us, their triumph, their falls, become entangled to the point that losing someone on screen means, especially for readers of the books, finding a place for them to live in us. The stairways crumble as does the comfortable fire of the common room.
The unifying theme within this successful film franchise has been the unselfish styles of its directors. Yates, instead of rearing the helm with his single perspective, gratuitously embeds the creations of previous directors (Columbus, Cuarón, Newell), sets, and scenes, providing the viewer nostalgic tokens of years past, blended seamlessly into Harry’s present plight. It is this unselfishness that has allowed these films to thrive. Screenwriter Steve Kloves, who penned 7 of the 8 movies, took it upon himself to meld Rowling’s prose into a marketable movie experience, using the author’s descriptors and the massive fan following as the guiding force behind his honor-filled adapting process.
With each of Yates’ and Kloves’ creations, the series has indeed turned darker and its characters more complex. Their believability however spawns from the growing realism of this film’s special effects. Bursts from wands, flaps of Dementor cloaks, and circling shots of the castle under siege seem as real as the guardians who defend Hogwarts itself. The coloring is dull and the tone is evaporated of student joy in this last adaption, and even shots of rejuvenation have leftover fog.Yet it’s Yates’ sensual touches of careful emotion that make the battle of good and evil feel connected. That and the fact that witnessing all of our childhood stars in peril for the first time can pull sentimental chords as well. John Williams’ theme finds its bearing amidst a new musical direction, and the spell that has charmed us for eight films straight makes one last call.
Yates’ direction can be somewhat confused, lacking a specific focus at times that has potential to illuminate and escalate certain scenes to higher levels.The climax is atypical to summer blockbusters, containing a more subdued final buildup. Instead of going all out, he returns to the series’ bread and butter, charming its effervescent spirit of heart filled friendship to the bitter end. Though Kloves prolongs some scenes with unique improvisation off of Rowling’s script, certain deviations under-develop a fluid sequence of subplots. Nevertheless, clarity triumphs over confusion even as the ash of smoldering rubble and castle collapse onto the hallowed ground of Hogwarts.
In a sense, Yates stays true to TS Elliot’s last line of his apocalyptic poem The Hollow Men. “This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but with a whimper.” Though he strikes the final chord a bit louder, Yates, softly and solemnly, closes the book. Mischief managed.