Harry Potter has undoubtedly been one of the greatest phenomenons in movie history. It’s managed eight films without a dud, grossed more cash than any other franchise in history, and perhaps most impressively has kept nearly all the same actors throughout its run. It’s been a part of many people’s lives for a full decade, especially those who’ve grown up alongside Harry and co. Indeed, when I saw Deathly Hallows Part 2 in the cinemas I was sat behind a university-aged young man who announced as the end credits began to roll, “Well, that’s my childhood over.”
Some have criticised director David Yates for having a slightly journeyman approach to Harry Potter. It is true that his four Potter movie lack the noticeable directorial flourishes of the earlier films, but what he’s done in terms of world-building is truly astonishing. Yates approach is actually exactly what’s needed, a man who can create a truly incredible universe and knows how to tell a story. After all, JK Rowling has already provided incredible tales, and Yates is a good translator of them.
In fact, if you watch the special features, you begin to appreciate what an astonishing job he’s done in marshalling the creation of a series of films with a huge cast and which take place in an incredibly complex world. The Potter movies have an almost ridiculous amount of special effects, but most of it is so well done (and only there to help create a convincing, all-encompassing world), that you notice far less of it than you probably think you do.
Deathly Hallows Part 2 throws you straight into the action. It picks up straight after the end of Part 1 and there’s little time to let you settle back in. Very quickly Harry, Ron and Hermione are back on the trailer of the Horcruxes that contain bits of Voldemort’s soul. Those who complained that Part 1 was too much of the magical trio wandering round shouting at one another will be pleased there’s plenty more action this time around.
First off Harry must break into Gringotts bank, to find a Horcrux hidden in the evil Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault, and then it’s back to Hogwarts, where the stage is set for the mother of all showdowns. Voldemort and his army want Harry dead, and as the young wizard continues his journey, he discovers the bad guys may have to get their way.
It’s a fitting end to the series with a fast pace, plenty of action and a real sense of this being the climax. That said, as Yates has done with some of the earlier emotional climaxes in the series, there are moments where he seems to be underplaying things more than is needed. It’s probably because of this that some have complained about the director just getting us from A to B to C. That is unfair, but he’s certainly not one for big, weepy, overly-dramatic moments, and even when he tries they don’t quite have as much impact as perhaps they should. It is a slight shame, as the end of such a huge film series could have perhaps done with a little more sense of occasion, but the story is told well. As always, there are bits fans of the book will feel annoyed have been left out, but everything is there that needs to be.
Meanwhile those who haven’t read the book may be wondering why it’s called ‘Deathly Hallows’, as despite them featuring in the movie, they don’t really seem to have that much importance in the film. That was also somewhat true of the book, but here time constraints mean their relevance gets packed down to the point where you feel they’re only mentioned at all because that’s what JK Rowling called the novel.
To be honest though, it almost seems pointless to say much more. The film is the third highest grossing movie ever worldwide and the second biggest ever in the UK, so it’s fairly certain anyone reading a DVD review will have see it at the cinema and already have their own opinions about the film. That said, if you saw it in 3D at the cinema, you’ll probably find the movie a slightly different experience on DVD or Blu-ray. The creation of Hogwarts at war is a truly astonishing achievement and often quite incredible to behold. That slightly got lost in the frenetic but fun addition of 3D, but with the extra dimension taken away you can appreciate it more.
The special features are also very good. Blu-ray bods get a series of ‘Focus Point’ featurettes you can slot into the movie, but even those who just have trusty old DVD still get most of these, but as a separate collection of featurettes. They’re quite interesting and take a look at all sorts of things, from the creation of the wonderful Room Of Requirement set to the rather emotional filming of the final scenes.
Also interesting are ‘The Goblins Of Gringotts’ and ‘The Women Of Harry Potter’ featurettes. The former focuses of the little people who’ve been a part of the Harry Potter world right through the series, with 60 of them cast to play goblins in the Gringotts sequence. ‘The Women Of Harry Potter’ is surprisingly insightful, with JK Rowling talking about exactly what the female characters mean and represent to her (her talk about motherhood, which for her is a central part of Harry Potter, is particularly fascinating), while many of the actresses also talk about both the characters and playing them.
The central piece of the DVD features though is the documentary, ‘When Harry Left Hogwarts’. Documentarian Morgan Matthews got the unique opportunity to follow the behind-the-scenes story of Deathly Hallows and this is the result. While not perfect and perhaps shorter than would be ideal (it’s about 45 minutes), it’s very interesting. You get some interesting info about the cast (such as that Daniel Radcliffe is a betting man), and they’re quite open as they discuss the uncertainty of the future after spending a decade on the Hogwarts set.
Most interesting though are the moments spent with the forgotten members of the crew, such as the amazingly talented plasterers who’ve spent years creating sets and the stunt men who risk life and limb. Best of all are some of the guys creating the courtyard set, who seem to view filmmaking as a rather bizarre pastime and actors merely as people who get in the way of what they’d like to be doing. But as long as the paycheques keep arriving, they’re happy to keep creating the fantasy.
The movie also features the rather emotional final filming moments for numerous members of the cast, with Daniel Radcliffe particularly upset as things come to a close. It’s not really surprising, as for most of the young actors, the close of filming is their equivalent of leaving school, except that they’re going out into a world of more pressure and uncertainty than most (although the huge bank balances of the main cast should help). ‘When Harry Left Hogwarts’ is a bit of a must-see for fans of the franchise.
Although this is the last of the films, I have a feeling this won’t be the last home entertainment release. Five disc Blu-ray sets of many of the earlier films are already available, and there’s been talk of extended versions of the movies getting a release at some point (footage of Rik Mayall as Peeves the Poltergeist and Paul Whitehouse as Sir Cadogan still lies on a cutting room floor somewhere). So if you’re a fan, don’t worry, Harry will be with us for a long time to come.
Overall Verdict: A great release for the final movie, which wraps a incredible franchise up in fitting style.
Special Features: Focus Points Featurettes, ‘When Harry Left Hogwarts’ Documentary, ‘The Goblins Of Gringotts’ Featurette, ‘The Women Of Harry Potter’ Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London Preview, Pottermore Preview
Reviewer: Tim Isaac