The Scoop: 2011 12A, directed by David Yates and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter.
Tagline: It All Ends
Summary Capsule: One big climax, with fistpump moments for all. Harry and co. break into a goblin bank then finally provoke the final battle with Voldemort (at Hogwarts School, naturally).
Louise’s Rating: My fist is getting tired, but I Can’t. Stop. Pumping.
Louise’s Review: When I was in the sixth form (that’s the last two years of high school), I studied the epic poetry of ancient Greece and Rome. In these poems there is the concept of the ‘aristeia,’ which can be translated as ‘moment of excellence.’ It describes the scene when we focus on a hero as he has his finest hour. There are some conventions associated with these scenes. For instance, the heroes are often filled with the power of one or more gods. The poet describes for us how they put on their armour and go out into the field, and then destroy all in their path. Once they have completed their aristeia, they usually die at the hands of the last man standing. Nothing in their future life could ever measure up to the glory of that moment, so why go on? It’s romantic that way. A poem like The Iliad is basically one long battle-scene, aristeia after aristeia after aristeia. We are introduced to a warrior, we see him kill a bunch of other warriors, in turn he dies himself. Artistically, it’s a precursor to all those moments in movies when we close in on Mel Gibson or Bruce Willis going berserk (which is a battle convention from another tradition altogether!) at the extras, before coming in to take on the primary baddie (although, as Mel and Bruce are often invulnerable until the last minute, they get to have close-ups again and again without dying). Another really good example is the final battle in King Arthur, and the second part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the subject of today’s lecture.
Part Two is everything I hoped for and more. It’s a superb ending to the Harry Potter story. It’s exhausting, because it’s basically got all the excitement that was missing from Part One, but it’s thrilling. My only criticism is that, because it is the second half of a story, there is none of the customary build-up we’re expecting. We sometimes say, “This movie drops us right in the middle of the action” but we don’t really mean that. What we mean is that whatever movie we’re watching has an exciting beginning and a complicated backstory, or, if it’s directed by Uwe Boll or on the Syfy channel, we mean that it’s confused us. Not so with Part Two. It is exactly the same story as Part One, picking up exactly where the first film ended with no overlap. It feels like you pressed pause, went away for nine months to make a giant cup of coffee, or answer the door to some Jehovah’s Witnesses who are *really* good at keeping you talking, came back and pressed play, and here we are.
At the beginning of Part Two our main characters are still on their quest to destroy the horcruxes. Three are already destroyed, and they believe there are three more. From the frenzied rantings of Bellatrix Lestrange, they realize that there must be one hidden in her vault at Gringott’s bank. With the help of the goblin Griphook (Warwick Davis’ first role) they break into Gringott’s bank for the first big sequence. This involves disguising Hermione as Bellatrix, a wonderful opportunity to show off Helena Bonham Carter’s ability to act Emma Watson (it’s like that bit in Face-Off where Travolta and Cage take the mick out of each other’s voices, expressions and body language). This is a cringeworthily tense part of the film, and finally resolves itself with fist-pumping moment number 1 for a blind white dragon.
After that, our heroes make for Hogwarts, and it’s at our beloved school of witchcraft and wizardry that the showdown takes place. The rest of the film, with a couple of quieter episodes and flashbacks thrown in to give us a chance to breathe, is one long battle, and as such, there are many, many aristeias. Pretty much every character that we have been introduced to in the seven preceding films takes part in the battle in some respect, and for many of the goodies it really is a finest hour. Many characters, good and bad, die. They kick butt for their cause, and in doing so make the ultimate sacrifice, and we get to see them doing it (or, to be honest, we get to see them prepared for it, and then we get to see their remains being honoured by their friends). Pupils, staff, the dead, the building itself… no-one is left out. High points include Ron and particularly Neville taking centre stage, Ciaran Hinds as Aberforth Dumbledore, Molly Weasley taking on Bellatrix and the Big Reveal of Snape’s true allegiances and motivations. Alan Rickman doesn’t really deserve accolades for his performance here, but on a cumulative basis, and based on what we know of the character, Snape’s aristeia is very moving (and, it turns out, thirty years in the making! Who would have thought?).
This isn’t the place to muse on the whole Harry Potter saga and franchise. However, I will say how fortunate we all are that the makers of Philospher’s Stone picked such good actors to play the pupils and teachers of Hogwarts, and their families. The continuity over the eight films has been a huge factor in their success. This ending finishes the series with a bang – a big, dangerous, sad, dramatic, heartwarming, f*** yeah! bang.
- Aristeias from classical poetry include Achilles’ defeat of Hector, and those of Diomedes and Patroclus in The Iliad; Odysseus’ defeat of the suitors in The Odyssey; the final battles of (lovers) Nisus and Euryalus in The Aeneid.
- Daniel Radcliffe really is a small man.
- Since when, since when, has Hogwarts had a boat house?
Harry Potter: Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?
Dumbledore: Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?
Griphook: How did you come upon that sword?
Harry Potter: It’s complicated. Why did Bellatrix Lestrange think it should be in her vault?
Griphook: It’s complicated.
Professor Albus Dumbledore: Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.
Minerva McGonagall: Why don’t you confer with Mr. Finnigan? As I recall, he has a particular proclivity for pyrotechnics.
Seamus Finnigan: I can bring it down!
Minerva McGonagall: That’s the spirit, now away you go.
Ron Weasley: Six months she hadn’t see me, it’s like I’m a Frankie First Year. I’m only her brother…
Seamus Finnigan: She’s got lots of them, but there’s only one Harry
Pretty much anything Hermione says when she’s disguised as Bellatrix, because HBC’s delivery is hilarious.
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