By Stewart Terry
Right. Confession time. I’ve never read any of the Harry Potter books. I’ve watched every film adaptation from the halcyon days of Chris Columbus all the way up to the brooding melancholy of David Yates but I have never taken so much as a passing glance at a hardback cover. I even undertook an all-night shift at my local multiplex in order to get 500 Harry Potter “snack packs” ready for Azkaban simply for financial and artistic gain (they were paying double and giving me a pass to the Halloween season) rather than my dedication to the franchise. So do excuse me, loyal readers, if I refuse to don a cape and prance about Trafalgar Square, wand in hand, like an excitable Paul Daniels. Further apologies for my reluctance to hail the final instalment as the masterpiece that so many others are claiming – unfortunately, in my opinion, it’s not.
Entering the realm of Hogwarts et al from the perspective of a moviegoer – not a reader – is a daunting task. There are numerous McGuffins, characters and places appearing that you perhaps haven’t seen for three of four films and because of this the enlightened and unenlightened path of reader and viewer respectively deviate.
Hallows Part 2 is a solemn, joyless and cold affair. 130 minutes of Harry chasing or being chased through darkly lit corridors, forests and castles. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and if anything David Yates should be commended for his commitment to an aesthetic that belies the franchise’s origins as being simply for children. But when the proverbial hits the fan in the final showdown, Yates becomes over-dependent on the audiences foreknowledge of events rather than playing it out for the uninformed plebs. As the Potter readers cry into their Waterstones receipts the casual viewer is crying out for some emotional resonance.
This said, these moments of dark despair are punctuated with lively, pulse racing set pieces such as a goblin bank heist and the aforementioned battle of Hogwarts. Plus there’s the Encyclopaedia Britannica of luvvies bring their own brand of well-seasoned gravitas to otherwise unfortunately underdeveloped roles. The stand out performance, as one might expect, is delivered by Alan Rickman who – avoiding spoilers for fellow cinema patrons – is given room to bring his character arc to a satisfying conclusion amongst the death and mayhem. But it’s a shame that so many others, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) for one, are left to brood as little more than background artists rather than offering the audience a little something to reward their seven films worth of commitment.
I liked this film enough to give Yates the benefit of the doubt and will say that as a stand alone film, without the print baggage, Hallows Part 2 is an enjoyable summertime diversion. A nourishing piece of goodness for a family audience being fed cynical trash like Transformers on a weekly basis. But as a conclusion to a seven movie story arc it undoubtedly relies too heavily on nostalgia and the goodwill of core fans to get itself over the finish line.