Saturday, July 16, 2011

Childhood's End: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2--The Movie

It's over. For better or worse, more or less, the Harry Potter media phenomenon is completed. Over a decade for the seven books and over 22 hours of film have told J. K. Rowling's story of the boy who lived, the boy who fought against burgeoning evil and became a man to stand as the last mortal in single combat with the ultimate evil.

The one theme of themes, the sweeping spectacle of human and magical forces battling it out and mere mortals rising to battle heroically with only the armor of their human bonds with each other and their own courage--it is almost too much for any book, any movie, to encompass. And whatever may be said, about the special effects, the cinematography, the actors, it cannot be said that the final movies lost sight of the serious theme that Rowling took on. And the final two, under Director David Yates, are therefore well worth seeing.

Like its immediate predecessor, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, this movie has little of the humor and none of the light-hearted fun of the early books. Dumbledore is dead. Sirius is dead, and this movie begins with Harry completing the burial of Dobby, the last comic relief in the series, and the pall that filled the first half continues here in full force. (See my review of Part 1 here.) But unlike Part 1, there's no time left for the characters to explore their new maturity, no time for the quest, the sleuthing out of the horcruxes and for destroying them one by one. There remains only one, and the three friends first agree that it must reside inside Nagini, Voldemort's enormous snake and constant companion.

But then Harry returns to Hogwarts, with the traitorous Snape now headmaster, to consult an eyewitness, not a living one, but the legendary Gray Lady, ghost of Hogwarts. And what the Gray Lady tells him leads Harry at last to what he has unknowingly known long since--the final horcrux and last locus of Valdemort's power lies indeed within himself, transformed there when Voldemort killed his parents but was unable to end the life of the infant Harry.

So, as with all the great heroes of literature and legend, the struggle comes down to one within the hero himself. Harry knows that the final destruction of Voldemort must include his own end. In a dramatic scene with the cherished dead of his life, Lily, James, Sirius, and the rest, Harry confronts his own death, and in the end, as the dying Snape reveals his lifelong love for Lily, Harry sees that the story has come full circle, and there there is only one choice for him. And he knows that Snape himself has prepared the way for that epic battle and its ultimate outcome.

Viewers and critics will argue endlessly over how the movie ends. I felt that the film's ending, with Harry's resurrection, only made Rowling's equivocal ending less definitive, but others will be satisfied with knowing "what happens next" after Harry and Voldemort fulfill their mutual destiny, seeing Voldemort's final disintegration and Harry's son, Aldus Severus Potter, off to Hogwarts, full circle once more.

So it is done. Harry Potter began as books that belonged to children, something that was their own special world, their own thing. Now those readers are entering adulthood and have passed their well-worn books on to those who come after them. So too, now with the films. After all, that is the way with literature: it belongs to its fans, and then it belongs to the ages. Loved or judged, literary legend or religious allegory, whatever, Harry now belongs to the next generation and the next.

“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry," said Dumbledore, "but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, Warner Brothers, 2011, 130 minutes, Rated PG-13.



  • "And the Gray Lady tells Harry what he has unknowingly known long since--the final horcrux and last locus of Valdemort's power lies indeed within himself"

    This is completely incorrect. The Gray Lady tells Harry the location of the diadem of Ravenclaw. It is Severus Snape who (through the Pensieve) tells Harry that he is the final horcrux.

    By Blogger Ryan Booth, at 1:46 PM  

  • Just read "Childhood's End" by Isaac Asimov. I was surprised when I found that I Loved it! Loved Rowling's closure of the whole Series, as I was worried she'd lose her endurance , the Stephen King had with The Gunslinger series.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:58 PM  

  • Sorry...pedantry:

    Arthur C. Clarke wrote Childhood's End.

    By Blogger Aretae, at 2:58 PM  

  • Reading your review I'm left with - Hunh? Did you even see the movie? There was humor, dark but there. As the post above indicates, you've got the whole conversation with the Gray Lady wrong, when they get to Hogwarts they know they have two more horcruxes, and THEN when Harry experiences Snapes memories he finds out that he's the last horcrux.

    By Blogger Vivian Louise, at 3:06 PM  

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