This is part of my 2011 wrap-up series, A Few of My Favorite Things, in which I discuss what I enjoyed the past year, regardless of when it was released.
#8 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
At the end of last year, I wrote about the first half of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when I crowned it my 25th favorite thing of 2011:By design unsatisfying, the seventh Harry Potter movie is still in many ways the best of the series to date.
Part 2 gives us the payoff of Part 1’s intricate, hard-working set-up. It’s an inherently satisfying film as a stunning conclusion to a saga that’s been 14 years in the works.
A lot has been written about the eighth film. Pretty much everyone loved it. I won’t try and rehash the arguments in favor of the movie that critics have put more eloquently than I could.
Yes, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is wonderfully acted, crafted, and paced. It’s exciting and scary and sad and extremely faithful to the original. These can be said, to a certain extent, of all eight Harry Potter films, which never sunk below “very good” but failed to ever achieve “transcendent.”
But for a moment, I’d like to focus on a single element that has been an underrated key to why Deathly Hallows Part 2 was my favorite movie I saw in 2011 and probably my favorite of the series: The time frame within the story.
Aside from a few opening scenes, Deathly Hallows Part 2 takes place over a continuous timeline of about 24 hours. Compare that to each of the other Harry Potter movies, which all spanned almost exactly a year.
Think especially of Deathly Hallows Part 1. While beautiful and dark and enjoyable, it spans almost an entire year with no conclusion. It’s basically an extended bit of exposition to prepare for the non-stop action of the grand conclusion.
The plot of the Part 1 is, simply, a bit inert, moreso than any half of a Harry Potter story. A lot of the tension comes from the angst Harry and Ron and Hermione feel wandering and waiting for something to happen.
Part 2 is the exact opposite. In fact — ironically — the two halves of Deathly Hallows might be the two most different Harry Potter films in many ways. Part 2 is the brilliant, kinetic payoff that feels completely earned and fully realized because of the buildup we powered through a year earlier.
This capstone also gives us a chance to reflect on a series that has been one of Hollywood’s most successful ever, in terms of box office and in terms of cinematic quality. This is why I suspect it will earn a Best Picture nomination; the Harry Potter films have been continually appreciated (if not adored) by critics, and they end the series with its highest acclaim ever. The Oscars love lifetime achievement awards.
I know I clash with general fan consensus when I say the fifth film was probably my favorite of the series (excluding this film, which is tough to include in the field because it’s so fresh and only half of a story) and the sixth was maybe my least favorite. It’s hard for me to separate the films from their origin material, but Order of the Phoenix refines what made that book one of the best in the series and Half-Blood Prince muddles much of what made that book one of the best.
I’m always hesitant to put my opinions on Harry Potter films into virtual stone. My mind changes all of the time on which iterations of these series I prefer. I’ve only seen the Deathly Hallow movies once each, so my takes on each could change pretty drastically. I’m really looking forward to seeing each one again.
But there’s one thing that’s for sure: Deathly Hallows Part 2 marks the final Harry Potter book or movie that will ever be released (barring some sort of expansion by Rowling). It’s kind of the end of an era for me that’s spanned my most formative years and more than half of my life.
The Harry Potter series helped me discover how stories and characters can help you better understand the complexities of right and wrong. It cultivated a love of storytelling and fantasy and youth-oriented fiction that persists to this day. I owe much to the series and I thank it for an unforgettable decade-plus of fandom that will certainly stretch into a lifetime.
Up next: A terribly named but endlessly addictive history simulator