The second of the two films adapted from J.K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter novel begins at the place where the first left us hanging: with the theft of an immensely powerful wand. The Elder Wand is one of the three Deathly Hallows, magical objects of immense power which, according to wizarding legend, give the possessor mastery over death. This wand, believed to be the most powerful of all wands, had been in the possession of Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), and Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has been desperate to possess it since failing to defeat Harry in a duel in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Now Dumbledore is dead, Voldemort robs the grave in order to gain the wand.
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is well aware that he is no match for Voldemort, especially now he has the Elder Wand. But, after struggling with whether or not to follow the instructions Dumbledore had given him, he is now certain that his old mentor had been right. Racing Voldemort to find the Deathly Hallows was futile; he must find and destroy the Horcruxes, the fragments of Voldemort’s soul which the evil wizard had concealed. After receiving a tip-off from Griphook (Warwick Davies), a goblin from Gringott’s Bank, Harry locates Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup – which contains a Horcrux – and pulls off a bank heist to retrieve it. Along with Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), Harry heads for Hogwarts and a final showdown. It is time for the boy who lived to face the Dark Lord.
Ten years after the first film about the boy wizard, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the franchise, based on the books by J.K. Rowling, has become an enormous international phenomenon. Back in 2001, the first four books were already causing a global sensation. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had been published the previous summer, and smashed sales records in both the UK and USA. There was a hiatus of three years before book five, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and while fans worried that Rowling may have been suffering from writer's block (which she consistently denied), they had the arrival of the film adaptations to keep them happy.
The first two films were directed by Chris Columbus, followed by Alfonso Cuarón, for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Mike Newell, for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Steven Kloves was screenwriter for the first four films, working closely with J.K. Rowling. David Yates came in to direct Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and the two-part finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Kloves was replaced as screenwriter on the fourth film, but returned for the final three.
The film franchise has, arguably, changed film history, as well as making its three central actors some of the richest people in the film world. From their stilted debut performances, Radcliffe, Grint and Watson have matured to become well-respected actors who are able to carry the significant emotional weight of some very dark and suspenseful films. They have, of course, been accompanied by some of the finest British character actors, including Michael Gambon, Dame Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman and Ralph Fiennes. Radcliffe says,
I couldn’t even attempt to sum up what the role of Harry Potter has meant to me, but I can say that I never took the opportunity to play him lightly. It may have been the same character, but like anyone else, Harry changed a lot over the years so, as an actor, I looked at each film as an opportunity to do something fresh and to develop another set of skills.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 broke all box-office records with its opening weekend.
Questions for discussion
How would you describe your feelings about the Harry Potter film franchise, now that it has reached its conclusion? If you have read the books as well, how do you think the films have captured the spirit of the novels?
How did you feel going into the final film of the series, after the cliff-hanger ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1? What emotional responses did the film produce for you?
What would you identify as the best features of this film? What didn’t work for you? Were there any changes from the book which you found particularly difficult?
How would you describe the development of Harry’s character over the previous seven films? What has he learnt about the world, his friends and himself?
What qualities particularly characterise Harry, Ron and Hermione? In what ways might they be a very positive inspiration for viewers of these films?
What makes Harry, Ron and Hermione carry on with their quest, once Harry realises that Voldemort has the Elder Wand? Why are others in the wizarding world prepared to take great risks in order to help them?
Why do you think Harry is once more able to put his trust in Dumbledore’s advice and instructions, after having had serious doubts in part 1?
How does director David Yates convey the atmosphere of fear and dread within this film?
In what way is the weakness of Harry and his friends, compared to Voldemort and his forces, a key part of the strategy outlined by Dumbledore? What are the consequences of this weakness?
How does Voldemort begin to fragment internally as Harry finds and destroys the Horcruxes?
How did you feel about Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1? How did your opinions and feelings change during the course of this film? How would you describe him? To what extent do you think he did the right thing?
How would you describe the emotional and mental journey which Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is on in this film? Felton says, "I believe he reached a point where he wants to be good, but evil is in his DNA." Is there any sense in which you are aware of this within yourself? If so, how do you explain it?
In what different ways are there aspects of some kind of redemption in this story?
To what extent do Harry’s actions – and the results of those actions – reflect those of Jesus Christ in the New Testament accounts of his life? Do you think J.K. Rowling intended strong parallels? Why/why not? How does Harry Potter help you to reflect on Jesus’s death and resurrection and the implications for your own life?
Book title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Keywords: Trust, courage, wisdom, good and evil, weakness, sacrifice, redemption
Publisher: Bloomsbury (UK); Arthur A. Levine (USA)
Publication Date: 21 July 2007
Film title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Director: David Yates
Screenplay: Steve Kloves, based on the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA/UK)
Cinema Release Date: 15 July 2011 (USA/UK)
Certificate: PG-13 (USA); 12A (UK) Contains moderate threat, injury detail and language
Related articles / study guides
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Into the Wilderness
- A Deeper Magic
- Culturewatch Podcast – Film Releases 15 July 2011
© 2011 Tony Watkins