Cover of Alexandre Desplat
July 12, 2011 (Amazon.com) The 'Harry Potter' films will be heralded as canonical works of our generation, and since the franchise is adored by millions, it should be fitting that the finale of this series be given a phenomenal score. While I had high expectations, I think they were reasonable considering this was such a landmark movie event. Unfortunately Alexandre Desplat's score doesn't fit what I was expecting for the finale of the series, but even though the score is underwhelming compared to the original works of John Williams, having a huge number of generic battle moments and background noises, 'Harry Potter & Deathly Hallows Part 2' has some truly magical moments that compliment the film.
Some bits of this soundtrack are exquisite and compliment the movie impeccably. The score opens with the enigmatic and melancholic 'Lily's Theme', a gem on this album which highlights Desplat's esoteric approach to composing, in this case heard in the fusion of luscious strings with atmospheric drones to culminate in a beautifully bitter-sweet introduction - and a heartbreaking moment during its appearance in 'Snape's Demise'. 'Battlefield' immediately conjures up a vivid memory of the battle of Howgarts, and is one of the few engaging moments in the action where the music is powerful and imposing, managing to carry a discernible melody without drenching itself in so many generic techniques found through the album. 'Severus and Lily', the longest piece on the album, is a good representation of both Desplat and the series, led by a eerie clarinet over the top of the orchestra while beautifully utilising a solo piano and tubular bells, and it's followed by 'Harry's Sacrifice' which is short and sweet, moving and tragic. The best piece on the album is 'The Resurrection Stone', which is angelic and very mise-en-scène - the traits which made William's work so magical finally appear in Desplat's work, and the music is truly evocative and entrancing. I would say I liked the ending ('A New Beginning') but to be honest it's too brief and lacks the catharsis that you're looking for after hearing fourty something minutes of battle scores.
Beyond those movements, the rest of the album is very generic. This is hardly Desplat's fault - the final episode in this saga is crammed full of action and high tension, and this is unfortunately reflected heavily in the music. Pieces such as 'Dragon Fight', 'Showdown', 'Underworld', 'Panic Inside Hogwarts' don't share a distinct motif, so while you'd never associate them with a Harry Potter score, it's also difficult to follow and truly enjoy any parts of the score with the exception of the interjections of William's original material. For the rest of the pieces, the album is very atmospheric. Songs like 'Gringots' and 'In the Chamber' don't really have much going for them or much going on. They're pleasant, full of incidental music with sporadic interjections of strings and pitched percussion, while other pieces just roll along without really doing anything except provide background noise ('The Grey Lady', 'The Diadem').
In the end, the best parts of the soundtrack are the brief reprises of the scores from the first two films by Williams, and Desplat's original themes are fairly forgettable and only few pieces are really engaging. The score is fitting and works well for what is happening on camera, but lacks the edge and memorability which made the previous (read: first three) scores so magical. This music is good and highly effective in the movie, but doesn't really stand that well on its own. I would never walk down the street listening to the majority of this album on my iPod, nor would I really care to recommend it to anyone beyond Harry Potter fans to purchase it. Besides that handful of pieces, I'd recommend you stick to the first three.