3.5 out of 5 stars
And so it ends.
It’s been a long journey for Harry Potter, first through seven books, and then overlapping with seven films. It’s a pop culture phenomenon rivaled only perhaps by Star Wars, and it will be etched in a generation’s minds forever.
This last film aims to send the series out with a bang, or rather a series of nonstop bangs as witches and wizards blast spells at each other for the duration of the movie. His final saga was so epic, it was deemed prudent to split it in half, a decision I complained about in my review of the first film, which was all rising action with nothing really to show for it. I also wondered why the second film couldn’t be released a few weeks or a month later, but judging by the fact that this movie just blew past The Dark Knight’s opening weekend record, taking in $168 million with $43 million in midnight showings alone, I won’t be working for a movie studio marketing department any time soon.
With an almost universal tsunami of positive reviews and a record setting box office haul, Potters’ Deathly Hallows Part 2 is set to be perhaps one of the successful films of the decade, but is it actually flawless? Are critics and audiences blinded by the whirlwind finale, and incapable of leveling any criticism at all?
Though the film does a lot of things right, it’s not exactly perfect either, and runs into some pretty significant problems deviating from the book in its closing moments, which are arguably the most important of the entire series.
Nevile Longbottom: Unexpected Badass
But things start out strong, and stay that way for a while. When we last left Harry, he was busy hunting Horcruxes, which hold pieces of Voldemort’s soul and must be destroyed in order for him to be vulnerable. He’s joined by his stalwart companions Ron and Hermoine as usual, as the trio are done having tiffs that populated the last film, though did manage to give some real depth to the characters.
Part 2 is divided up into really only two sequences, which is what you get when you make a movie out of half of a book. There’s a raid of a goblin vault to find a Horcrux that would seem like a very good theme park ride, and then there’s the battle of Hogwarts, that lasts most of the film and is an incredibly epic spectacle to behold.
The sequence is equally as gripping as it was in the book, and it’s necessary to stop and marvel at just how far this series has come. We saw little 11 year old Harry getting off the Hogwarts Express and touring the castle like it’s Disneyland many years ago, and now the thing is getting blown to all hell as his classmates, friends and teachers drop like flies around him. I can’t remember seeing this level of tone change in any series like that, and it’s pretty incredible to witness.
Regrouping amidst the ruins of Hogwarts.
I still don’t like these films being split in half. The first one is all build up, and the second one is all action, and they really don’t function as independent films very well. Though presumably combining them would have forced them to make even deeper cuts to the plot, which has already been run pretty thin. We have the general outline that describes the history of the Horcruxes and Hallows, but there are a lot of details overlooked in the sake of time, and the plot might seem a bit hard to keep track of for the uninitiated.
It’s hard to talk about the ending, without spoiling it for all those who haven’t read the books (for shame!), but that’s where a lot of issues come up. There’s an incredibly bizarre scene that has Voldemort celebrating a recent victory that’s painfully awkward and mood killing. It’s supposed to be a somber affair, as the dead line the corridors of Hogwarts after a fearsome battle, but an odd laugh here, and awkward hug there, and Voldemort becomes comic relief during a time where the audience should in no way be laughing.
Perhaps the film’s biggest transgression is its changing of the penultimate moment of Voldemort’s demise (not a spoiler because what, you thought he would win?). There’s supposed to be a big speech by Harry in front of a crowd, and then Voldemort’s own arrogance does him in after his final Horcrux is destroyed. But the film revamps the scene in a way where someone else’s actions deliver the killing blow, not Harry’s, and worst of all there’s no one even around to witness the Dark Lord’s final moments, and no speech to explain why exactly he’s lost. I understand taking some liberties with the book, as these films always have, but this seems like an incredibly major plot point to alter, and it felt so strange onscreen, I had to go and re-read the section to remember how the correct ending went down.
The rest of the issues the film has aren’t with Yates’ movie per se, but rather with the book itself, which I felt was a bit of a letdown when I read it. It’s tough to end a series so epic in a way that pleases everyone, but it feels a little cobbled together, and the epilogue is a decision I never agreed with; its only purpose is allowing Rowling to say she doesn’t need to write more books, as we know how Harry’s story ends. And I’ll say for the last time I never understood the Harry-Ginny, Ron-Hermoine pairings that were forced despite a distinct lack of chemistry between the characters in both the books and the films. But again, this is Rowling’s issue, not the film’s.
Look away, the passion burns too brightly.
It’s not the best of the series, as it’s really only half a movie, and you’d have to judge both pieces together to really be fair. Issues with the original story aside, they’ve changed some pretty significant plot points for the penultimate moments of the entire series, which is something fans like myself might resent. Some scenes aren’t handled with the dignity or mood they should have (in addition to awkward Voldemort, I think Snape’s tale could have been better told, as it was the best part of the book), and it seems like the narrative dropped the ball on a few occasions.
But in the end, despite its flaws, it’s hard not to like Harry Potter, or his final film. We’ve come this far with him, and it’s necessary to overlook a few missteps during his sendoff to end on a positive note. Part 2 is a nonstop thriller and a culmination of everything that came before it, which was one hell of a fantasy series.
It might be a longshot, but here’s to hoping this isn’t the last we see of Mr. Potter.
3.5 out of 5 stars