Apologies for not being able to spend more time on the final "Harry Potter" film, but I just saw it a few hours ago and wanted to get this review written today since tomorrow I'll be busy with the "Breaking Bad" premiere.
Spoilers for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two" (hereafter abbreviated as "DH: Part Two") after the jump:
Well, here we are: finally at the end of the "Harry Potter" series. These books and movies have enthralled audiences for over a decade, making the concluding film one of the more heavily hyped movies in recent memory. The last time a fantasy movie was this anticipated was probably 2003, the year of the final "Lord of the Rings" movie. And we all know how that turned out.
Now, let's get one thing clear right out of the gate: "DH: Part Two" is no "Return of the King". That much should be obvious to anybody watching it. Much like the book it's based on, the film is a somewhat flawed conclusion to this wonderful series. But it's also an extremely worthy one in most aspects, particularly the ones that really matter.
Picking up where the first part left off, it chronicles Harry, Ron, and Hermione's attempts to destroy the remaining Horcruxes. And to the film's credit, it rarely gets distracted from that goal. This is arguably the most focused "Potter" film since "Prisoner of Azkaban", and for that we owe screenwriter Steve Kloves a great debt. He's trimmed down many of the most bothersome aspects of Rowling's overlong novel (such as the unnecessary discussion of Dumbledore's past), and kept most of what works.
All that said, the film starts out rather weakly. The Gringotts break-in (one of the better scenes in the book if you ask me) doesn't really translate all that well to the screen, for whatever reason. Things really don't pick up until the trio goes back to Hogwarts. From there, though, everything begins to click into place.
For all my love of "DH: Part One", it was still a delight to see so many of the familiar faces from movies 1-6 back. While Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint have been nothing less than brilliant throughout the series, it's the supporting players like Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, and others that I'll remember these movies most for. Smith in particular gets a lot to do, as McGonagall readies the castle for an all-out war with Voldemort's army.
And what a war it is. The Battle of Hogwarts must take up well over a third of this film's running time, and while it was well-done in the novel it's even better here. It has an epic feel never before seen from these movies, as spells rain from every direction and the Death Eater army does battle with a horde of bewitched statues.
All of this leads into some of the more emotionally satisfying scenes the series has ever done, as Harry surveys the aftermath of the battle fought to protect him and eventually makes his decision to sacrifice himself. When this series began, I don't think any of us could have imagined that Daniel Radcliffe would have this much range, but he's never less than convincing in portraying both Harry's determination and his terror. There wasn't a dry eye in the theater (except for mine, but then I never cry at movies) when the ghosts of his dead friends and family appeared to guide him on his way.
I do confess finding the final battle between Harry and Voldemort rather disappointing. These films never quite figured out how to make two wizards sending jets of light at each other exciting, and so the one-on-one confrontations have always wound up feeling anti-climactic. But I guess you can't have everything.
Finally, a word about the epilogue (set 19 years later). I truly despised it in the book, finding it unnecessary and resenting the way if ruined what I saw as a perfect ending. But in the movie, it worked. I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's the nostalgia of watching Harry and his son go through the barrier to platform nine and three-quarters, but for whatever reason it left me feeling deeply satisfied. And yes, maybe even a little teary-eyed.
So long, Harry Potter. You will be missed.
P.S. And yes, I know this review is actually longer than most of my "full" reviews. But it's still not as long or as detailed as I would have liked, considering how much this series has meant to me.