The Harry Potter franchise, yet another series that I myself have grown up with and has become a large part of my young(ish) life has now come to a close. It seems a superfluous exercise to review this, the last film in the franchise. People who aren't fans of the franchise by now are not going to be swayed by this film, and as this film is a thoroughly enjoyable (or at the very least, not outright offensive to its audience), people crazy enough to have stuck with the series this long aren't going to be convinced to abandon it now. Still, on its own merits I'll attempt to explain why the latest Harry Potter, while far from perfect, is a worthwhile movie experience.
WHAT'S THIS MOVIE ABOUT?Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II (quite the goddamn mouthful) takes place shortly after the previous film. With the shroud of darkness looming, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his companions Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) must hunt down the remaining Horcruxes and destroy them in a last ditch effort to kill Lord Voldemort (Ray Feinnes) once and for all. Of course, this proves more difficult than it sounds, as not only must the individual Horcruxes still be found, but Voldemort's amassing army of Death Eaters threaten a full scale attack on Hogwarts, and to stamp out the last of those who would oppose the dark lord's supremacy.
WHAT'S GREAT ABOUT THIS MOVIE?What drives the wizarding world of Harry Potter forward are the characters and the unique, sometimes random, and often times frighteningly dark elements that make it up. That is no different here, and again the charm and genuine emotion of the trio of leads shine through again. Watson especially seems to have matured to a point where she shoulders the weighty emotional scenes which leave Grint and Radcliffe open to work towards their own individual strengths (comic relief and stalwart leader, respectively). The HUGE ensemble cast don't get quite as much to do as they individually deserve, likely because of the damn number of people we're dealing with, but each does their typical great job. Fiennes and Alan Rickman (Snape) are standouts. Once again, the visuals respectively and outstandingly bring to life the smallest of intricacies in the film's world. This series has taken a turn for the dark in latter installments, and although we are still dealing with a grim movie on the whole (which the visuals reflect), I was glad that the filmmakers also made sure to include more brightly lit motifs to call back to the days when the series was strictly a fantasy tale for children.
Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that this is indeed the final movie, and how things end. Without giving anything away, I can only describe the ending of the series as satisfying. The majority of loose ends are tied up, and though the ending isn't completely rosy, it's one that fans of the series (especially the films) will appreciate and not feel cheated by.
WHAT SUCKS ABOUT THIS MOVIE?Deathly Hallows: Part II's main shortcomings actually stem from its place on the timeline. It may be obvious, but if you have not seen the first part of this final installment recently, or indeed recent installments, the movie is not going to provide any context or reference to you. Simply put, the film not only will not hold your hand and make sure you remember why this element or that element is important, it will completely THROW your hand down and glare at you disapprovingly. That may be fine in a sequential series where there are only three or four films, but in a movie where there have been a total of 7 films building up to it, it's a little demanding (even for this series) to punish the viewer for not recalling exactly what happened three or four films back.
And that kind of approach also plays into the feeling that this final installment as a whole (that's including Part I) needed more time. This has the feelings of a film that's sprinting towards the finish. As such, some moments especially those dealing with character death aren't given the time or respect they deserve. Points are brought up and not elaborated on, and you get the feeling a lot was cut out to make sure the movie kept its brisk 2 hour and 45 minute run time. It's a nitpick, sure, as the filmmakers get the desired effect out the audience more often than not, but I still can't help but feel like just 20 more minutes in this and the previous film would have made a world of difference.