It is strange that film can produce such conflicting emotions that have nothing to do with the actual quality of the film itself. I found myself anticipating this movie with bittersweet feelings. On one hand, any new Potter film has always been looked forward to immensely; on the other hand this is the very last time I get to experience something in the series for the first time. I, like millions of others, have been enthralled with the books for years now, and the love has made the jump to the film series. Sure, we always have the quibbles that all intense fans of a series will have, but we pretty much always came around. So, it is with a tinge of sadness that I am writing my review for the final Harry Potter film.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II begins exactly where the first film left off, with Voldermort securing the Elder Wand, and Harry mourning the loss of a friend. The film takes no time to catch us up, and instead wastes no time diving right back into the story with a daring caper lead by our three leads, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson). The trio must quickly find the remaining Horcruxes (magical items containing pieces of Voldermort’s maimed soul), before Voldermort and his Death Eaters catch them. It is quite literally the end of the wizarding world if they fail on their quest, and the consequences feel dire.
Fans who haven’t read the books will be surprised at the tone throughout the film; death and violence is dealt with in a much more casual manner than many of the previous films. Gone are the tickling spells and minor disarming charms, replaced are the cruel machinations of war, where only the deft with spells survive. Be warned beloved characters will die, and will be treated in such a casual manner than almost seems callous. However, these deaths serve as a visual show of just how dire the current situation is within the world of Harry Potter.
The series has done an incredibly fine job giving each film its own unique tone, and slowly ramping up the themes which continue to get more adult and universal. The film never sacrifices plot in favor of action, and the film seems much more robust because of it. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of action, because there absolutely is. A good half of the film is solid action, and even the slowest parts of the film don’t approach the slow burn pace of Part I. This might actually be the most visually exciting of all 8 films, and it encompasses not only the CG action, but the unique lighting as well that almost has a HDR quality at times.
Harry Potter has had a number of reasons for its success, the first being a quality franchise series of books to base it off of; another reason is because Warner Bros. was wise enough to treat it as more than just a franchise and has decided to aim for quality films (something they seem to be aiming for in their Batman series as well). To pull this off they assembled what might be the most impressive British cast ever assembled. The amount of respectable actors in these films is astounding, and the best part is they aren’t phoning in performances for a paycheck. The cast obviously understands the material well, and treats it with a seriousness that lends credence to the whole series.
I’d be remiss to talk about the series without mentioning how great Alan Rickman has been as Professor Severus Snape, the enigmatic Hogwarts potions teacher who may or may not be bad. Rickman’s performance has been one of the best of the series, and culminates with Part II where he gives his best performance yet. I doubt it will happen, but Rickman should easily be considered for a Best Supporting Actor nomination come winter.
The children in the film have all grown up nicely, and have fit into their casting so well that the pairings almost seem like fate. Each of them has a chance to be a solid actor outside the franchise, and shed the enigma of child actors. They might have a little bit of work trying to shed the familiarity of their characters after eight films, but all of them possess enough talent to break out in any other role they choose.
If you are a fan of the books are there a few things you will have problems with? Absolutely, the ending varied a bit too much from the original novel. Although, if you’ve never read the books, you won’t notice, and frankly won’t care. You can focus on these things for so long, but it makes no sense; in the end it’s better to just enjoy the ride.
Just sit back and enjoy the final journey. You will no doubt be moved by some scenes, and cheer in others, which makes it a perfect summer cinematic experience. It’s just too bad we have to say goodbye to “The Boy Who Lived” to do it.