As a total fan who has lost all objectivity when it comes to anything Potter-related, the biggest surprise about the seeing the final movie was how it wasn’t a sad experience. I don’t want to use cliches like “the end of an era”, but reading seven un-short books and watching eight un-short movies is quite a commitment. Near the end of this movie there was a brief flashback scene which contained a clip from the very first one and it was actually quite nostalgic to see Daniel Radcliffe as a young Harry, just coming into his powers. As finales go, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 was pretty satisfying. For those of you catching up, boy wizard Potter and his magical chums Hermione and Ron are trying to complete their quest for horcruxes — magically empowered items containing a piece of snaky super-villain Voldemort’s soul — in order to cure him of his immortality and rid the world of a nasty evil. This leads not only to adventures inside the vaults of wizarding bank, Gringott’s (another call-back to the first movie) but also a return and final showdown at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (one of the many iconic items of Potterabilia revisited in the grand finale). I think one of the aspects that made this film less of a tearful goodbye was the sense that even though we are revisiting many of the people, places, and things that remind us of movies past, it’s evident how much things have been changing. Deathly Hallows, Part 1 began with a literal and moving “You can’t go home again” montage as the kids left their families and residences. This time, not only does the audience know that this is the last movie, but as the characters move towards a final confrontation, it’s clear that win-or-lose, things are going to end up different than before. The closure is built right in.
For me, the scene with the biggest emotional impact was the preparation for the defense of Hogwart’s. With legions of Death-eaters and other baddies at their doorstep, it felt like a truly epic battle, complete with swelling music. It’s not quite Shakespeare’s Henry V, but I was impressed by how director David Yates (who also directed the previous three Potter films) was able to convey a sense of doom, yet also hope. The good guys were gearing up for a battle that they wouldn’t likely win, but it was extremely touching that they were doing it all for Harry.
Visual effects were top-notch as usual. With each movie the visuals get better and better. Besides the numerous figures and the battle sequences (which frankly were not quite as impressive as Return of the King a few years ago), I was also quite impressed by the vaults at Gringott’s (which seemed to have gotten larger since we saw them in the first movie). I don’t remember them having been so cavernous (they seemed bottomless). Add to that a relatively brief scene with an old dragon who takes the Trio on an unplanned flight, and there’s definitely a lot of cool stuff to see in this film. One of the most amazing things about the Potter movies is that even though I’ve read all the books before seeing them, the production design always exceeds my imagination. I also tip my hat to screenwriter Steve Kloves, who was able to smoothly work in the complicated (and kind of tedious) wand ownership rules that come into play in the climax, while preventing them from dragging the plot down.
Nevertheless, to those of you who’ve read the book, I just want to warn you that some of the scenes which seemed momentous in the book were less impressive on screen. Included in that selection is the “resurrection stone” scene in the woods. Despite excellent performances from all the actors (as much as they could give in a pretty brief scene), without J.K. Rowling’s narration of Harry’s inner thoughts, the scene just didn’t measure up. Similarly the grand climax and the (spoiler alert) defeat of You Know Who also packed less of a punch than I’d expected. It was a bit of anti-climax. However, a set of scenes that I really enjoyed was the Pensieve scene with Snape’s memories. Alan Rickman is great as Snape and I probably felt more connected to him in those flashes than to most of the other characters in the film. It definitely surpassed the King’s Cross Station scene at the end. (I realize that I’m kind of speaking in code to folks who know the book, but despite the relative lack of surprise in this movie, I don’t want to give away too much in this review.) Finally, the epilogue was done well, and I feel like that was a wonderful way to finish things off. It didn’t seem cheesy, and it conveyed a sense of the cycle of life, or the continuation of things, which is always a great way to end a series. (4.5 out of 5)