Until about three weeks ago, I had no relationship with the Harry Potter franchise. Never read the books, never saw any of the movies. So I decided to catch up with all of the older movies and see the final film in theaters. And though some of those earlier films are hit-and-miss, I don’t regret my decision at all; the entire experience was unquestionably worth it just to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 wrap up this series in such an impressive way. People (myself included) throw around the word “epic” fairly often, but this movie is deserving of that description, instantly becoming my favorite of this franchise.
[It’s nearly impossible to review this movie – or the entire Potter series, for that matter – without at least acknowledging the similarities to Lord of the Rings, another wildly successful franchise with a “hero’s journey” story at its core. To list every similarity would be counterproductive for the purposes of this review, but suffice it to say there are many.]
Deathly Hallows: Part 2 picks up immediately where Part 1 left off, and thankfully has far more action and importance than its neutered predecessor. To the cynical outsider looking in, it would appear that Warner Bros. split the last book into two movies for no other reason than to make more money (a task at which Part 2 has excelled so far). But I’m actually glad they went down that path, considering how Part 2 feels like it’s stuffed to the brim as it is; audiences surely would have been cheated out of this film’s awesomeness if the writer had to cram the dullness of Part 1 into the same film. As long as Part 2 delivers – and trust me, it does – then I think it’s justifiable that we suffered through the spinning wheels of Part 1 as a pure setup for this finale.
Steve Kloves, who wrote the screenplays for all of the movies except for Order of the Phoenix (my previous favorite of the series, coincidentally), did a great job wrapping everything up and bringing closure to a series that spanned such a lengthy amount of time. Even among the minor characters, no one felt shortchanged, and the Big Three of Harry, Ron, and Hermione were given the send-off they deserved. The flashback sequence was a particularly inspired bit of writing (taken, I’m sure, from Rowling’s original novel), allowing for the dramatic reveal of Snape’s past. And to avoid spoilers, I’ll simply say I really enjoyed the way the elbents of the Deathly Hallows were used in the story.
The younger cast members improved dramatically during their ten year run bringing these characters to life, and this was a high point for each of them. I can’t wait to watch the trajectories of the main casts’ careers move forward from here; Radcliffe, in particular, I can envision becoming a Ron Howard-type: someone raised in front of the camera, but evolving into a serviceable filmmaker in his own right. I also loved seeing lower-tier characters like Neville Longbottom make an impact here in Part 2, coming full circle from his introduction as the laughable loser back in The Sorcerer’s Stone. The arcs of the Malfoys – both young and old – were also fun to watch as the movies progressed. (Villains who are THAT dramatic are always awesome.) One thing is for sure: now that this franchise is finished, cinema has lost one of the finest ensemble casts ever committed to film. It’s hard to beat names like Gary Oldman, Jason Issacs, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Warwick Davis, and Emma Thompson when they join forces.
The visual effects in this movie were top notch, an unlike so many effects-heavy movies these days, these never elicited winces or scoffs from the audience. Director David Yates’ team worked wonders here, honing The Battle of Hogwarts into one of the best set pieces of the year. Yates’ vision has stayed consistent both with movies he’s helmed and the ones he hasn’t, recreating sets in Part 2 (the Chamber of Secrets, Gringotts, etc.) and in the process providing a great sense of geography and familiarity with the world of Harry Potter.
There’s not much else I can say without giving away massive plot points, but I think Tyler (my co-host on The Not Just New Movies Podcast) and I are planning some sort of retrospective discussion on the entire Harry Potter franchise sometime soon, so keep a lookout for that in the coming weeks. It’ll take a bit of reflection for me to be able to rank the Harry Potter films alongside my favorite movies, but as far as epic hero stories go, this saga is pretty damn impressive. Until next time…