And so it ends—and a worthy ending to 10-years’ worth of Harry Potter movies Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is. Bearing mind that I haven’t read the book, it did pretty much what I expected it to do, and what I wanted it to do. As such, I have virtually no complaints with the film, apart from the fact that the opening was on the clunky side and that unlike the very best films in the series, it never really surprised me very much. That’s actually a fairly minor complaint for a film like this, which is geared to pulling everything together and having characters meet the various fates they’ve been moving toward for seven—or six-and-a-half, if you prefer—entries. The fact that it doesn’t appear to end six times only to go to another scene—like the climactic film in a certain fantasy trilogy did—is decidedly on the plus side.
I suspect that my problem with the film’s opening lies in the fact that Part 2 is in fact—well, part two. In that regard, it doesn’t have a real opening. It simply kind of starts, and its first big sequence—gaining entry to Bellatrix Lestrange’s (Helena Bonham Carter) bank vault didn’t entirely work for me. Parts of it were fine, but overall, the film didn’t win me over until the introduction of Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith). From that point on, however the film never faltered, even if it occasionally felt like it was checking off items from a laundry list. Then again, how could it not feel like that? What is surprising is the manner in which it managed to give most of the central characters—and some of the not-so-central ones—one or two final moments in which to shine, and how it did so with seeming effortlessness. In some quite remarkable instances, it felt like it was fulfilling character traits suggested as far back as the first film.
Apart from the fact that it ultimately comes down to the big battle between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes)—which we knew the film had to do—it becomes a difficult film to write about in specifics because doing so gives away more than is in the story’s favor. Even though the story plays out about the way I expected it to, I can’t say that I knew exactly how it would be handled. Yeah, I’ve known since the first film that the characters would not end up being quite what they seem. One character in particular has always been clearly set up to do an about face before all was said and done, but I neither expected the nastiness of his demise, nor the degree to which he would become an heroic and tragic figure.
In fact, I think what works best about this final film is how surprisingly moving parts of it are. For an overall story that is grounded in the utterly fantastic world of magic, the human element has remained very strong, but perhaps never so much as it does here. It’s actually possible to feel that something is truly at stake here, because the characters are strong enough, complex enough, and ultimately likable and human enough for us to care what happens to them. That the film manages to do this is remarkable enough. That it manages to do it without too much in the way of shamelessly obvious manipulation is even more so. Part 2 may not be a great film in itself, but as part of a series that achieves cumulative pop-culture greatness, it’s hard to fault. Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.