Although I may not have fallen under the same Potter-mania spell that drives leagues of fans to play dress up or read the books as soon as they are released (to make things clear I haven’t read any of the books save for the first one, and that was years ago), having recently sped through all the previous Potter films to catch up with the grand finale, I think it’s pretty amazing to see the maturing of both the actors and the subject matter from film to film. With each installment comes more ‘adult’ material and higher stakes. Even though the whimsical charm from the early films is gone, operatic, epic, even complex storytelling has taken its place (no small feat especially considering that Harry Potter is thought of as a “wide-audience” adventure). The series has built up and up to the final confrontation between The Boy Who Lived and He Who Must Not Be Named – the ultimate battle of good vs. evil – and finally we can see our favorite witches and wizards in their last moments on screen.
Deathly Hallows Part II could not possibly disappoint those fans that have stuck with these characters this long. The Potter films have maintained an unwavering level of quality and this cap-off fits in perfectly with the other movies. Part II mainly consists of grand-scale battle scenes and special effects that were handled pretty much perfectly. From the goblins at Gringotts to the final spectacular battle between Harry and Voldemort, everything was eye-catching and totally worked within the fantasy world established by all the preceding movies. I loved the fact that this was basically a war film – granted a toned down one (there’s no scene involving an unfortunate Hufflepuff student holding his own blown off arm a la Saving Private Ryan). The movie is a non-stop rollercoaster ride, and each character gets his/her moment to shine. As in all the films, the cast was pretty amazing in this, from the three lead kids, to the teachers, to all the bit-parts: Harry Potter really is a showcase for some of the best British actors around.
My problems with the film are mainly with certain specific story elements (I’ll refrain from explaining them to avoid spoilers), but from what I gather certain scenes would have made more sense if I’d “read the book.” That’s my biggest problem, not just with this movie, but the overall series: I wish I didn’t feel so “left out” of the story by my not keeping up with JK Rowling’s tomes o’ wizardry. I know that you can’t make everyone happy, and I think the balance of fan-to-newcomer sustainability is maintained as well as it can be, I can’t help but feel that it lowers my enjoyment of the movies because I haven’t “kept up.” That’s why (against the beliefs of many fans and critics alike) I prefer the first two Potter films the best, because in my opinion only they felt absolutely “complete” and stood on their own without the need for previous knowledge of the story or the assurance of a sequel.
Don’t get me wrong though; I think this final chapter in the Harry Potter film saga is a great end to an unbelievably successful craze that has swept the world. I’m glad to see it succeed and hope today’s youth will aspire to be more like Harry and Hermione than those morons from Twilight. As popular as Harry Potter is, I’d be surprised if the universe died here (look at Star Wars after it ended), but I can understand the weight that this movie must feel on true Potter nuts. Although the epilogue left a kind of bittersweet taste for me at the end, I felt completely satisfied with the conclusion. Ten years and eight movies later and it’s finally the end of a long road of owls, wands, and broomsticks.