After seven movies in ten years, the Harry Potter film franchise comes to a bittersweet but satisfying conclusion in the form of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2. It delivers the pay-off that the plodding first part so selfishly promised but declined to deliver, and rewards the years of dedication and anticipation that fans have invested in the series.
The movie picks up immediately were the previous installment left off, with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) on the lam and frantically seeking out and destroying the horcruxes that contain fragments of Voldemort’s twisted soul, in an effort to render him vulnerable. In turn, the aforementioned dark lord is searching for Harry and laying siege to Hogwarts.
It’s a slow start, but the story kicks into fourth gear once the Battle of Hogwarts begins. Heroes and villains meet their respective ends, secrets are revealed, and plans and plots and loose ends come to a head, all amid the sound and fury of impressive special effects.
As the kids have grown and matured, so too has the series – a point illustrated to great effect by a flashback sequence that uses footage from earlier installments. It’s a startling contrast between the children playing wizard in Christopher Columbus’ slavish fluff of the first two films and the tempered young adults of David Yates’ later chapters. Personal struggles and loss of innocence have been core motifs for the series, but never more so than here. As one key line of dialogue puts it: “It opens at the close.”
The movie is loaded to the brim with dramatic moments: Ron and Hermione’s long-overdue first kiss, the deaths of long-standing characters both good and bad, the apocalyptic battle that shakes the walls of Hogwarts, Harry’s emotional “reunion” with slain loved ones (as well as one last teacher-pupil exchange between he and Dumbledore), and — of course — Harry’s final confrontation with Voldemort.
The trio of Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson are in fine form, having grown into the roles that have become second skins for them. Ralph Fiennes gets his largest chunk of screen time as Voldemort, and wrings it of every last drop of inspired villainy; Alan Rickman brings Severus Snape, the series’ most ambiguous and arguably tragic character full circle in a just a handful of scenes; and Matthew Lewis is excellent as unlikely hero Neville Longbottom, who rises to the challenge with a rousingly defiant speech delivered at Hogwarts’ darkest hour.
If there’s any complaint about Part 2, it is that many of the supporting characters are pushed into the background when they should be at the fore of this apocalyptic finale. Granted, the series has a large supporting cast, but there are wins and losses that are glossed over or occur off-screen. Viewers are advised to reconsider that large soda, as there are plenty of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments.