At last, 10 years after the first film and 4 years after the book series ended, the Harry Potter film franchise is no more. As expected, there was a ridiculous amount of anticipation for the eighth and final movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (let’s call it DH2), and though I consider myself only a moderate fan of the series (both book and film), even I was very excited at the prospect of watching the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort on the big screen.
It’s not often that a franchise lasts for this many number of films and manages to maintain a certain level of excellence all the way through. So is this final film the best of the lot? Kind of. Not really. Yes and no.
Part of the reason why it’s so hard to review this film is because it’s impossible to view DH2 as a standalone film. You can’t even really lump it with DH1, which I thought was nothing more than a pretty set-up for the grand finale.
In terms of excitement, DH2 is undoubtedly the best of the series. After a small but slow build up at the beginning, the remainder of the film races at you at full blast. It’s everything you could have expected from a finale that has been gradually building up for 10 years. The extended siege on Hogwarts rivals some of the biggest fantasy epics in cinematic history (some may disagree but I think that includes Lord of the Rings). It’s thrilling, visually stunning and wonderfully executed (thanks to director David Yates) and acted (especially Alan Rickman as Snape, who really held this franchise together for all these years). Heck, even the trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson put on quality performances (a far cry from their debuts).
Accordingly, in a way, I guess you could say that splitting the final book into two films was justified (apart from financially), because despite the 130 minute running time, DH2 was never boring (unlike DH1).
On the other hand, DH2 wasn’t a complete story, and as such, must be viewed in light of everything that came before it. If you haven’t read the books, seen DH1 or even the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, you can forget about it. I’ve read all the books and seen all the previous films but even I struggled at times to remember/piece together what was going on. Characters came and went without introduction and the majority of the secondary characters were reduced to fleeting cameos.
Of course, this is a film that can be enjoyed by anyone because of the marvellous action and special effects — despite some frightening scenes for the kiddies — but I believe to appreciate everything and feel the full emotional impact of the finale you have to be a ‘true’ fan (ie, one of those hardcore nutters that dressed up and camped outside the cinema). Hence for me, a mid-tier fan, DH2 couldn’t have been more than just a ‘very good time’ that was fun to experience but lacked a deeper connection.
This is why I still think the franchise would have been better served had DH1 and DH2 been combined into one kick-ass 3-hour+ epic that got rid of all the fluffy ‘time fillers’ so we could enjoy the full story of the Deathly Hallows in one sitting (I know some places screened the two films back-to-back, but the combined running time of 4 hours and 36 minutes is waaaay too long).
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed DH2. Despite its shortcomings — some unavoidable and others not — this was a fitting conclusion to a magical, consistently high standard film franchise.
4 stars out of 5
PS: My favourite book and film of the series is still the third one, The Prizoner of Azkaban.
PPS: I intentionally watched this one in 2D, and I’m glad I did. I’m at the point where I am starting to wonder whether I should even consider watching a 3D movie ever again. Dark, uncomfortable, and most of the time 3D adds nothing positive to my film experience. I don’t get the fuss. And judging from this article, looks like I’m not the only one. That said, I am surprised by the number of people supporting 3D in the comments section.
PPPS: A bit of a spoiler, so read on only if you’ve seen the film or read the book. Remember how the book had this controversial ‘epilogue’? Well the film includes it, and as expected, it also sucked. One of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen.