Here we are. The end. The finale. The culmination of ten years, eight movies, every available English actor and best that the British Film Industry has to offer. With all that behind them director David Yates, producer David Heyman, the creative team and of course all the cast knew they had to make a movie with all the grandness and bigness this implies. And with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, they very much achieve it. For better, and for worse.
If I was reviewing this movie as the cathartic experience to the whole series, or in my joint viewing with Deathly Hallows Part 1 I would probably give it somewhere near 80/100. It is payoff after payoff, with the staging of events just like a war movie allowing many characters to both have individual stand-out scenes and some great individual fight sequences. Things like the trolls and the run around the rubbles perhaps borrow too much film vocabulary from Lord of the Rings, but individual set pieces like the formation of the forcefields, and of course Neville Longbottom being a badass with Godrich Gryffindor’s sword are incredibly exciting and provide much satisfaction after a more sombre first half (seriously though, Matthew Lewis is given more individually awesome moments than even those in the main cast).
But that need to give everyone a “scene” has its own problems. For instance, there are those like McGonagall who seem to have been given out-of-character quips, and things like the whole Slytherin house in the dungeon seem to contradict the morals of the grey areas between the houses as demonstrated by Severus Snape and that final epilogue. Many of these scenes are fun – particularly Mrs Weasley’s “Not my daughter, you bitch!” final line to Bellatrix – but others seem to included more for the purpose of “fan service”.
The more important problem though comes not with the exciting moments, but with moments of pathos. This is the shortest film of the franchise, at just over two hours, and considering all that extra time given with two movies this is a strange decision at least. The complaint of the movie feeling rushed is true for most Yate’s Potter movies, but after the more balanced tone of the first part this problem seems more exacerbated than normal. Characters who we have grown to care about – like Remus, Tonks and Fred – are given so little time to actually grieve over, and some scenes like the one Helena Ravenclaw feel half baked (though Kelly Macdonald still brings the intensity for the part). But the biggest example of this problem, and the one where it really should have been prevented, comes with the weirdly anti-climatic death of Lord Voldemort. Whether that be because the battle itself is not staged in a particularly unique way, the fact no-one is around to see the event, or the muddled way everything comes together and he disintegrates (unlike the book, which he just dies matter of factly), the climax of the franchise is not elevated to the world-shattering heights that just a few changes of focus could have brought.
So, yeah, I have problems with the finale. But when it works, my god, does it work like gangbusters. The turning point of the movie, where Harry has to accept his own death and walks to meet Voldemort, and each of the main cast has to come to turns with that decision, is the moment where you truly realise just how far these actors – Radcliffe, Watson and Grint – have come. From the raw, flawed acting of optimistic youth to the mature, pessimistic acceptance of the final days, these actors have gone through every range of feeling throughout this series, and gives an exemplar of why the Harry Potter series, except for perhaps the Before series, is the greatest example of long form storytelling in cinema.
The best scenes, though, come from the reason for my re-watch, and the actor who in this film more than any others is given the opportunity to shine: Alan Rickman. The scenes were we finally learn the truth of Severus Snape – his life, his loves, his losses, his true intentions and his ultimate sacrifices – are heartbreaking, and seeing a man with the gravitas of Alan Rickman be brought to a gibbering, childish wreck makes me do the same.
Thank you Alan Rickman. Thank you everyone involved in Harry Potter. From the highs to the lows, from the light to the dark, from the magic to the muggle, the stories in both book and film have been a big part in my growing, and as I get older I still find new things to enjoy. May I go though this story many times more. Mischief managed.