The Review: So, it’s all come down to this. Ten years it’s taken, but the boy wizard has grown up and now must become a man, as his epic quest to defeat Voldemort must come to a climax. Of course, it could be six months since you saw Part 1, and that in itself wasn’t really the start of the end of the story. For that we have to look back to film number six, where we learned of the horcruxes and the fact that destroying them was essential to destroying He-Who-Has-His-Nose-Removed-In-Post-Production. Somehow, the first part of the final film not only managed just to turn up one more horcrux, but also featured J.K. Rowling’s attempt to achieve the maximum number of MacGuffins in one film as the Deathly Hallows were also introduced. If you’ve somehow forgotten all of this before going in, then good luck keeping up. You’re going to need it.
The biggest stumbling block to the flow of events is the nature of where the split took place. While the climactic events of Part 1 may have been a reasonably dramatic ending, they have resulted in a slightly fractured Part 2, which consists of two parts. The first is a trip to Gringott’s bank on the search for the next horcrux, and then the trail leads back, somewhat inevitably, to Hogwarts, where events come to a head and Voldemort and his cronies lay siege to an increasingly beleaguered staff and students. As you would expect with such an epic saga, this is where everything has to come to a head, but unlike your Star Wars or your Lord Of The Rings, where the main cast have been split into a number of different groups and increasing amounts of cross-cutting are required to keep up with events, we by and large follow the central trio as they navigate through events, and so there are never more than two real narrative strands going on.
There’s an unfortunate side-effect of this; as ever, it’s driven initially by the book’s choices and consequently there’s a lot that happens off screen in the last half of the movie. Whole swathes of characters who’ve had significant screen time in the previous chapters get blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em cameos here, some not even getting a line, and while there’s more death here of known characters than either Lucas or Jackson’s epics in their respective final chapters, almost all of it here happens off screen, and largely robs it of feeling – a clearer distinction between book and screen here, and just a little more division of focus in the right places, might have paid great dividends. The plot also takes no prisoners, so if you don’t remember your basics, like the names of the four school houses, then a lot of this will just be short people running around waving sticks at each other. The literary slavishness also extends to the epilogue; reports say they filmed it twice, but to be honest they could have filmed it a thousand times and it would never have been anything other than laughable.
But these are not huge faults, and the overall tone is kept on a tight leash; from the opening bank raid, the tension is ratcheted up, the mood is dark and the stakes are high, and there’s a suitably epic feel to scenes at Hogwarts that even surpasses the sweeping vistas of Prisoner Of Azkaban. But high stakes also require high acting, and as good as Radcliffe, Watson and Grint have become, their best moments are in earlier films. The highlights are the wonderful Ralph Fiennes, who never feels anything less than pure evil and wraps his tongue around his lines without ever making it feel pantomime, and Alan Rickman, who has excelled as Severus Snape right throughout the series and does some of his best, and most understated work, here as his true nature and motives finally become apparent. All in all a largely satisfying end to a mixed saga, but let’s hope J.K. Rowling, and Warner Brothers, leave well enough alone now, sleeping on their giant piles of cash.
Why see it at the cinema: Probably the second best of the series, the epic scope and scale of destruction wrought deserves a trip to the cinema – and it might be the last chance you get to see Potter on the big screen, outside that inevitable 25th anniversary re-release with added elves.
Why see it in 3D: There have been complaints that it’s dark and murky, but if you take the 3D glasses off you realise how much they’ve upped the light levels to compensate for the effect of the glasses. Most of the “in your face” moments happen early on, so it’s by no means essential to see this in 3D.
The Score: 7/10