Harry Potter, it's about time to say goodbye, isn't it? After ten years and eight movies, the boy wizard has had plenty of time to grow up and settle down into a quiet life that doesn't involve a crisis of magical proportions each school year. Thank god there isn't a Hogwart's College, or these may have continued for several more years. Even longer if there's a Post-Graduate Gryffindor program.
But, all things must come to an end eventually, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 opens in theaters everywhere this weekend, bringing a close to J.K. Rowling's wizarding saga. Whether or not that's the end isn't sure, and she recently launched the website Pottermore to keep the magic alive, but it looks likely that it will be the end of the saga of Harry going from elementary school through high school, while facing death at every turn. But has it all been worth it?
David Yates, who has directed four of the eight Potter films, returns to the helm of Deathly Hallows Part 2 after delivering a solid effort with Part 1. For the most part, this final film bats cleanup for the first installment, tying up loose ends where it can, but sadly skimming over many of the other storylines throughout the series. For instance, we only see Hagrid onscreen for about 60 seconds. Familiar faces are lucky enough to get one line and a drive-by, like Emma Thompson, while others are completely missing. It's an inevitable choice, as the book felt much the same way when it concluded, but since the films have diverged somewhat from being page-faithful, it seems like there could be some artistic license to spread the lens around a bit.
While the book concerns itself with the search for horcruxes, the mystery of the Deathly Hallows, and a massive battle at Hogwarts, the film really focuses on Harry, Hermione, and Ron. It's their story, and the film stays with them for the most part. There's still a holdover dose of emo-Ron from the last film, and Hermione does her best "look concerned" face throughout the movie while Harry carries the lion's share of the story on his back in his confrontation with Voldemort, which is what the entire series as been building up to.
Ralph Fiennes, who we see more of as Voldemort in this film than any of the others, chews up more scenery than Alan Rickman's Snape, although he's a good deal darker and creepier. We're given plenty of insight into Snape's character in this film, explaining why he did what he had to do (that's as spoiler-free as I can get) in the last film, and why he's been carrying a torch for years. He ultimately comes off as a better character than Harry's own father, who doesn't get nearly the same treatment here as he received in the books.
Is the ultimate controntation between Voldemort and Harry worth it? I'm not sure if "worth it" is the best phrase to use here, but one thing is for sure: it will leave you wanting. There's an extremely emotional scene that takes place just before Harry stands in front of Voldemort, and it remains one of the most resonant scenes of the series. But sadly, Yates misses many other opportunities for emotional moments throughout this film, particularly during the enormous battle at Hogwarts. Anyone who has read the books knows that many characters die during this event, but that is barely touched on in this film.
There's also a scene at the end of the film where we see many of the Potter characters 19 years later, and it's a bit jarring to see all of the actors in age makeup. As Roger Sterling from Mad Men would say, "You turned all the sizzle from the franchise into a wet fart." At least half of our audience laughed openly at elder Harry, Hermione, and Ron, and completely guffawed when Draco Malfoy came onscreen. We've been with these kids as they've grown up, so tossing us 19 years into their future probably can't be anything except disturbing.
Ultimately, the film does scratch that itch that you've been feeling since Part 1, and while not the most powerful film in the franchise, it does providing a fitting end to the saga. It's definitely time to say goodbye, and Part 2 closes the chapter on that part of many lives, morese than any film this summer. It's been a fun run, Harry.