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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

[rating: 3.5/5]

And so we come to the end.

The Harry Potter franchise, first the books, then the movies, have been such an overwhelming cultural phenomenon that it’s nearly impossible for me to wrap my mind around it.   Equally unthinkable is that it is finally over, that there won’t be a new Harry Potter movie next year or the year after that, and that the whole thing is bound to fade, as all cultural phenomenons inevitably do, into obscurity.  Kids right now can recite endless trivia about the Potterverse; give it ten years, and kids will be saying “Harry who?”   (See what I mean?  Unthinkable.) It’s almost impossible to review this, the final movie, simply as a movie.  We all know how it ends, but everyone is going to see it .  It’s already setting major box office records.  And would anything any critic or writer say change that?  If you’ve seen the first six, would anything negative I say about the final one keep you from seeing it?   Conversely, if you’ve managed to avoid them thus far by some great strength of will and resolve, would anything I say send you to the theaters to seek it out? So instead of a standard review, here are a few thoughts about it:

  • Yes, I enjoyed it.  I thought the battle scenes were appropriately epic.  I loved Maggie Smith’s moment expelling Alan Rickman from Hogwarts; I love Neville’s awkward bravery.  Didn’t love his motivational speech, though.  Wouldn’t Voldemort just “silencio” him after the first six words or so?
  • This was the first movie in a long while (perhaps ever?) in which it really felt like Daniel Radcliffe was front and center, and carrying the film.  In the past, I’ve loved watching Emma Watson and been irritated by Rupert Gint.  In this one, they’re hardly there, and that feels right.  It’s Harry’s time to shine, and he does.
  • As with the last two films especially, there are sequences when an awful lot of exposition gets crammed into far too small a space.  Again, I felt like the screenwriters were assuming I had already read the book, and would fill in the blanks myself.  Because I haven’t, I had to seek out friends after the film and pepper them with questions.
  • Two things feel like they’ve been set up through several movies now just…fizzled.   First:  Snape.  It was pretty clear at the end of “Half Blood Prince” that he was working as a double agent.  I’ve been waiting since then for him to strike some decisive blow that helps Harry and hurts Voldemort, and trying to guess what that blow might be.   My best guess: I thought he would be the one to kill either Bellatrix or the snake.  Nope.  He just dies.
  • Oh wait, before he dies, he sheds a tear that tells Harry something really important…something that either of them could just as easily have told Harry YEARS BEFORE.  There’s absolutely no reason Snape’s deathbed revelation had to occur on his deathbed.  Except dramatic tension.  But seriously, this is the role he gets to play?   The “Oh wait, we forgot to tell you” role?  I’d hoped for better.
  • The second fizzle:  Draco Malfoy.   Haven’t we seen him war with his conscience and almost join Harry’s side for ages now?  All of that ends up for nothing?  Really, his parents come and get him, and he just…goes with them, without saying a word?   Lame.
  • You know what isn’t lame, but is actually kind of Freudian and pretty cool?  Jenny’s mum killing Bellatrix LeStrange.  She didn’t have much of a role in the film, but just the idea of your girlfriend’s mother destroying this sexually intimidating and powerful woman is pretty deep.  Kind of love that.

I just did the math:  as they are currently released (only the first two have gotten extended releases, but be sure all the rest will) a Harry Potter marathon from beginning to end, would take 1198 minutes to complete.  That’s nearly 20 hours without bathroom, meal, or sleep breaks.   Perhaps the most incredible thing about the Harry Potter franchise is that it’s held our attention for that long – 20 hours of cinema, divided over 10 years, and here we are, breaking records to see the last film.  It’s quite an achievement, and one I’m glad to be a part of.  And to be done with. So long, Harry Potter.  Nice knowing ya.

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