The seventh Harry Potter film concluded with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) at the height of his power, stabbing the greatest wand in the world into the air, while Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and friends, miles away from home, cope with the death of allies at the lowest point in their years at Hogwarts. It can’t get much worse for the students, and in the eighth film, their story, and the series, gets the incredible ending it deserves.
In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2,” Lord Voldemort gathers his army and searches for Harry, the last true threat to his power. Harry meanwhile, with his determined and intrepid friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), search for the last of the horcruxes that sustain Voldemort, and try to destroy them. The battle between good and evil comes to a head in Hogwarts, where the good wizards prepare to make their stand against Voldemort and his army of darkness.
Alexandre Desplat‘s haunting score, now familiar and welcoming despite its mysterious melancholy tone, brings every emotion alive, and Potter fans will appreciate most that Steve Kloves follows the book, instead of creating his own story.
Daniel Radcliffe has finally hit his stride as Harry Potter. His acting was never quite where Emma Watson’s and Rupert Grint’s were, but his lovable character made it easy to forgive. Thankfully here, in the final hours of “Deathly Hallows,” when Radcliffe must stand alone and be a cinematic force, he nails Potter in a powerful way. Radcliffe is determined, with a single mission, and that determination is riveting. The rest of the cast is strong as ever, with Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) finally getting the screen time his character deserves.
The allure of the Potter films is the fun and wonder of the magic in everything. In “Deathly Hallows,” these magical elements have become commonplace, but have not lost their charm. Potter and friends take on a twisting ride deep into a cavern vault, and the gyroscopic cart that carries them makes the journey both magically mesmerizing and terrifying. Professor Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith) says it best when, with a delightful squeal at animating an army of statues, she cries, “I’ve always wanted to use that spell!” It brings everything full-circle, to the beginning, when it was not the life-or-death story that kept adults and children alike riveted to the screen, but the pure fun of disappearing through train station columns, of first flights on broomsticks, of the young actors caught up in a fantastic world where anything could happen. And in this world, where the lines between good and evil – even when blurred – ultimately become clear, audiences enjoyed the refreshing fact that Harry would always choose the light over the darkness, like so few heroes today.
The only negative, and it’s really a positive, is that the final battle stretches on after the story sustaining it has been benched. Through slow motion and wheeling flight, Ron and Hermione keep losing a dragon tooth that will help them kill a python horcrux, and Voldemort and Harry struggle to rip each other’s faces apart as they swirl magically around Hogwarts. But it gives David Yates (who has directed four of the Potter films) an opportunity to create the truly epic battle that the series has until now lacked. There’s also the “19 years later” moment, when the kids are grown, but still played by their young actors and actresses. Makeup simply makes them look a little ridiculous, but it also concludes the series in the way it began: suspend reality, as audiences put aside the constraints of fact to enjoy what is one of the most beloved series of all time. And there’s nothing wrong with that.