(Note: I am reviewing the final “Harry Potter” installment as a combined adaptation of the last book. Meaning, this is a critique of “Deathly Hallows”‘ whole run-time, parts one & two.)
I walked into the 2001 children’s-fantasy-film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” one way, and walked out another. Not just in the sense that I got my hands on everything Harry you can imagine — books, wands, Halloween costumes, “potion”-making kits, puzzles, et cetera. But also in the sense that it may have been the first film that truly showed me just how vast the potential of movies were; how completely one can be transported to a different world not just by way of special effects, but by an eclectic, memorable group of characters. The highest compliment I feel I can give it, is that it pulled off the miraculous feat of keeping me totally entertained for 152 minutes — as a five-year-old.
Years went by. The films progressively matured, though I argue that the artistic pinnacle of the series was Alfonso Cuaron’s eclectic third installment, “Prisoner of Azkaban”. A lot of my fondest elementary-school memories stem from “Potter” — like my sixth-birthday party revolving around “Chamber of Secrets”, my three consecutive trick-or-treat sessions as Harry (I’ve got the Polaroid to prove it), and the morning I got “Half-Blood Prince” and read it, cover-to-cover, in one day.
I only feel the need to share all this with you, because in order to tell the story of Harry Potter, it’s almost like I have to tell the story of me, and how much this particular franchise has meant to me over the course of my development, both as a film-buff and as a person.
And now that it’s all said and done, now that the thousands of pages are published and the thousands of minutes of film cut, we’re left with one of the greatest pop-culture phenomenons; one that raked in billions of dollars, yet never sacrificed artistic integrity or character development just for the sake of making money or pleasing the fans.
We’re left with an epic story with hundreds of different characters and subplots, each as memorable and fulfilling as the next.
But most simply, we’re left with a poignant, sweet coming-of-age story, where we watched three people mature over the course of a near-decade. The best moments in the series were often the subtler ones, the ones that dealt with the yearnings and heartbreak of teenage years It just so happens that these three people are wizards whose responsibility it is to prevent the end of the world.
This final installment finds Harry pitted against his arch-nemesis, the evil lord Voldemort, at last. Some movies would have a set-up for this confrontation that lasts ten minutes. The set-up for this has lasted six movies. Expectations are high. Stakes are precarious. The pay-off is immense.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, taken as a grand, 276-minute epic, is an absolute masterpiece. It’s underpinned with a profound sense of loss and suffering, given the absolute chaos that the wizarding world has fallen into. The dead seriousness long suggested in past “Potter”s is fully realized here, making for a film bleak, mature, even adult.
Despite this, “Deathly Hallows” at times adapts an almost nostalgic feel for characters and events past. I submit as evidence the last 5 minutes, a sequence that brings us exactly where, 10 years ago, the journey began.
Given the $300 million budget for the two-part film, production values hit an all-time high for the series. “Potter” has always been unique in the sense that it blends superbly both physical, tangible sets and computer-generated action. “Hallows” sports the most impressive variety and craftsmanship out of all the series.
Just as the production craftsmanship hits its peak, so does that of the actors in the film. The three principal actors – Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson, all hit their absolute peak in “Hallows”. They certainly have the most heavy-lifting to do that they’ve ever had, both emotionally and with regards to stunt-work and action.
As always, the endless supporting actors gobble up their scenery – the series is essentially a who’s who of British thespians, all competing to bring their most eclectic, watchable characters to the screen. It’s always been a delight to watch, never more so than here.
All this talk is truly befitting to such an epic, expansive conclusion. But the feeling one gets from the series finale can be summed up into a single word: Satisfaction.
After all these years, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” ties together all the loose ends in a stirring, rousing, emotional conclusion. Never before has Hollywood, on such a large scale with eight movies and billions invested, struck such a great balance between spectacle and character. A