Seven books, eight movies and nearly 10 whole years later, the 'Harry Potter' films have come to an end. Oh yes, it's been quite the journey with good ol' Harry and we've dished out an ungodly amount of money to watch him and his pals grow up before our eyes to become the wizards they are today, so now that 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2' has finally arrived, it's time to see if it was worth it or if we just should have stuck to the books.
Whether you were one of the huddled masses parked outside a theater on midnight or are currently trying to sell a kidney for a ticket, hit the jump for the full review of the biggest darn of movie of the whole darn summer.
What's It About?
'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2' picks up where the 'Part 1' left off, with Voldemort getting his hands on the fabled Elder Wand by exhuming Albus Dumbledore's grave. Harry, Ron and Hermione barely escaped the clutches of Bellatrix Lestrange and those damn Malfoys, thanks to Dobby making the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Mister Potter. With the Death Eaters searching high and low for them, our heroic trio heads out to Gringotts Bank and then to Hogwarts in the hopes of finding and destroying Voldemort's remaining horcruxes -- all in the hope that the next time the Dark Lord takes a dirt nap, he won't be getting up again.
It's the final film in the 'Harry Potter' series, wizards have never been more pissed off at one another, and if you didn't understand a word of that synopsis, don't expect this movie to clear it up for ya.
How Does It Compare to the Novel?
Well, in terms what's been left in and what's been left out, it actually follows the source material incredibly well. It's not a verbatim translation by any means, since the only way to successfully manage that would be to turn back time to 2001 and turn this into a seven-season TV series, but considering that the big finale clocks in at just over two hours, veteran Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves pulled off quite a feat by cramming as much into this script as possible without leaving any major plot elements on the back burner. On top of that, it's also funny, genuine and gives even the most minor of supporting characters a chance to have their moment in the sun. Daniel Radcliffe has some wonderfully subtle moments as Harry, Matthew Lewis demands his time on-screen as a newly badass and uber-confident Neville Longbottom, and even Maggie Smith gets a chance to whup some ass as Professor McGonagall -- and what's not to love about watching a 70-year-old woman whup some ass?
And not only is this a great way to start from both screenwriting and acting perspectives, but for those of you who have read the novel, you already know that the second half of the book is far more exhilarating than the first. In 'Part 1,' we watched Harry, Ron and Hermione putz around in the woods for two hours as they scratched their brains and twiddled their thumbs trying to figure out how to off one measly horcrux and make some sense out of Dumbledore's painfully ambiguous last will and testament. It was good for what it was, it served its purpose and it definitely had its moments, but it pales in comparison to the constant chaos of 'Part 2.'
Make no mistake, this is a wizard war of the highest order, riddled with nearly as much defeat as victory, and you'll realize from the very opening minutes of the film that director David Yates flat-out nailed the tone for this final showdown of good versus evil. The action is great, danger looms everywhere, and we had a total blast cheering our heads off with everyone else in the crowd from one invigorating scene to the next. This is all good in its own right, but when you look back at Chris Columbus's fittingly lighthearted tone that the series started out with back in 'Sorcerer's Stone,' it will only make you appreciate that much more how dark, serious, and mature 'Part 2' is from start to finish. More than anything else, the way it establishes that sentiment and continually showcases the way these actors and their characters have grown from children into soldiers is exactly why this movie worked as well as it did.
Even if you're a newcomer to the series (certainly a strange place to start), it's a breathtaking thing to just sit back and look at. As much as we love the "raining ink" effect Yates started using with the Pensieve back in 'Order of the Phoenix,' this is easily his best-looking effort to date, as he's really mastered bathing everything in gray, an excellent visual complement to everything else that Yates and his crew accomplish here.
But of all the things that could have gone wrong, the one that had us most concerned was how it was going to handle Severus Snape. In the first seven movies, Snape never really got his fair share of attention from the camera despite the fact (and it is totally a fact) that he ends up being one of the best, if not the best, character of the whole bunch in the long run. But thankfully, we can rest easy on this one. Not only does Snape get the due he deserves, Alan Rickman absolutely steals the freakin' show when he channels his inner Hans Gruber during Snape's tenure as Hogwarts Headmaster along with a heartbreaking, albeit much too brief, performance during a pivotal moment in his character arc when you realize that he might just be even more awesome than Dumbledore. Part of it is the stellar way that Rowling wrote Snape to begin with, but Rickman delivers like he's never delivered before, single-handedly raising the bar for the entire cast. Are you paying attention, Academy voters?
In regards to the original question, though, no, it's not as good as the book. The biggest thing that holds it back for us is how it doesn't really capture the mind-boggling amount foresight and scale that Rowling injected into the seven novels that only became clear by the last novel. It's probably not even a gripe worth mentioning if you haven't read the novels, but we loved how she tied everything together by slowly revealing the true importance of certain seemingly insignificant objects, and that was something we missed even if we're not really sure how it could have been fixed in the first place. In addition, some of the flashback sequences border on being cryptic to the point of possibly confusing those who haven't read the books. But other than that, we've got nothing but praise.
Is It Worth Seeing?
If you haven't read the novels or been following along with the movies, you won't know what in the hell is going on here and you may very well hate it, regardless of how pretty it is to gawk at. If you haven't read the novels but have been keeping up with the films, there's a lot to love even if those said flashbacks might raise a few eyebrows. But if you were one of the many who donned a lightning bolt on your forehead for a midnight screening yesterday because you swear by the books and have been counting down the minutes since that cliffhanger at the end of 'Part 1,' we don't think you could ask for more.
'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2' is a perfect swan song for a extraordinary franchise that exceeded our expectations and then some, thanks to a clear appreciation for and understanding of a story that deserved the royal treatment. It truly is an emotional experience for anyone who's watched this cast grow up over the course of 10 years and anyone who's been enchanted by J.K. Rowling's spell. When all was said and done, we couldn't have been happier with the way it turned out. We really didn't think that there would ever be a 'Harry Potter' film that would top what Alfonso Cuaron did with 'Prisoner of Azkaban,' but sometimes it's nice to be proven wrong.
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