The eighth and final installment of the massive “Harry Potter” franchise hit theaters this Friday and has already racked up an all-time box office record, beating “The Dark Knight’s” previous mark by a cool $10 million. It’s easy to see why: how many other film series inspire their audiences to line up days in advance for midnight tickets, and to dress up like their favorite characters? Not since the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy or even “Star Wars” has a story this epic been committed to film.
All that being said, and being a true Harry Potter nerd myself, I have to say I was mildly disappointed by “Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” Perhaps it was because I was surrounded by disruptive, giggling teenagers who were not as reverent of the story as those of us who grew up with it; perhaps it was because there was simply no way that anything could live up to my—and many fans’–totally outsize expectations. But after the first half hour or so, which features a magnificent sequence involving a dragon, the film starts to move at what feels like an artificial speed.
The bulk of the story centers on the epic battle for Hogwarts, in which all the characters we’ve grown to know and love fight to the death against Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his band of evil Death Eaters. But hardly any time is devoted to any of the characters except Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his two friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint). Even when several prominent characters are killed in battle, we get a quick glance at them but nothing more; it feels like director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves were given a strict time limit to adhere to, and had to cut out most of the emotional heart of the story in order to meet it (indeed, “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is the shortest of the films, at a mere 2 hours, 5 minutes). Having everything move along so briskly made it difficult even for seasoned fans like myself to really connect with the story, and made it impossible for newcomers to appreciate the gravitas of each magical creature or mysterious incantation whipping by on screen.
The performances, at least, are excellent as always; brief appearances by Maggie Smith, David Thewlis, Jim Broadbent, and Robbie Coltrane among others keep things interesting, and the three young heroes are earnest and sincere enough to make even the craziest plot twists seem plausible. In fact, as many have pointed out, the most amazing part of the “Harry Potter” series has been watching Radcliffe, Watson and Grint grow from children into young adults. There is a flashback near the end of “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” to the very first film, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” in which we see the three friends meeting each other for the first time; their transformation is nothing short of magical.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is currently in wide release.