No more professors, no more books; no more Potter’s defiant looks.
The dark times have returned. Death Eaters do the bidding of Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) behind the scenes at the Ministry of Magic, but the clever children who once safely attended Hogwart’s School of Wizarding and Witchcraft are no longer safe and are no longer children. After an attempt to spirit Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) away to safety goes spectacularly wrong (followed by an onslaught of additional attempts on his life and anyone in the way of it), Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) do the only thing they can to protect everyone they know: they go into hiding with only one another to protect themselves. If they can locate and destroy the Dark Lord’s horcruxes, the splintered pieces of his soul hidden inside secret objects, they stand a chance… except they don’t know where they all are or even how to destroy them.
Everyone’s favorite magical students have grown into young adults, and so have their responsibilities. J.K. Rowling’s seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series has been split into two films to preserve the important details that finally pit “the boy who lived” against the dark wizard he inexplicably defeated as a mere infant. After six previous outings, the principle cast slips easily into their roles, but the demands upon them for finishing this tale are more challenging than ever as the body count starts to rise and even the most loyal friendships are questioned. It’s sad, it’s adventurous, and it’s incredible watching how it all finally comes together.
The hardest part of this must have been how much to tell and when to stop in order to split the film (the first part clocking in at almost two and a half hours by itself.) Another decision was to resist the temptation to process the film for 3D effects, one that apparently was thrown out due to time since they wanted it done right, not just quickly, and couldn’t have made their release date with it. When other potential franchises like this have failed to launch or follow through (The Golden Compass, the waning Chronicles of Narnia), the attention to details in the Potter series have made the difference (even in spite of things they’ve had to leave out from the books which any fan can tell you has been considerable.)
For the first time, Hogwarts no longer plays home for the trio. Isolation and fear are fought off before becoming depression and hopelessness. Radcliffe, Watson and Grint all step up their performances to fight off these intangible emotions that can’t be defeated with wands and spells. At the same time, all of the hidden world of magic is after them, forcing all of them to fight against the instinct to simply slaughter their enemies as they appear (and essentially become them.) It’s the meat between the bones as the three friends begin to unravel the last of Voldemort’s secrets, and it’s clear that when they do, the kid gloves will finally come off.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)