With nothing left to tell, the grand finale to the Harry Potter saga holds nothing back.
After the return of You-Know-Who (Ralph Fiennes) and the hidden wizarding world in chaos, “Undesirable Number One” Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) regroups to learn the missing information he needs to defeat Lord Voldemort once and for all. With three horcruxes still left to destroy, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) follow Harry into the vaults of Gringot’s and back to Hogwarts itself to find the ones still missing. When the last truth is finally revealed about the night James and Lilly Potter were killed, Harry will discover that there is still one more thing that must be destroyed to make Voldemort truly vulnerable and seal his fate.
It isn’t often that a series like Harry Potter comes around and connects with so many audiences the world over. The final book of the series seemed to be overwhelming even for its author, J.K. Rowling, who felt the need to put the nails in many of her beloved character’s coffins before the last page was written. Even when considering the best interpretations of the books to film (The Goblet of Fire) or the worst (The Order of the Phoenix), it’s hard to argue that, after all the camping in Part I, it’s extremely satisfying to see the conclusion on the big screen. One could even argue that it transcended its source material, and that’s no easy feat (yeah, for fans of the series, it’s that good).
The principal players have become synonymous with their parts (having grown up on camera from children to adults). Everyone has their moment on screen, whether in flashback or ghostly visitation. The urgency of the situation isn’t lost on anyone, but there are plenty of golden character moments as Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) comes into his own, Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) receives her deserved comeuppance, and Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) steps in and steps it up. Even villains like Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) and the collective Malfoys enjoy their character moments, and for whatever you think of them, something very human still lingers in these magical folk.
The film has a few issues, not the least of which is the final fate of one of the most powerful artifacts in Harry Potter’s world; for inexplicable reasons, the film deviates from the better book ending and allows a ridiculous solution. Seeing how difficult it was to destroy each of Voldemort’s horcruxes and the specialized weapons required to do so (using the often-misplaced Sword of Godric Gryffindor, for example), the film’s solution is akin to filling the Ark of the Covenant with rocks and dropping it into a shallow pond to be rid of it “once and for all” (figure the odds). Barring this one undermining discrepancy, audiences do get to enjoy the infamous epilogue from the final book which may one day serve as a launchpad for an entirely new generation of wizards for future muggles to enjoy, possibly through Rawling’s newly announced Pottermore.com venture.
Farewell, Harry Potter. You’ve done far more and fared far better than your creator ever required of you.
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)