**Warning – review contains spoilers**

The unparalleled joy one gets from watching the eighth and final Harry Potter movie has less to do with the merits of the actual film itself and more to do with the experience of sitting in the theater and the opportunity to celebrate the series with friends and fellow Muggles. This was more than just a movie, it was a zeitgeist event.

We attended the midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II in IMAX 3D in Times Square, NY; we arrived two hours early and still found the best available seats to be of the neck-craning variety situated in the fifth row. A lady toward the back told us she got to the theater at 2pm to reserve her seats.

The fact that we weren’t dressed up painted us as outsider – two Luna Lovegoods sat in front of us, next to a Bellatrix Lestrange, and a few bespeckled Harry Potters. When the theater attendant informed the crowd that seats could not be “saved” any longer, a riot very nearly broke out. As the crowd counted down from ten for the show to begin, there was a single collective wish born amongst the faithful: for the film to stay as true to the book as humanly possible.

For all in attendance, the point of the film wasn’t to be surprised by plot or to indulge an artistic statement – the point was to celebrate Harry for two final hours; to scream and shout when Neville kills Nagini, when Mrs. Weasley yells at Bellatrix, when Ron and Hermione kiss for the first time. The crowd erupted into applause dozens of time throughout the show, often making it impossible to hear the subsequent dialogue. Of course, it was dialogue the audience already knew, anyway. All that mattered was, for one last time, that the filmmakers didn’t “mess it up.” And they didn’t.

The movie, which has officially banked the highest-grossing opening weekend in history, is far from perfect. When considered in combination with Part I, Part II is an impacting two hour climax to a four hour film. When taken as an individual film, though, it’s a two hour climax without much buildup. It doesn’t stand up well on its own.

The flow is generally off, especially during moments when the filmmakers diverge from the book. The ensemble confrontation between the Death Eaters and the “good guys” happens far too early and makes Harry and Voldemort’s final banter feel small in comparison. When Voldemort is killed it is quickly followed by a cut to a joke from Neville Longbottom. Not the kind of cathartic moment one would expect after seven films of build up.

The romance falls short, as well. There’s pretty much no spark between Harry and Ginny or Ron and Hermione – their attractions are communicated through blushing cheeks and stammering lines delivered to one another, but certainly not any palpable sexual tension. But these shortcomings don’t matter, in the end. To have two hours in a dark theater to cheer for Harry, Ron, and Hermione one last time is a gift. And there are some truly amazing performances and moments.

Maggie Smith drew the largest applause of the night, as Professor McGonagall takes control of Hogwarts back from Snape in a truly empowering sequence. Alan Rickman, per usual, stands out as Snape. The five minute vignette of his life – truth long hinted at, finally revealed – is one of the most moving scenes in any of the eight films (although, screenwriter Steve Kloves’s decision to change Snape’s dying words from the book was awful). Harry’s trek into the Forbidden Forest resonates emotionally, as well, thanks to Daniel Radcliffe’s always capable performance.

Most importantly, director David Yates nails the ever-controversial epilogue. He doesn’t overdo it with the aging of his clearly recognizable stars and doesn’t try to pack in too much dialogue or conversation. It feels whimsical and yet poignant, as it should. A fitting end to a series of movies that, even at its worst, never messed it up. And, at its best, made you forget about the books, if only for a moment.

2 Comments

  • Sydney Ramsden
    Sydney Ramsden on

    I agree that the film was just a tiny bit sloppy but it is absolutely meant to be just a continuation of Deathly Hallows part 1. But all in all I thought it was a completely satisfying ending to a 10-year story.

  • Victoria
    Victoria on

    It's true that the movie didn't stand up well on it's own b/c it's just a continuation of the first part. But I still liked it, as did many other people who watched it. It was one last time that I could get lost in the series, and see my favorite story on the big screen. It was bittersweet 🙂

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