In retrospect, I’m not sure if my review of Deathly Hallows: Part 2 can be considered complete without the companion review for Part 1, much like how I feel about the movies themselves. I would like to revise this review to include more plot detail, but considering this is the seventh film in an eight-part series, this would be difficult for me to do without including spoilers.
This is an absolutely phenomenal film. It is my favorite film in the franchise and is one of my favorite films of 2010, a powerful year for movies overall. (In retrospect, after having seen Deathly Hallows: Part 2, it’s very difficult for me to decide which of those two movies is my favorite of the franchise. They both have very powerful and very distinct strengths, as discussed in the second film’s review.)
“Half-Blood Prince” was a letdown only in the sense that it wasn’t as absolutely mind-blowing for me as “Order of the Phoenix” was, instead settling for being merely “quite decent.” I don’t know why it didn’t thrill me as much as the movie before or after it. Maybe because I thought the book was only decent and liked books 5 and 7 better?
Deathly Hallows, on the other hand, starts out strong and with only the faintest of pacing missteps and slowdowns, powers through two and a half hours’ worth of an impeccable balance between intense action and engrossing exposition.
The acting is superb. Main leads Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) head up an incredible cast and are amazingly talented in their own right. Watson is absolutely heartbreaking, since she seems to be the only one of the three main characters who doesn’t lose their mind at some point, with an explanation that is handled just as logically and understandably as it was in the book. One of her scenes toward the end of the film is almost too convincing, making the story’s brutal tone that much more personal and horrifying.
The movie is probably not “accessible” for people who haven’t read all the books and perhaps watched all the films (you’re probably not going to understand what Horcruxes are and why they are important just from watching the movie), but for those familiar with the source material, even if they haven’t actually read it in a while, they’ll find a shining example of how a book-to-movie adaptation should be made.
The film’s structure brought few surprises but was solid enough not to really need them. (I walked in the theatre having a good idea of what event the film would end on. I was correct to within about a minute of screen time.) Series veterans will likely receive just what they expect to get from this extended “setup sequence” as the film series prepares for its final installment. One notable exception is an engrossing story-within-a-story animated sequence which fits perfectly within the comparatively dark tone of this film.
Some of the action-scene camera work is a bit difficult to follow, but the wand fights feel as intense and breathless as any gunfight in a modern action movie. The computer-generated creatures are as breathtaking to look at as they ever were, but the story and script stand proudly on their own, turning a simple quest to destroy various magical objects into a poignant examination of character and personal relationships. The film masterfully shifts back and forth between depression and happiness, with the best examples including one particular slow-dance sequence that would feel random if it weren’t executed so completely and utterly naturally.
I really can’t say enough about this film. Small pacing lags and accessibility are probably my only real complaints about the film, but the former is a minor complaint, and the latter can’t be helped in a movie that serves as half of an adaptation of the final installment in a long-running book series. I can’t wait to see this movie again.