Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
Itís been coming for ten years, but now at last itís here: The final adventure of Harry Potter. Weíve seen Harry, Ron, and Hermione go through quite a bit since their first days at Hogwarts from all the good times theyíve had hanging out together to the darker, more tragic side of their adventures. Now it all comes to an end as the final battle between Harry and Voldemort draws closer with several lives hanging in the balance.
Picking up right where Part 1 left off, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) are still trying to locate the remaining horcruxes that contain pieces of Voldemortís (Ralph Fiennes) soul. They believe one of them lies in the vault of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), so they set forth on a daring break-in to see if this is true. However, this results in Voldemort learning of their plan to destroy the horcruxes, meaning that he knows that his time may be short.
This prompts him to lead a full-scale assault with his followers against Hogwarts where Harry and his friends have taken refuge along with his professors and fellow students. Chaos erupts during this battle as everyone fights to defend the school while Harry tries to locate and destroy the final horcruxes so that he will finally be able to kill Voldemort. This all leads to a final, epic battle between the two that will decide everything once and for all.
Admittedly, I was rather lenient in my review of the previous film which had a lot of pacing and plotting issues. Much of it seemed to move incredibly slowly. The story would go from being really convoluted one second to being nearly plot-free the next. After seeing Parts 1 and 2 in the span of a week, it actually turns out that it probably would have been a better decision to combine them into one slightly longer film by distilling the few important parts from the first part and combining it with this film. This is especially true given the problems that Part 1 had.
Luckily, this second part has improved upon these problems giving us a better-paced film with a story that covers most of its runtime. There are still a few parts that felt as though they were moving slowly without many advances in the story, but this time around it wasnít nearly as big of a problem because most of the time there was a lot going on.
There were also a few story points that felt as though they werenít explained very well including one character motivation that seemed incomplete. Iíve never read the books, so perhaps itís better explained there. It could simply have been that there wasnít enough time to explain certain actions thoroughly. It didnít detract too much from the film, but it would have helped the story flow a little better knowing how and why certain things happened.
The film has the same wonderful special effects and production design that weíve come to expect from this series. The final battle sequence calls for quite a few special effects including a barrier to protect the school, stone soldiers, and various wand spells. All of these are done quite well. The set designs are excellent as well. Though most of it takes place at Hogwarts, there are a few other locations that we get to see including a bizarre roller coaster-type trip through a cave to Beatrixís vault. Hogwarts itself takes quite a beating during the climactic battle allowing both the outstanding special effects and production design teams to show off together.
This time around, it also felt like the story had a lot more emotional drive too it, probably because this was the final battle for Hogwarts and between Harry and Voldemort. It actually being the end, as opposed to all the mini-adventures leading up to it, gave it a little more gravitas than usual. Weíve gotten to know these characters over ten years and to finally see them on their last mission to save their friends, professors, and school is rather fascinating, especially when you think back to how light their first adventure was when compared to this and how much the characters themselves have changed.
Speaking of the emotional gravitas, there is one scene late in the film, perhaps the best scene of the film, in which Potter is told the truth of certain events. This was a very strong scene, or series of scenes I suppose you could call it, that starts out kind of hazy, as itís meant to, but quickly becomes painfully clear as events that have spanned the whole series are explained to us. A lot of these were foreseeable, but it doesnít make it any less powerful.
This screening was in 3D, which turned out to be completely pointless, as it is most of the time. The 3D here is barely noticeable and actually stops being noticeable at all almost immediately. Itís kind of sad to have to say that the most notable 3D image in the entire thing was the pair of glasses popping out at you along with the message telling you to put your 3D glasses on now. Itís a rather bad mistake to make a Harry Potter film in 3D in the first place given how dark these movies have become. All it does it make it even darker, taking away from all the hard work the cast and crew did on creating this magical world.
Overall, the Harry Potter series has had its ups and downs, and while it never ended up transcending into greatness, most of the films turned out to be entertaining. As I mentioned in my review for Part 1, for the last several years, watching these films has been like checking in on what our friends have been up to, and now that itís been brought to a close, we must say goodbye. Part 2 ends up being a worthy note for this decade-long franchise to go out on with a satisfying conclusion to bid farewell to these enduring characters. 3/4 stars.