Alternate Title: "The Long and Winding Road... Part 8".
Cigarette intake since viewing: Zilcho.
Currently listening to: "Road to Kingdom Come" by Lindisfarne.
The Gist: Teenage wizards fight other wizards. Duh.
The Experience: I wasn't going to do this review for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I like to think of myself as a champion of underground and independent cinema, and with my Stake Land review looking less and less likely to materialise, reviewing what is going to doubtlessly be described as the best film EVAR feels like navel-gazing. Second, a practical issue: in a time when people who spoil plots are treated with uncharacteristic disdain by creators and fans alike, trying to review ANY Harry Potter movie without giving the myriad of potential spoilers away feels like a good way to give myself an aneurysm. But, for good or ill, I feel that as a self-described cineaste I have a duty to throw in my two cents on at least one Potter movie, and since Deathly Hallows was the only one of the books I actually read cover to cover, I'd say it's the only one I'm qualified to review on that basis.
So, plot. Starting literally where the first part left off, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes in usual fine villaining form) has just obtained the Elder Wand, the most powerful Macguffin in all of Macguffindom, Harry and pals are trying to find and destroy the last few magical Macguffins that are keeping Voldemort alive, and the whole thing culminates in one of the most epic battles in the history of cinema.
That's the best I can do as far as non-spoilers goes. To be honest, though, this film jettisons plot less than a half hour into the proceedings, as if the director decided that from that point on he was going to make the most blisteringly good magical-themed effects-driven war movie of all time. And on that front, the movie is indeed successful. The vistas, as with all the Potter movies, are suitably vast and well shot, the pace is brisk without feeling rushed, and the action keeps a good balance between the kinetic, urgent sequences of the Death Eaters swarming Hogwarts to the scenes of the embattled Harry and co rushing from one bombed-out corridor to the next trying to find this all-important Horcurx or learn that all-important piece of exposition.
Any other film trying to do this juggling act would falter; even the Lord of the Rings movies, vast though they were, had to sacrifice character development in places in the interest of pushing the plot progression. But having had seven films to develop most of the principals beyond one-note caricatures, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is able to play a lot fast and looser with the cast due to the level of reinforced attachment to even seemingly minor characters like Luna and Neville.
Which brings me to one of the things some fans will still have a problem with: unlike the aforementioned Tolkien adaptations, which are available in exhaustive extended editions for the completists among their fandom, the Potter movies tend to be a lot more ruthless in their trimming of the fat, and for the most part this has sort of worked in the series' favour. However, there are a couple of key plot points involving characters and their arc that are either skirted over or clumsily omitted early on only to be referred to later in the proceedings without the benefit of context. Whilst these omission are never so glaring as to be inexcusable, it does betray the fact that, whilst David Yates is arguably the best directorial fit for the series, his and Mark Day's editorial process is perhaps a little too ruthless, and that a little more build up in the first act might have alleviated the breakneck pace of the Battle of Hogwarts. Other critics have noted that as a complete film, Parts 1 and 2 do in fact give the impression of one film presented in two parts, and that it works better in that context; however I feel that this is a pandering response to the issue of length, and that Part 2 should be able to stand on it's own merits.
And, in spite of my criticisms, it does. Not only are Dan Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint still consistently strong, but we finally get the moment most of us have been waiting for: Matthew Lewis' Neville Longbottom (still a silly name) getting to King Arthur the Sword of Gryffindor out of a hat and get his five minutes of badassery. And that's not even mentioning the talents of Alan Rickman, Ciaran Hinds, Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, Warwick Davis, John Hurt, Helen McCrory, Jason Isaacs and all the countless others involved. There is absolutely no reason why you should not see this movie at least five times and if you haven't already you probably have no soul.
I drank the Kool-Aid. Nuff said.