When I was in the fourth grade my grandmother handed me a book titled “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” I was skeptical. The strange looking boy on the cover riding a broomstick did little to encourage me to read it, but eventually summer boredom took its toll and I caved. I had no idea that over a decade later I’d still be reliving Harry’s adventures and wondering which of my friends would be in Slytherin. But, such was the impact Harry Potter had on my life and many other lives around the world. While sitting in the theater waiting to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, I suddenly realized that it was all almost over. After 14 years, eight movies, seven books, and a $15 billion empire, Harry Potter and his friends had finally come to the conclusion of their journey.
And what a conclusion it is. The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 amazes and shocks and makes us proud to have ever been a part of Pottermania. It’s a film that is sometimes brilliant and sometimes strange, but it never sacrifices any of the magic we felt along the way. Sure, the plot isn’t as strong as most of the previous films, but director David Yates knows that the plot isn’t what’s important in Harry’s last hurrah. It’s our bonds with the characters that matter now, and Yates dedicates a fair amount of screen-time to show off the witches and wizards that made the series so special.
Although a large cast of characters is on display here, it’s obvious that Harry Potter himself is the focus of the film. This is his story, and we’re going to follow it to the end. Radcliffe, who has played Potter for half of his life, is better than ever. He holds his own among the stellar cast of seasoned British veterans, displaying an impressive range of emotion throughout the entire film. Looking back, it’s quite remarkable to see what a transformation Radcliffe has made from the first movie to the last. Harry’s journey became his own. Radcliffe grew as Harry grew, from child to teenager to adult, and the importance of that passage is quite clear.
Harry Potter isn’t the only wizard in the film, though. Almost every side-character has a cameo, though sadly most of them are brief. The director tries to pack as many familiar faces in the movie as possible, but in doing so limits the depth and importance of their time on the screen. Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Watson) play second fiddle to Harry throughout the movie, and the unfortunate emphasis on their newfound love is too often and too obvious. The rest of the Hogwarts gang is also back, with especially memorable appearances by Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) and Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith).
With so many characters to keep track of, the film sometimes seems to veer away from the plot. Many important moments lack significance and fail to make an impression on the audience. Director Yates hurries through often confusing revelations and flashbacks, choosing instead to display our favorite characters in the battle against Voldemort. It’s very much a film made for the fans. A newcomer to the franchise would soon be enveloped and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content the movie contains.
As the credits rolled, I sat in my seat and reminisced about the place Harry Potter held in my youth. About the disbelief I felt when Snape killed Dumbledore. About going to a midnight release for a book (likely for the first and last time). About growing up with Harry Potter, in the most literal sense possible. He grew as I did, and with each subsequent book release I found that we faced many of the same (non-magical) problems. Perhaps it’s this unique attachment that makes the film so meaningful to me. It’s a jubilant final reunion with the characters I grew up loving, and I’m sad to see them go. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is about as grand a farewell as we could ask for, and succeeds in bringing closure to such a beloved franchise. Farewell, Harry Potter. Mischief managed.