The end of a beloved saga is always going to divide fans. Revenge of the Sith (and even Return of the Jedi) have hardcore fans, and hardcore detractors. So do the final Pirates of the Caribbean series, and The Matrix films, amongst many others. It’s just impossible to please everybody.
The final Harry Potter novel is almost universally adored and the filmmakers decided that, rather than being willing to sacrifice any important story beats, it would be better to split the story into two movies, which makes Harry Potter the Deathly Hollows, Part 1 primarily build up to the eventual big battle between the forces of good and evil.
The problem with that a movie of what’s essentially build up is that you feel like you don’t get a full story. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows is definitely a good film, but it’s certainly not a complete experience.
I’ve not read any of the Harry Potter books. I know that may make me a bad person or something, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t read the books until after I’d seen the movies. Sure, the major beats of all the books are ruined in news stories and reviews and all that, but I’d much rather get the first-time experience to the story from watching the movie. It may be weird, but I’d rather have a book ruined for me than a movie. One of the biggest issues I’ve had with any of the Harry Potter movies thus far has been that certain beats confuse me, but fans of the books totally get them and tell me that I’d understand it more had I read the book. A movie should be a whole experience unto itself and, while I’ve certainly loved the Harry Potter films, I think there have been issues.
But I have really enjoyed that the series has gotten progressively darker and “older” feeling as it goes on, with this newest movie being the darkest so far. This film has some funny moments, but ultimately is a joyless film, filled with anger, character drama and, sporadically, some pretty great action. While this film is one of the best in the series as standing on its own as a cohesive unit, it’s attempts at being as inclusive of the story as possible unfortunately leads to a pretty stellar beginning, some decent scenes sprinkled in parts of the film, and a WHOLE lengthy bit in the middle featuring…well, a lot of talking and standing around in the woods and arguing. While I get that the book has hundred of pages like this, and it does feature some good character bits and important moments, I couldn’t help but feel as if it was just dragging for most of its running time. I just kept waiting for something to happen, and I happened to notice that some of the action scenes thrown in to break up the slower bits didn’t seem to further the story in any way, or featured revelations that were revealed in other scenes already.
That’s not to say I didn’t like the movie – just that I felt like it was one of those “epic walking” movies that we’re so prone to make fun of since Clerks 2 summed it up for us. Not only that, I can’t help but feel a little cheated that the trailer for the movie featured footage from Part 2. I kept waiting for certain scenes to happen, just to see the movie end before they could. I know that, technically, the trailer was for both parts…but still!
Fans of the series are sure to enjoy it – and my wife, a fan of the book series as well, loved it more than I did. Obviously, if you don’t like Potter, this isn’t going to change your mind, and I can’t help but feel like all those reviews saying it’s “the best in the series” are overrating the movie a bit. But definitely worth the price of admission, and an absolutely joy to see in IMAX.