We knew this day was coming. It had been foretold long ago, first as the books began to count up the magic number of seven, and then we held our collective breaths, hoping that the movies would stay true to the course and make it all the way to seven as well.
Alas, it didn't happen that way. But in a good way. Seven movies begat eight. And the conclusion to the Harry Potter saga was not going to be gypped for us by cutting it short to appeal to the treacherous modern American movie-going audience.
As we did with HP 6 and HP 7.1, we started the run-up to HP 7.2 by doing our pre-lab viewing the DVD of 7.1, which turned out to be both a good thing and a bad thing.
DVD: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One [PG-13]
Almost had to give up on this one. As Harry gets older and Voldemort gets stronger, the movies get darker. Figuratively and literally. But in the case of the regular DVD, they went too far. We could hardly see anything on a 24" Sony TV. Finally I paused the movie, went into the TV's Menu and ramped the Brightness all the way up. At this point I could see it was actually Ginny talking to Harry. Yeesh. There's nothing wrong with either DVD or TV -- this coding was just too damned dark.
I'd forgotten about the charming animated telling of the story of what the hell the Deathly Hallows actually are. Pretty much the rest of the comments are as before.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two 2-D [PG-13]
Regal Grande Theatre, Greensboro NC, Theatre #9, 2×$6.75
The first good news -- the very first image on the screen for HP 7.2 is the very last image from HP 7.1. If you had any doubts that this was one movie, merely split into two parts, rest easy. Also, at 130 minutes, it's shorter than HP 7.1 (150 minutes), Half-Blood Prince (158 minutes), Order of the Phoenix (138 minutes), Goblet of Fire (157 minutes), Prisoner of Azkaban (142 minutes), Chamber of Secrets (161 minutes) or HP 1.0 Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone (152 minutes). Or... if you cut out the first set of credits and call it one movie, then the Deathly Hallows is some 270 minutes of End Times for Harry & Co.
Still this is tremendously better than some of the time allowed for some "movies", which clock in at 88 minutes -- or even less. And given the split in halves, there was plenty of room to put in much more of the book than a single movie could ever have done.
Now, I'm not particularly interested in giving spoilery reviews. But given that many of those who are here have read the books, it's hardly a spoiler to talk about a few things, isn't it?
Look, we knew pretty much that J.K. Rowling wasn't going to kill off Harry, Hermione or Ron. In Star Wars and Star Trek, we know that the leads just aren't going to die. At least not permanently. But unlike even The Lord of the Rings, where although there is carnage galore, only kills off one of the Fellowship -- and that's in Book One and is as much about the ugly power of The Ring as it is about breaking faith and desiring personal gain -- Rowling does go out of her way to put everyone else in mortal danger. No one is safe. Enough so in a first reading, you are concerned about whether The Three shall make it.
In the course of the first five films, we meet a lot of characters. And, especially as we move into the sixth and seventh books, some of them, even those very important to Harry, get killed. There are many bodies after the assault on Hogwarts by the forces of the Dark Lord. This is war and we learn that many suffer and die and that's part of war, as well.
And to some extent, as we have observed before, the hero of the story may really be Neville Longbottom. This is not to discount Harry, Hermione or Ron. They're central. But Neville has always been endearing and loyal and determined, and he does not fail us at this crucial end. Nor will Luna Lovegood be ignored at the correct time with the correct clue. Even Draco Malfoy plays his part. This is a civil war, to be sure, with a schism between wizards and witches who'd grown up together.
Also, we're so immersed in the Potterverse at this point, there is very little explanation of everything. We don't need to be told that the steam train is going to Hogwarts. Or what Hogwarts is. Or who Dumbledore was. Or the Room of Requirement. Or the Marauder's Map. These are given, as are all our friends. When Kreacher and Dobby appear, we know who they are, and what house elves are. No one has to explain polyjuice potions. Alas, even in so long and grand a series of movies, many characters are just seen as placeholders in this finale -- their time in the movies done in earlier chapters -- they serve only to enrich our universe and make it personal. But we don't need to know more about them or given them more than background muttering parts. Not unless we want to add another hundred minutes to the movie. It is sufficient that, with only one exception, they kept this enormous cast together through ten years and eight movies. What a remarkable accomplishment.
I'd forgotten about the King's Cross Station scene in the book. They did a lovely job with it. The best line in the movie? Probably goes to Maggie Smith, who utters, "I always wanted to do that spell," with a wistful smile and a hint of glee, on the eve of a Very Dire Situation.
Poor Ginny. She get's short shrift, and even in the afterword nineteen years later, she is slid out of the final camera shot to focus on the Main Three.
But even these nits are not fatal. If you want more details, go re-read the books. I shall. But I shall also re-watch these movies -- and I'll go see HP 7.2 in 3-D IMAX when I get the chance back home. This is, in all, a very satisfactory conclusion to an epic series. One which, as John Scalzi observes, we may not see the likes of for a long time. And in part, it is because the Harry Potter story has an ending. And it's a good one.