Director. David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Ralph Fiennes, Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, John Hurt
Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman,Clémence Poésy
Can mediocre literature make good cinema? This, and not how to kill Voldemort, has been the biggest mystery in the entire Harry Potter movie saga which began precisely a decade ago. Perhaps under precise hands even things as immaturely misguided as J.K. Rowling's bestsellers could achieve some sort of efficiency or even brilliance (Alfonso Cuarón's entry in the series is still the only one that came close to this) but most of the Potter films have reveled in big setpieces, lazy performances and too much information that might've worked in literature but feels muddled and conspicuous in cinema.
Take for example the horocruxes Harry (Radcliffe) has been searching for the last two films. In all honesty anyone could've told him about this since the beginning and get Voldemort done with. Why wait ten years to let him know how to destroy his biggest enemy? Raising values and teaching children how to find their true worth in the face of adversity by way of faceless demon creature? Maybe.
More cynical audience members might be willing to call it squeezing money out of your wallet though and they might be right. In all cases, these movies could've been retitled Harry Potter and the Efficiency of the Red Herring. The fact that this is the last film and therefore forces the director and writer to tie everything up gives it an urgency that the other movies never had. This is obviously evident in the huge dramatic punch the movie carries. There are farewells, deaths, shocking twists (Gambon's Dumbledore wasn't as nice as we thought and Rickman's Snape was!) and it all comes down to an anticlimactic showdown between the young wizard and Voldemort (Fiennes who will be remembered as one of the creepiest villains in film history).
For all its flaws the film results quite entertaining and after a tedious start picks up and delivers the goods at a brisk pace.
The children still are rather dull actors (except for Granger who oozes onscreen charm) but lukcy for them they are surrounded by astonishing actors. Smith gets more of a chance to shine this time around and in a fantastic fight scene, Walters goes all Lt. Ripley on the equally superb Bonham-Carter.
This time more than ever, the visual effects and production design seem to click and some scenes are completely spellbinding but perhaps most of the film's value is merely because it's the last one. As such it comes as a complex beast to evaluate in terms of purely adequate artistic value. The Potter films were never meditations on life and to come out of them with the desire to engage in Bergman-ian dialogues is out of the question, but they could've had a little something extra that went beyond the notions of just telling a story.
As exciting and harmlessly captivating as this installment is, leaving the theater you might notice you have already forgotten what the movie was all about.