At a mere 130 minutes, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the shortest of the eight films in the Harry Potter series. But for better and worse, it never feels like it. Director David Yates (who helmed the previous three installments of the series as well) and screenwriter Steve Kloves (who scripted all the films except Order Of The Phoenix) start the film exactly where Part 1 left off, and with the same moody, somber, unrushed tone. But what dragged endlessly in Part 1 simply seems appropriate here, as the story gently reabsorbs viewers before taking off. Then Yates and Kloves ramp the action up to manic levels—even including two cartoonishly brash sequences at the Gringotts bank that hearken back to Chris Columbus’ two Potter films—and find ways to draw out the final battle, extending it beyond J.K. Rowling’s original novel.
At times, that means dipping into surprisingly conventional territory—when Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and evil wizard Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) take their long-running battle to a room full of creaky, collapse-prone rope-and-wood bridges, the setting feels contrived and generic, equally suited for a Hitchcock drama, a Western, or a modern thriller. And a lengthy siege scene, while grim and thrilling, seems to borrow equally from Ran and The Two Towers. Mostly, though, Yates and Kloves find the grand scope in Rowling’s book, and mine it for all the excitement and pathos it’s worth.
Inevitably, it’ll be worth more to devoted fans. As with Yates’ previous Harry Potter films, Hallows Part 2 skips or rushes a lot of explanation, while also trying to stay faithful to the books by getting as much of their incident on the screen as possible. So the storyline sometimes feels like it’s crammed full of barely relevant events, and sometimes feels stretched thin as the characters make vast leaps of intuition to move the story rapidly forward.
Nonetheless, this is the most epic of the Harry Potter movies, the one that finally dispenses with side-quests and open-ended plotlines and offers up all the final payoffs. That includes satisfying front-and-center roles for too-often-neglected subsidiary actors Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, and Matthew Lewis, as well as a gratifying variety of grand dramatic moments, executed with commitment and style. From an early sequence where Rickman stands in a high tower, coldly surveying the prison camp that Hogwarts has become to a late-film showdown that finds small comic moments among life-or-death conflict, it operates on an intense yet tonally lofty scale suitable for the final act of a series that’s held the world’s attention for more than a decade. Its principal cast members were hired as cute prepubescents and have grown impressively into their adult roles; with this installment, the series itself completes a similarly protracted and rewarding maturation.