And yet, here we are, with the same characters and almost exactly the same cast, consistent across the whole franchise. Dumbledore being effectively replaced by Michael Gambon, due to the death of Richard Harris
After abruptly leaving audiences in mid story in Part 1, have the loose ends been tied and a resounding and satisfying finale been served?
The short answer is yes with some relatively minor caveats.
All of the exposition was completed in part 1 thus allowing the filmmakers free reign to make the last film, one long running battle. The opening scenes with Griphook (Warwick Davis) are noteworthy for the stillness that he brings to the role, an element that is lacking in the frenetic set pieces that follow. Swathed in make up and razor sharp teeth, he highlights the issue that has beset the films from the start, the young protagonists acting ability has always paled against the wealth of mainly English acting talent. All three have improved over the years but it’s a tough ask against the depth of acting experience on offer.
These early scenes set up an adventure to recover another Horcrux within Gringotts bank, beautifully and expensively recreated and then promptly destroyed. The effects throughout the film are outstanding, the studio obviously pushing out every boat they could find, to make this an ending worthy of the name. Tie in’s to new roller coaster rides are obvious but in 3D this is great fun, and everything is created believably within the fantasy world.
There a few flashbacks which indicate just how far the cast and crew have come from early beginnings but all of this is just delaying the inevitable final battle and showdown that everyone has paid to see. The final siege of Hogwarts, draped in protective spells, stone guards brought to life and a last stand defense by all those who remain in the Order for good.
Like a fireworks display where the biggest rockets are saved for last, everything is thrown at the screen, mostly very effectively. Characters from the past all get some screen time, albeit brief in some cases. Julie Walters (Molly Weasley) and Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) get the best lines of the film, Walters “Not my daughter, you bitch” receiving a round of applause from the audience, as Bellatrix is brought to account.
Hogwarts far from the sunny refuge it offered in early films, becomes a battlefield liberally strewn with dead bodies, the Quidditch pitch is the first to be set alight. Large scale battles with colossal Trolls are reminiscent of Lord of The Rings in scale and presentation and are equally impressive.
The remainder of the books plot is explained and final motivations revealed, although the film does come to a grinding halt at one point to deal with an out of body experience. Similar to later episodes of the Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean, this is achieved with an all white set. Whilst neccesary, is does dispel the considerable momentum built up, before the final showdown. Harry against Voldemort, Fiennes yet again achieving acting marvels below levels of constricting make up.
Few actors get a chance to shine as the last film is all about tying up loose ends and providing a spectacle, however we will miss Snape (Rickman) with his billowing cape and drawn out delivery of lines. There are poignant scenes, more so because the young threesome clearly realise this is the end of a journey that none of them could have predicted would last so long. The kiss when it comes is awkward, the actors clearly considering themselves brothers and sisters due to their shared experiences over the years.
Despite the rather questionable ending of the books, in the film all the actors are aged effectively to portray the final epilogue scenes, which if anything, play better on the screen than on the page.
Certainly Warner Brothers must be credited with providing solid, creative and expensive entertainment and could not be accused of just relying on the built in audience. Whilst every commercial avenue has been exploited, as any good business would, at least everything is built around a solid worthwhile piece of popular entertainment.
Is this really the end, well everyone tells us that it is. Rowling has written no more books although fan fiction continues apace, whether Warner Brothers will be able to walk away from such a lucrative Franchise remains to be see.
But for now, this is it, the end, Harry Potter has left the building.
For those even casually acquainted with the books or films, this will be a must see. For fans it goes without saying, this is compulsory viewing.
We have grown up with Harry Potter, some might argue it has accurately reflected the gradual shift from innocence to the current woes of the world post 9/11.
We will be sad in many ways to see it go but this is the send off the series deserves and comes highly recommended.