By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin July 15, 2011 at 4:30AM
I wouldn’t call myself a Potterhead, but I have certainly enjoyed following the odyssey of Harry Potter and company over the past decade. Nothing can compare to the experience of reading J.K. Rowling’s books, which have been expertly condensed and interpreted by screenwriter Steve Kloves, but given the need for compromise I think they’ve done justice to the author’s intentions (if not her distinctly British wit).
While Part One of The Deathly Hallows played like a place-holder this eagerly-awaited finale, directed by David Yates, offers excitement and resolution, as it should. The subject is Harry’s showdown with the malevolent Lord Voldemort, and I won’t reveal more than I ought to, but it shouldn’t be a great secret that good triumphs and evil is vanquished. It’s the journey, as well as the destination, that—
—matters here, and there are definitely surprises along the way.
This is perhaps the most densely-plotted and detailed of all the Potter movies, which is really saying something. I won’t pretend that I understood every utterance, as a devoted Rowling reader would, but I got the things that matter most in terms of incident and character. The climactic battle between the forces of Voldemort and Harry and his loyal followers is vividly staged, with flourishes that command our attention, even after seven previous movies full of impressive visual effects.
Many of the familiar Hogwarts characters get to take a final bow, as it were, with some of the actors relegated to eye-blink cameos (like Emma Thompson) and others given a bit more to do (like Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Helena Bonham Carter, and Alan Rickman). The most notable newcomer to the ensemble is Ciarán Hinds as Professor Dumbledore’s brother.
But ultimately this is about following Harry, Hermione and Ron to the end of their journey. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint so embody these characters that it’s bittersweet to have to say goodbye; the movie gives them a fitting farewell in a scene that older Potter fans will especially appreciate.
I don’t think 3-D adds very much to the experience. The Harry Potter films are rich enough without any layering of gimmickry. Early in the film I noticed the emphasis on depth in certain set-ups and compositions; then I forgot about it, except when the glasses started to weigh heavily on my nose. I wish Warner Bros. had simply released the film in conventional form like all the others.
I don’t know if we’ll ever see another series quite like this, produced on such a lavish scale over a decade’s time. Whatever one’s quibbles, the Harry Potter movies have maintained their integrity, and their ability to dazzle us, from start to finish. That is an achievement that will stand for years to come.