I had the pleasure of attending an advanced screening of the final Harry Potter film in New York City, including the red carpet event, featuring appearances by principal cast members Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, and Matthew Lewis. Although I did not attend the same screening as the celebrities, acquiring autographs from two of the world’s most recognized (and highest-paid) actors (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson), and being close to other big-name celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick was an experience that cannot be matched, even by the awe-inspiring finality that I experienced while watching the final installment of the decade-long series.
Perhaps the only disappointment of the evening was that my fellow audience members were too vocal, cheering, clapping, laughing, and sobbing incessantly. Fortunately, these distractions did not in any way lessen my enjoyment of the film; in fact, they certainly heightened the excitement surrounding particularly memorable sequences, such as the lengthy epic battle between Voldemort and Harry.
David Yates, who directed the last four Potter films, successfully and succinctly combines all the elements of the previous movies that caused them to be so beloved—humor, wit, love and friendship, death and despair, action and adventure, etc.—so that you leave the movie theater with immensely mixed feelings. You do not know whether to be painfully devastated that it is over, or elated that each character’s story arc came to a brilliant close and all plot questions were answered, or both. That is, so to speak, the magic of this series, which is destined to become a classic. Radcliffe himself recognized the franchise’s lasting significance, as he he told MTV that it will be passed on through the generations and perhaps become even more adored.
It is especially rewarding to witness the maturation of the cast, both as their characters and as themselves. There is one point, towards the end of the movie, when you see the principal characters standing together and holding hands, and although you can sense how much they have grown, they still appear young.
Author J.K. Rowling has explained that Deathly Hallows, Part 1 is a “road movie” and that Part 2 is a “war movie.” While she is of course correct, Part 2 is so much more than merely a “war movie,” and as Rowling said, each character has his/her moment to shine. Once again, Yates remains as faithful to Rowling’s original book as is possible, and admirers of the final book will be pleased to hear a number of lines taken directly from Rowling’s novel. (Thanks go to screenwriter Steve Kloves, of course, who wrote the script for seven of the eight films). I attempted to control my emotions throughout the movie; however I could not help myself when, at the end, I realized that it was all over, and one of the most popular, admired (and admirable) franchises of all time had finished its reign of Hollywood.
Even if I were to be nit-picky about the film as a whole, I doubt I could discover any flaws, as Yates has created the most cinematically satisfying film of the entire series. He has garnered the best performances from his actors, with Radcliffe shining in the lead role, and Alan Rickman and Ralph Fiennes easily stealing scenes from the others. Radcliffe may be hard-pressed to shed the Harry Potter persona, yet we have seem him grow incredibly as an actor, so I know he will truly succeed (he is currently taking a short break from playing the lead in Broadway’s revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying).
Rickman’s performance is devastatingly good, but I will leave it at that. Fiennes, as Voldemort, is deliciously evil, unrecognizable, and despicably unlikeable. Watson and Grint experience the sweetest kiss, something fans have long been awaiting, and I can promise that you will not be disappointed. This seems to ring true for the entire franchise, and I feel privileged to have spent a little bit of time celebrating its tremendous accomplishments with the cast and crew who made it all possible.