Technically Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is actually two movies, but they aren’t paced like two separate movies so I’m reviewing them together. I’ve heard people moan that splitting the final book into two parts was just a marketing ploy, and while I’m sure dollar signs were spinning in some executives’ eyes when the idea was greenlit, I still support the decision. In a perfect world, Goblet of Fire could have been split into two parts instead of this movie, but in the absence of a perfect world we’ll just have to make do.
Splitting the source material into two films means that the final confrontation against Voldemort and the Death Eaters is allowed to span roughly five hours instead of the usual two and half, and this means that the story can linger and pace itself a little bit better. For a series as massive and epic as Harry Potter, a suitably huge conclusion would be needed to cap it off — and for the most part, the director David Yates succeeded once again. Part 1 is a leisurely first act that draws you back into the characters and setting quite effectively, with plenty of action creeping into the second act just to keep the viewers on their toes, then Part 2 is for the most part just a super-extended third act. And while my gut instinct for a situation like that would be to criticize Part 2 for stretching out what’s traditionally supposed to be punchy and to-the-point… I can’t deny that the enormous climax of Deathly Hallows just works.
That’s not to say that the two films are masterpieces. Being made in 2011 amongst the craze of pointless CGI and superhero movies, it seems like the post-production visual effects team decided to be lazy and just reuse some PlayStation 3 graphics instead of doing actual work. For $250 000 000, don’t tell me they couldn’t have made the effects look better than that. Half of the movie feels like a video game cutscene, Attack of the Clones style. But then, I’m really biased against CGI in general. I’ve always held up the other Potter films as my example of CGI done well (you either use it sparingly or have enough dough to make it look flawless), but Deathly Hallows hangs a big asterisk over my example, and that just annoys me.
There’s also a serious problem with the subplot distribution. For whatever reason, either the screenwriter or the director decided to put all that negative stuff about Dumbledore that was in the book into Part 1 — but then didn’t actually follow up on it satisfactorily in Part 2. Unlike in the book, Deathly Hallows doesn’t redeem Dumbledore, and his winking smile to Harry when we do get to see him one last time just sort of makes him look like a prick. What was that about? The majority of the story was done quite well in Deathly Hallows, and it’s not like they didn’t have enough running time to expound on everything they wanted. The humanization of Dumbledore is pretty important to the series’s themes, but if they wanted to cut it so badly, they could have at least cut all of it.
Overall, though, the two parts of Deathly Hallows are pretty good. Not incredible, but none of the Potter series was really incredible anyway. They’re just fun.