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Ladies and gentlemen, this is the end of the line. The Hogwarts Express has reached its final destination. Please make sure to gather up all your robes and magic wands before exiting. We hope you have enjoyed your trip.

This week’s release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 marks the end of a vast, ambitious, American-financed but still thoroughly British cinematic undertaking spanning more than a decade. From an artistic standpoint, this run has been largely successful despite a few wobbly moments, particularly in the first two films. From a commercial standpoint, the series has become an object lesson in how to keep a fantasy-adventure saga interesting to moviegoers (not to mention making massive piles of money) over a long period of time. This is one instance when art and commerce shared the same goals; no matter how good J.K. Rowling’s novels were and how devoted her fanbase was, the films needed to stand up on their own and be meaningful to non-fans to remain relevant. For the most part, they have done that.

This includes the current movie, which nevertheless confirms the suspicions I voiced in my review of Part 1 that these separate films would have worked better as a single 276-minute extravaganza. Even so, Part 2 functions pretty well on its own, with a slow, lyrical interlude in the middle bookended by spectacular action set pieces. The result is a more satisfying conclusion to a series than The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King or any other similar film in memory.

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