This review is filled with spoilers, enter at your own risk.
The last Harry Potter film is out and the movie franchise has officially come to a close. So, how do I think the last of the saga fared on the silver screen? Not bad all things considered; though this review is quite short as a proper review of this film for me would involve comparing and contrasting it heavily with the source material. This will take time as reviews of all eight of the movies would go into deep analysis in comparing the films to the books and my opinion of them and their plots and characters, which has shifted dramatically since the final book came out back in 2007.
So, stepping away from that let me talk about other elements in this film. The music is lovely and changes from being both suitably creepy when need be and building nicely during the battles at Hogwarts. The sets are all wonderful, nicely detailed, and many of them are large and grand without feeling like a special effects fest. The special effects are good in some areas and lacking in others. Nagini was not convincing to me in the last film and she still isn’t here. I think it’s a combination of the head shape and the banding pattern. She looks like a mix between an anaconda and a reticulated python. This should make her more menacing, but in every shot of her the only thing thought I get is ‘this creature looks wrong, who fell asleep in the effects department and didn’t fix this?’ and thus all the fear that should be there when she is on screen is lost. The only time when I felt this didn’t happen was Snape’s death. This was probably because of two things, one is that we get a shot of Nagini striking at the camera, thus putting the audience in Snape’s position. The second thing is right after that we cut away to Harry and his friends watching horrified on the other side of the glass. All we see and hear is a body shoving back against the glass as Nagini strikes and blood on the glass, leaving what is going on the other side entirely in the minds of the audience. The scene was rather Hitchcockian in my opinion and Alan Rickman certainly knows how to ‘die’ well.
The special effects are quite good with the death of Voldemort; I liked the dissolving into paper like scraps just as the sun came out, gave it a kind of death of Dracula like quality. I also liked the effect works with the magic spells, especially the fire in the room of requirement, and I really enjoyed the build up to the first battle at Hogwarts with everyone putting up shields and raising guards. Another good move on the filmmakers’ parts was that they really took advantage of transferring this from book to film and using what the different medium offers by getting out of the Harry filter. We get to see events outside his point of view in this movie a lot and it’s refreshing. For example when Ron and Hermione were destroying the cup in the Chamber of Secrets, the staff and the Order were preparing for battle, and Neville’s awesome speech to Voldemort. This all helped to give the film an ensemble feel, that everyone was getting a role, showing their strengths, and getting this to feel like it was an epic final clash of good and evil. Instead of Harry’s quest for trinkets and a skirmish between twenty people as it often felt like in the book.
Finally the movie did keep the 19 years later tacked on ending and I’m sorry but having visuals to go with that stupidity does not make it any better. In fact it makes it worse because they obviously used the same actors and seeing them standing in the ruins of Hogwarts still together and ready to face the future no matter what, and then cutting to them with pre-teen aged children takes something that should be warm and enduring and makes it profoundly creepy.
So, to conclude what is there to say? If you haven’t watched any of the other movies this is not the film to jump in with as it does wrap up the plot threads of the previous films and uses the locations previously established in them. But for all of us who have seen the others it’s a good conclusion to the films, it visuals are more positive than negative, acting is wonderful, sets are great, the atmosphere is nicely established with the music and the lighting; and it’s a good Harry Potter film as it strikes a balance by keeping the important elements and plots of the book, while changing and enhancing others to explore the larger visual canvas that a film gives the story.