Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is good enough, which is a succinct way of describing the eight-movie franchise as a whole. It has had its highs (Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban) and one low (Goblet of Fire), and overall has given the novels by J.K. Rowling the handsome production design and rich cast of actors – if not always the full-bodied imaginative grandeur – they deserved.
Essentially a feature-length third act, Part 2 has a few quiet moments but is mostly a series of increasingly high-stakes action sequences. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) escape a dungeon on the back of a dragon; they lead a ragtag group of Hogwarts’ students against the evil Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his army of Death Eaters, werewolves and marauding giants; Harry eventually faces off against Voldemort one on one. It’s a good thing we’ve had seven earlier films to provide emotional shading because Part 2 has little time for exposition or characterization.
The final film is heavy on what can now be seen as the series’ Big Themes: mercy, self-sacrifice, forgiveness. In the way the overarching narrative eventually plays out, Rowling’s novels – and the ensuing films – seem deeply indebted to another literary fantasy series from a British author: C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Both use fantastical tales to get at deep truths.
There is a sweet coda to Part 2 that feels appropriate for a series that has been with us for 10 years. Without giving too much away (as if anyone doesn’t really know already), I’ll only say that the movie ends with a new generation of Hogwarts’ students, tentatively dipping their toes in the world of magic we’ve come to love. It’s a fitting finale for a phenomenon that will go on to delight generations to come.