“It all ends,” claims the poster slogan. A potentially horrific statement of the obvious still the Potter franchise could hardly have wrapped up on a better note. With one magical flourish of its wand, the saga has regains the substantial magic to the Potter legend – which had been beginning to sag and drift in recent films – inflicting us all with a booming final chapter, which seems far superior to CS Lewis’s The Last Battle or JRR Tolkien’s The Return of the King. It’s exceptionally pleasing, wonderful and terrifically intriguing, easily justifying the decision to divide the last book into two parts.
Here is where the Harry Potter franchise gets its fun back, with a final clash between Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and young heroic protagonist, and with the stirring revelation of Harry’s fate, which Dumbledore had been keeping secret from him. When courageous young Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) steps forward to condemn the dark lord in the final courtyard sequence, I couldn’t hold myself. And in that final “coda”, the matured Harry Potter gently embraces his little boy before sending him off for his first term at Hogwarts, I think my eye started to tear up with joy.
The massive success of this franchise really is something to admire. The Harry Potter series showed us their characters maturing in real time: different from Just William or Bart Simpson, Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry was going to grow up like a normal human being and never before has any film nor any book brought home to me how sorrowfully short childhood is. The Potter series weren’t just a film-remake version of a series of novels, but a vivid, evolving collaborative element between page and screen. The first movie, Philosopher’s Stone, established in 2001, when JK Rowling was working on her fifth novel, Order of the Phoenix, and when no one knew entirely how it was going to close. The films developed just behind the pages, and it’s undoubtedly impossible to read them without being affected by the films. This is most obvious for Robbie Coltrane’s endlessly adorable, sensational performance as Hagrid.
In the final movie – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry (Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) keep on their fight to find and destroy the “horcruxes” that the devious Voldemort needs to stay alive eternally: these are objects in which the pieces of souls are trapped and whose vital, spiritual force Voldemort, that resentful live on, can lead his own destruction. Harry and his pals track down these horcruxes, but the last one is a puzzle. As the forces of good unite at Hogwarts for the final clash with Voldemort and his followers, Harry knows only that the most essential horcrux is actually located in the castle, very close at hand.
There are some fantastic set-piece sequences – and now the story of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has so much more energy, these sequences have an ability that comparable moments in earlier films did not have. When Harry, Ron and Hermione sneaked into Gringotts Bank to steal the sword of Gryffindor, the effect is fresh, surreal and nerve-racking: influenced by Lewis Carroll and Terry Gilliam. It is a wonderful moment when Severus Snape, portrayed with marvelously adenoidal scorn by Alan Rickman, is assaulted by Voldemort’s snake Nagini, and we see this only from behind a frosted glass screen – a neat touch from director David Yates. London-dwelling Potter fans will (as always) be anticipated to see how the flamboyant St Pancras railway station is used to represent King’s Cross, from where the Hogwarts train customarily departs. Millions of tourists are positively convinced that this building is, in fact, King’s Cross. It may be forced simply to alter its name.
We get intense, but somehow touching witnessing the innocent screen kisses between Harry and Ginny (Bonnie Wright) and, in addition, between Ron and Hermione. In the middle of the fight, Neville declares that he is going to find Luna (Evanna Lynch) for a kiss: “I’m mad about her! About time I told her, since we’re both probably going to be dead by dawn!” But these love stories are always side story to the all-crucial clash between good and evil.
The essential moment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows film is where it is gripping and even moving when Harry discovers his true fate, and sets out to complete it. Still the exact reason for his ultimate survival may be a little vague, and perhaps even Potter-diehard fans may doubt that in the film there is a touch of having your cake and eating it. Well, no matter. This is such an exciting, beguiling, enchanting and eye-catching picture. It makes me remind of the thrill I experienced on seeing the very first one, 10 years ago. And Radcliffe’s Harry Potter has developed as a complex, confident, vulnerable, brave-hearted character – most lovable, sadly, at the point where we say goodbye him forever.