A token summary of the plot seems unnecessary for a review of this film, as surely anyone who's interested in seeing it will have read the books years ago... at least you had better have, or you'll find yourself inescapably lost. Writer Steve Cloves has ceased making concessions for the casual viewer, omitting anything but essential information and necessitating that we fill in the blanks. Though his resulting screenplay is inevitably less detailed than Rowling's involved tome, it proves a necessary evil; one not exercised enough in The Deathly Hallows' first half, but effectively employed for this closing chapter. The payoff is clear: a refreshing 2-hour run time, making this the most efficiently told entry in the octalogy. In retrospect, the move to split The Deathly Hallows in twain worked out for the better, although I still cringe sceptically at the original motivations behind the decision.
The focus of the story here is on the long siege of Hogwarts by Voldemort and his nefarious Death Eaters while Harry, Ron, and Hermione scramble to destroy the last remaining Horcruxes. I admit that the trailers (which seemed to advertise this as the best Michael Bay film of the year) had me a tad worried, but director David Yates prevents the gravity of the action from becoming burdensome. His approach to the Battle of Hogwarts is to scatter several mini action sequences between snippets of plot development (applause to editor Mark Day for piecing it together so tightly). The spectacle of the battle remains fleet and exhilarating, rather than a butt-numbing slog. As always, it's sensationally evoked by more of Tim Burke's marvelous effects and Stuart Craig's meticulous production design. Could either of them finally bring the series its first Academy Award on its last at-bat?
And so it ends, and all that's left to do is wait for time to dictate just where these pictures will stack up in the heap of cinema history. Hard to say. For me, none of them, not even this one, seems like a classic to be, but I get the feeling that the whole may be much more than the sum of its parts. Across the boundaries of nations and the boundaries of media, Harry Potter somehow captured the imagination of a generation, brought us into a world of wondrous sights, sounds, places, people, and made us care about all of them. That is the greatest bit of magic ever performed.
*** out of ****