Fans who’ve been following the boy wizard’s big-screen adventures since 2001 may need a hankie as they sit down to watch his last film outing.
Yet they may also feel a twinge of relief that this saga has finally reached its endgame – a sensation that will doubtless be shared by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson et al after a decade spent on the Potter treadmill.
If you’re going to go out, you might as well do it with a flourish. Indeed, if there’s anything that distinguishes this installment from those that preceded it, it’s the sense of everyone involved leaving it all out on the field – of going for broke, giving their best, making it count. It would be easier in such circumstances to be risk averse, play it safe and trade off former glories.
Yet returning director david Yates admirably takes a different tack, not least by beginning with a talky, action-free 15 minutes that serves as the quiet calm before the gathering storm. A nimble bank raid and a dragon-assisted escape get the pulse racing again before the film defaults to Hogwarts for the Battle Royale we’ve been waiting for so long.
And it does not disappoint, the ensuing chaos reducing the venerable institution to rubble and the star-studded cast by a decent third. Yes, a sepulchral interlude reuniting Harry and Dumbledore beyond the grave does resemble a pow-wow in an apple Store, while Matthew Lewis lacks the chops to make Neville Longbottom’s heroic elevation even halfway credible.
But for the most part, the final hour is thrilling stuff with enough stand-out moments – Julie Walters’ scrap with Helena Bonham Carter, Ron and Hermione’s tonsil tennis in the Chamber of Secrets – to have you cheering on your sofa ahead of an emotional flash-forward sure to put that hankie to good use.
Lewis looks a sight more comfortable presenting the ‘Maximum Movie Mode’ feature that, in addition to incorporating deleted scenes and bits from the book read out by the cast, includes handy info on such Potter staples as invisibility cloaks, elder wands and horcruxes.
Bravely perhaps, it also contains the film’s first stab at prematurely ageing its youthful leads – a prosthetic calamity that left Rupert Grint, by his own admission, “looking like Donald trump”. A supplemental octet of ‘Focus Points’ takes in Ciarán Hinds’ appearance as Dumbledore’s brother, Tom Felton’s exploits in the Room of Requirement and the big… pauses… between… Alan… Rickman’s… sentences.
Yet it is the Final Farewells doc that proves the most heart-tugging, as the cast and crew take turns to impress upon us what an absolute blast they’ve had making JK Rowling one of the richest people on the planet.