I can definitely say it went out with a bang. Action and effects were numerous and the best I remember in the series. Character mortality rates were higher than ever. (In fact keeping track of deaths almost requires pen and paper!) The stakes were higher than ever and the epic battles do not disappoint.
The supporting adult cast does the heavy lifting and engaged me emotionally in ways this series never has before. Alan Rickman (and Severus Snape's story) is certainly the standout dramatic element and nearly brought me to tears.
The visual design is appropriately dark, sinister and even depressing, while still captivating and fantastical. A far cry from the bright colors of the earlier films in the series. Every character looks ragged and worn.
The music also contributes a lot to the mood, sounding almost like a creepy horror flick at times (though without the cheap "jump scares").
All this work put into mood still only helps to offset, rather than contribute to, the performances of the three heroic leads. It's great that the studio ended up with passable adult actors considering they were cast as kids. But I would still place the calibre of their performances alongside or below most TV guest performers, rather than movie actors or even TV regulars. And whether because of their performances, the script, or both, I didn't find myself the least bit invested in their well-being. A very big problem, given that they are the center of the story.
Speaking of story, this movie, like the last one or two, is unforgiving toward those who do not watch previous movies in the series (or know them very well) right before seeing this one. Few or no reminders are given about who people are, what things are significant and what all the objectives for victory are. Although I've read all the books once and seen all the previous movies, I felt lost in a number of ways. My guess is that this movie (and others in the series) will be more greatly appreciated for its story on home video, rather than in the spaced out theatrical release schedule.
I personally doubt that much worthwhile conversation will come out of seeing this movie. But a few topics that you could squeeze out of it (if you have strong hands) would include: The afterlife, sacrificial love, the death and resurrection of Christ (as subtly modeled in this movie in a way I won't spoil further) and doing right while being villainized by others. Those points are all present, but would have come out much more strongly had the performances been more emotionally engaging.
This flick is a good end to the franchise that would be stronger in the immediate context of the previous films. Although key performances are lacking, supporting actors and good direction make up enough ground to provide an enjoyable experience.
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.
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