The eighth and final installment of the Harry Potter film series opens Friday and the early reviews have been shockingly, enthusiastically good. As of noon Tuesday, 96 percent of the notices collected by online review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes have been positive, but it's the way critics are praising Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 that's so striking. After ten years, eight films, and a first installment that opened last fall, a little Potter fatigue would be understandable. Instead, the movie's inspiring mainly awe.
Associated Press critic Christy Lemire says the finale manages to be simultaneously "gorgeous, somber and startling," and warns that "even those who aren't ardent Potterphiles--who aren't waiting in a line around the theater with their homemade wands and hand-drawn lightning scars--might find themselves getting unexpectedly choked up a couple of times."
The same thing happened to the New York Post's Lou Lumenick, who admits he was "never a huge fan of the series" and was turned off by what he viewed as Warner Bros. "greed-based decision to stretch J.K. Rowling’s final book into two films." And while Lumenick still thinks Part I was "a gloomy affair, full of endless bickering between the three leads and wall-to-wall exposition that made it seem like the world’s longest trailer," that's acceptable, since the second installment makes up for it by being "everything a summer blockbuster should be but rarely is--a whip-smart, slam-bang piece of entertainment where we deeply care about the fate of the central characters (and many subsidiary ones who return for their last bows)." Lumenick's not a Potterphile, but the closing scenes still touched him."If [the film]could make a nonbeliever like me mist up," he reflects, "I can only imagine the effect it will have on the generation that grew up with this series in print and on film."
At Time, Richard Corliss hedges just a bit, noting any attempt to film the last book in J.K. Rowling's series "cannot be more than a zealous approximation of Rowling's achievement, a fair copy of a rapturous literary experience." Corliss reserves much of his praise for "the sublime supporting cast, brought back if only for glimpses here, remind us that the series is a luscious, perhaps unparalleled showcase for this generation's most endearing British actors." John Hurt's brief appearance as an aging wandmaker is "out-wonderfulled only by [Michael] Gambon's grave majesty and [Alan] Rickman's slow, pearly elocution and his depiction of Snape's emergence from a crusty shell into another sort of majesty."
Lisa Schwarzbaum only gives the film an A-minus in Entertainment Weekly, but closes her review with the closest thing to an all-out rave you're likely to hear this summer. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--Part 2 leaves us with the dawning, awesome recognition that the world is huge, fraught, enigmatic, magical, dangerous, delightful, and, ultimately, the responsibility of young people who must first find their own footing," writes Schwarzbaum. "That's quite an accomplishment for a story about a boy with a wand."