Deathly Hallows Part 2 feels incomplete. Maybe that's because it is only half of a movie, with no discernible structure, no beginning, middle, and end, which means that it feels every bit like half of a movie. If you're like me and you haven't read the books, and were too bored by Deathly Hallows Part 1 to revisit it to refresh your memory on what is going on, being thrust into the middle of a five hour film is disorienting, especially when the characters start throwing around magic terms and looking for horcruxes National Treasure style. For once I was actually hoping for at least one shamelessly expository line, like, "Four down, three to go, Harry," just so I could know many more infiltration scenes followed by an obligatory CGI action spectacle with a dragon or fire monster were left.
The Potter films have always had flaws, but until these last two they've always been too much fun to get hung up on minor details. Deathly Hallows Part 2 almost seems designed to call its flaws to your attention, with its mess of pure action, numerous monumental plot twists, revelations of characters' true allegiances and motivations, and the piss-poor invention of a certain character's back story, not to mention the most out-of-place utterance of the word "bitch" since Juggernaut declared who he was in X-Men: The Last Stand, which unfortunately comes less than ten minutes after a speech from Dumbledore on the power of words... I cringed so hard I almost fell out of my seat.
Worst of all, the magic is gone in Deathly Hallows. It's missing the pleasure of discovering and rediscovering this world and its strange characters. Also lacking is the sense of danger that I came to enjoy in the last few installments, even though Harry and friends are constantly in harm's way. Revealing that Lord Voldemort, the source of that danger, grows weaker every time Harry destroys a horcrux doesn't help, especially considering the entire first half of the film has Harry destroying horcuxes, yielding shots of Voldemort in agony, scurrying off in retreat.
This is also the first film in the series in which we see and hear nothing of the real world, the non-wizard world... Curious, considering the events in this one more than any other make me wonder about the impact they would have on the real world. It made me ask myself what the significance of this whole war is at all. What is at stake here if Voldemort and the bad guys win? They never really say what they'll do. Is it just that he wants to kill a character I've grown to enjoy?
It's not all bad, though. There are some nice moments, and some great performances, Ralph Fiennes especially. And though it's a mess dramatically, most of the action is pretty well staged, though sometimes a bunch of kids zapping each other with wands does look a little silly. And the effects are great for the most part, if I ignore the aforementioned fire monster chase, which resembles that awful waterskiing sequence from Die Another Day. Still, I think the biggest compliment I have for it is that I didn't hate it, but maybe that's because I was trying so hard to love it.