+++ SPOILER WARNING +++
The Harry Potter franchise has its detractors. Those who scorn the books, those who scorn the films. It doesn't 'speak' to everyone. No story ever can.
But I don't think the influence that the Harry Potter stories have had on such a wide demographic - and for so long - can ever be denied.
I am not one of the detractors. I loved the books though freely admit the first two are overly simplistic. The films I have always loved unreservedly. I don't know why but they evoke the mood of a Christmas holiday in my house. Something special and comforting. Rowling has done what all writer's dream of doing (even if they don't admit to it): creating a world that the reader wishes to lose themselves in completely.
It's been a long journey to get to this finale. Over a decade. It hardly seems possible. For me the films have maintained a consistently high standard all the way through and though many felt The Deathly Hallows Part 1 was a let-down I was not disappointed. It was faithful to the book and served its purpose well - to whet the appetite for this: the mother of all showdowns.
The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a huge film. All the planets are in line. It is a cataclysmic event. All loose ends must be tied up or tied off. There are deaths a plenty. This is the war that has been brewing around the edge of the Harry Potter world since the first story.
There has been much talk in the press and the media about the significance of death in the Harry Potter stories. Rowling herself has been quoted as saying that Death is on every second page of the books, always there, waiting, driving, steering.
I suspect this is part of the appeal of the Harry Potter world. Like all fairytales it has a hidden subtext, it deals with subjects that children - God, even adults - find difficult to deal with and puts them into a context that makes them slightly more palatable; that at once removes them and draws them intimately near at the same time.
Death, when ideal, should be seen as an old friend. Not necessarily an enemy...
And so to the film.
Gripes, if any gripes I have, are few and far between and tiny. I wish more had been made of Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) and Julie Walters (Molly Weasley). They are damn fine actors and it is a shame to see them reduced to cameos. But they are not the main protagonists so I can understand why the editor's scissors treated them so harshly. Rickman's Snape has been voted the best Harry Potter character in some survey or other this week. Now that his story is fully told you can appreciate why. Rickman's performance has been brilliant, moving and subtle throughout all the films, yes, even despite his Boarding School teacher sternness. His tragedy has been written on his face from day one. His death and 'redemption' are emotively handled. As is Harry's realization of what he really is and what he must do. These are big issues for a children's story to be dealing with but they are handled with aplomb.
I wish the dual between Molly Weasley and Bellatrix had lasted longer - a small complaint really. It was a long time coming and so, so right. But again... time contraints no doubt played their part.
On the whole the film stays true to the book though there are a few omissions - Harry making peace with Creature; the revelation that Harry's sacrifice effectively does for everyone at Hogwarts what Lily Potter's sacrifice had originally done for Harry: render them all untouchable to Voldermort; Neville Longbottom's partial strangulation with the Sorting Hat... but these, I guess, can be left out. They don't create huge gaping elipses that punch holes in the plot. Other bits are added: the battle with Voldermort's snake, Nagini; Harry's final dual with Voldermort is elongated and run through the length of Hogwarts and yet the final denouement takes place in isolation, away from the eyes of onlookers (in the books it is in full view of everyone).
But none of this spoils the film. It is a visual and emotional spectacle. It has been many years since I have watched a film at the cinema and witnessed spontaneous cheering and applause from the audience. You can guess which bits prompted this: Ron and Hermione's kiss and Neville hacking off the head of Nagini at just the right moment.
The film is one long build up to an almighty, world changing crescendo.
In the peace that falls afterwards one feels sated, satisfied but also oddly bereft. It has been a long journey. An enjoyable journey. And now that it is over one feels sad and a piquant sense of loss.
A whole world has ended happily ever after.
One must say goodbye to an old friend.