Time for a battle! (Spoilers)
The eighth Potter film marks the end to one of the longest running film franchises that kept mostly the same actors. No matter what nit-picky jerks like me have to say, this is a major cinematic accomplishment and the cast and crew deserve to be noted for their efforts.
This time around we get to see the big fight between noseless and Hogwarts. But first, we have to get the rest of those damn horcruxes out of the way. The first major event of the film is a magical bank robbery (because why not) and while there is some fun to be had in this moment, we are also introduced to one of the dumbest aspects of the series.
Wand lore comes into play heavily in this narrative, and while it allows this story to be wrapped up in a coherent way, it also opens up major plot holes for the rest of the series. Wands can switch their allegiance if the wizard is disarmed, which means that no one owns their wand anymore. Harry and the other wizards have disarmed, and been disarmed numerous times, so does that mean that their wands aren’t loyal to them? Something this important should not have been introduced so late in the narrative. It ends up being a more frustrating element than anything else.
We are sending off the Potter story in this film, and unfortunately that means that the largest mistakes of the franchise are present. Aside from incredibly dumb wand lore, we also get a lot of throw away stuff. The horcruxes don’t seem to be that hard to find, and this makes that whole wing of the narrative seem kind of dumb. Further, since ol’ Voldy doesn’t have the elder wand’s loyalty, it doesn’t really work for him.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the narrative is that we fall into a complete binary. You are either good or bad, and there is little room for negotiation in that. The entire house of Slytherin is put into the dungeons before the battle begins. The entire house is considered a threat. What the hell? Aside from basically saying people are evil inherently and there can be no redemption, this is also a part of the narrative that anti-immigration politicians have latched onto—and now claim the series supports a right-wing agenda. While Rowling would scoff at such things, her own narrative makes a claim that you can universally damn an entire chunk of people. “But, but, but—Draco is redeemed”—kind of, but he just walks away. It isn’t like the Malfoys start helping the fight, they just back off.
I have never been able to get past the notion that if Slytherin is so dangerous, and the narrative proves this, why then are they allowed to learn magic? The Potter world has depth, and when the writers make small decisions like this for temporary plot convenience they are drastically changing the structure of the world. There are many careless and sloppy decisions toward the end of the franchise that truly hurt the viability of the whole thing.
The battle is likewise odd. Voldemort appears to have tens of thousands of followers at this point, and it is so imbalanced that there is no way Hogwarts could hold. Yet, when dawn breaks it appears Voldemort is down to maybe fifty followers—what happened? The power and spectacle creep of magic transfers to this battle, so we have about twenty people we can recognize in a sea of other throwaway faces. The battle in essence means nothing because of this.
The great twist of the series does work, and the reveal that Snape has been a sleeper cell against Voldemort for decades is interesting. However, it does raise several questions. People will pick this part of the narrative apart forever, but for me, it was an interesting moment. I don’t think most of the narrative was fully planned from conception, but it does seem that Snape’s redemption was, and this is in part why it works so well. This is a narrative moment that stretches across the entire franchise. It isn’t shoehorned in at the last moment like so many other of the plot points in this movie.
Perhaps the weakest part of the film is that there is no surprise in how the battle turns out. The reveal that Harry is a horcrux isn’t exactly shocking, and I doubt anyone thought that snakeman would win. Sure, there is an upped body count in this one, but each death is done for maximum narrative effect instead of something that feels more realistic or random. We are meant to be sad that some folks died, but it is okay. All the important kids made it, and will have kids of their own and send them to this horrible school.
In the end, too many late-game changes drag down an already middling war narrative. I do not think this is the best conclusion to a franchise, and each time I watch it I find myself more disappointed than anything else. 5/10
However, I am in the extreme minority here.
The Harry Potter franchise is incredibly important to a lot of people. Do I think it is flawed? Yes. I think that in large part it was luck and timing that this series took off when it did rather than any sort of literary heft, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that fans of this franchise received a quite faithful adaptation, and until they remake it (which they certainly will eventually) this is the best fans can expect.
Yet, this leads us to a new question: what is the future of Harry Potter? With a total of five Fantastic Beasts films in the works (yes, five) a sequel, and now prequels, it seems that this cow is going to be milked to death. I am critical of fans who refuse to see flaws in something they love, and this is the result of such overt worship. There will potentially be twenty Potter-universe films by the end of it, and I don’t think anyone can argue that this is going to maintain any sort of level of quality. Here I am speaking directly to Harry Potter fans (who probably hate these reviews), it is up to you to protect the sanctity of this narrative. You are the keepers now, and it is up to you to vote with your wallet to prevent this franchise from being spread so thing it loses any and all merit.
We as a culture (myself included) tend to ignore remakes when they come out for films that we don’t love. I will see a remake of about anything, but this is part of the problem. If studios can make money remaking cult classics they will start remaking classics sooner or later. We are on the third Spiderman reboot right now, and I am willing to bet there will be a fourth before 2025. We have to choose if we want legacy films, or if we want the shiny new penny every couple of years. If you want the shiny penny, keep watching the remakes, spinoffs, and so forth. If you want to have films that leave a legacy, then it is imperative to stop feeding the remake beast. I don’t think there is necessarily a wrong answer here, but it is one that we all need to make consciously. In short, ask yourself if you’d be pissed if they rebooted Harry Potter (there are already rumors). If so, then you have to take a stand on all reboots. This is not an area where we can pick and choose what to support. If a trend makes money that trend will continue until it no longer makes money.
Now, this will mean that you won’t get as much new Potter stuff. It will fall into cult status, and become something that is not as present in the cultural consciousness. However, that is the trade off we all have to decide on.