The half-finale of the Potter franchise sees both director and actors straining at their film-contracts, with a nervous energy which translates into unexpectedly powerful viewing. This time around we readily take the film seriously, with none of that self-conscious, look-how-they’ve-grown sentimentality from before. Parallels are instantly drawn between the stricken Wizard world and our unstable Muggle climate; the film opens with a clammy, frighteningly earnest Bill Nighy firing off battle speeches as the Minister for Magic.
Director David Yates strikes a balance between twitchy, CGI action and scenes of surprising tenderness; as readers will know well, this title sees acts of brutality committed against leading characters and houseelves, but these potentially trite moments take on gravity in Yates’ hands. Credit must also be given to the three leads, who artfully understate their performances as only ten years of fairly cheesy over-acting can teach you to. You don’t need to be a fully paid-up Rowling-ite to follow the plot, either; no-one maintained their Potter-mania from book launch through to film release, but what Deathly Hallows succeeds at is drumming up that enthusiasm for you. The costumes and scenery remain luscious as ever, a sepia and tweed-upholstered world especially memorable for its set pieces, such as a Metropolis-esque visit to the Ministry of Magic. Nor has the ‘Epic Finale’ dispensed with humour; the film is only too willing to undermine itself with snarky asides and slapstick. Even in its most commercial hour, segmented at the whim of Warner Brothers, Deathly Hallows triumphs as world-friendly action spectacle while retaining a messy charm.