A flawed decision to split the final installment of the Harry Potter books into two films results in a formless narrative that overstays its welcome. For as detailed as director David Yates attempts to be with slick visual effects that periodically invigorate the movie, the overemphasized spectacle merely illustrates the film's lacking storyline.
We understand that Harry is in grave danger but don't get any sense of his ability or inclination to rescue the human and underground magic worlds from sinister forces if he survives to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort. Reigning over the darkest of times, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his Death Eaters rally forces with Rufus Scrimgeour's (Bill Nighy) Ministry of Magic to track down and kill Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). A Nazi-era social climate of fascistic dictatorship rules with public announcements informing Europe's citizenry, "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide."
Harry's latest birthday coincides with his teaming up with old pals Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) to find and destroy a number of magic talismans called Horcruxes that contain pieces of Voldemort's ink-black soul, thereby killing him once and for all. Without its familiar academic campus setting of Hogwarts to anchor its physical parameters, the movie meanders in and out of disconnected but visually impressive set pieces. And at nearly two-and-a-half hours you get the sense that screenwriter Steve Kloves is dragging out the action with filler that should have been left on the cutting room floor.
If the filmmakers' intention was to stay true to J.K. Rowlings' novel by including a wealth of narrative details and visual filigree, then they have at least scratched the surface. What they haven't done, however, is present a cohesive story with knowable and reliable characters. Grade: C
Opens Nov. 19. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.