Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Directed by: David Yates

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, and Maggie Smith

We have patiently waited a decade for this moment in film history.  We have been on a long, long journey with our three young stars and some of the greatest British actors of our time.  We have enjoyed this storied franchise and unflinchingly supported it throughout seven films.  At last, I can finally say that the Boy Who Lived confronts He Who Must Not Be Named in a glorious final battle!

Unlike its predecessors, this film moves at a rapid pace and does not spend any time reviewing important plot details from the previous seven films.  In many ways, this reflects the frantic scramble by both Harry and Voldemort in this epic clash of good versus evil.  If you have never seen a single Harry Potter film, don't waste your time reading this review or going to the theaters.  This film is not meant for you.  You are a decade behind.  Potter aficionados, please continue reading though there may be some spoilers ahead.

In this adaptation of J.K. Rowling's celebrated final installment of the Harry Potter series, we pick up exactly where we left off in the previous film.  Dobby, the free elf is dead.  Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has found the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in the world.  Meanwhile, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) continue to hunt the remaining horcruxes--pieces of Voldemort's soul--so that Harry can kill the dark lord when they meet in battle once and for all.  The trio breaks into the vault of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham-Carter) at Gringott's Bank where they suspect another horcrux is hidden.  From there, they continue on their dangerous journey that leads them back to where it all began--Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where they find support from Dumbledore's Army and the remaining members of the Order of the Phoenix.  At Hogwarts, all hell breaks loose as the final battle for the wizarding world begins.

Every wizard is fighting to survive in this film and they have to do what it takes to survive.  All the magical battles come to the big screen in a grand way with dazzling special effects and breathtaking suspense.  Much like the more recent Potter flicks, this is a very dark film full of tragedy.  Every film since Goblet of Fire has ended with someone's untimely demise (I.e. Cedric Diggory, Sirius Black, Albus Dumbledore, and Dobby)  Noting that quite a few folks bite the dust in the struggle between good and evil throughout this film is an understatement.  It's a bloodbath! 

As much as Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is about the action and special effects to depict the epic final battle for the wizarding world, it is also about the outstanding performances of its ensemble cast of talented British actors.  Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson have truly grown as actors and prove that they will probably be on the big screen for quite some time.  Aside from strong performances by these stars, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, and Maggie Smith have standout performances.

Severus Snape has been this mysterious, intriguing character for the better part of a decade.  His love-hate relationship with Potter has certainly left his allegiances ambiguous at best.  Since killing former Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) in Half-Blood Prince, his character has certainly been leaning toward the dark side.  All is revealed through his memories in the pensieve after his passing, and we finally find out where his true loyalties lie.  This scene is probably the most powerful scene of any Harry Potter film.  It may also be the most important.  The emotion you'll feel after watching this scene will match the look on Harry Potter's face after seeing these memories.  In this truly defining moment in the Potter series, Alan Rickman gives one hell of a performance that reveals more about his character in a few minutes than he had in seven previous films.

As vicious and haunting as Lord Voldemort is, he is equally hilarious.  The best example of this occurs in one of his final scenes at Hogwarts during which he extends an invitation to the remaining survivors at Hogwarts to join his dark forces and pledge allegiance to him.  When Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) joins his family, the dark lord embraces him with a hug. That hug was the most superficial embrace I have ever seen on the big screen.  The most dangerous dark wizard of all time embracing a follower with a hug doesn't even sound right, and Ralph Fiennes skillfully shows this on screen.  For me, it was the funniest moment of the film.  It was enjoyable comic relief in the midst of all the tragedy that had taken place.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione need somebody to provide support while they finish the mighty undertaking of destroying the horcruxes.  Maggie Smith's McGonagall provides this support and leads the effort to defend Hogwarts.  As Professor Minerva McGonagall, Smith brings both the strength and care needed throughout the film.  She brings a maternal quality to McGonagall that can never be overvalued in such a dark film.  Maggie Smith is one of the greatest living actresses and obviously delivers the goods in her time on screen.

Though there is tragedy on a grand scale in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, there is also triumph.  Good will ultimately defeat evil no matter how great the evil is.  This is the message that director David Yates and author J.K. Rowling wish to convey in the finale of this epic struggle between the forces of good and evil.  It's a powerful, timeless message that Yates, his cast, and his crew skillfully deliver in a film that will live with us for generations.

In the end, we return to Platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross station in London.  With the help of some nostalgic theme music, we see how much our three stars have truly grown throughout these eight films.  The final scenes recreate the magical youthful energy of the earliest Harry Potter films.  In coming full circle, Yates makes us want to revisit the films and books that started this Potter-mania in the first place.  That is the mark of a truly great finale.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 gets a sober rating. 

We will miss you Harry Potter.  Thank you for the good times.