All good things must come to and end and so after 10 years and 8 films, the Harry Potter saga concludes with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. As you may recall, I was lukewarm on the first part of the screen adaptation of JK Rowling's final Potter novel. We saw a whole lot of walking and talking and not much action. Thankfully, Rowling, director David Yates and stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and the rest of the talented cast and crew all came ready to rumble in the final installment of the Potter saga. Taking a page out of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter finishes on a triumphant note.
This franchise has a built-in audience of those who have read all the books and seen all the movies as well as pure fans of the movies who haven't read a word of Rowling's prose. Everybody else is not going to see this movie. If you don't know the deal with Harry and company already, you're not going to jump in now and figure it all out. Rightfully so, Yates doesn't waste time filling the audience in on the back story. This is particularly rewarding to the devoted fans of the books. What Part 1 lacked in action is completely restored by Part 2. We get several intense sequences including a dragon-filled escape from Gringots vault, a revealing back-story explanation on the motivation of Severus Snape (once again played brilliantly by Alan Rickman) and other key final plot points of the literary series.
As with the recent Transformers 3, the real meat of this movie is in the last hour in which Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters lead an all out raid on Hogwarts. The main difference with Deathly Hallows is that we have 7 previous movies of character buildup that totally add real weight to the events. We as an audience really do CARE what happens to these characters and we all have a vested interest. Transformers gave us cardboard throwaway caricatures thrown into a mess of CGI. Speaking of computer graphics, the effects in this final Potter film are by far the best of the franchise. We get wide epic battles between hoards of wizards in a vein similar to that of the final sequences in Return of the King. The battles here in Hallows may actually be more meaningful in that they are spear-headed by the supremely talented Ralph Fiennes who is all but unrecognizable as Voldemort. Fiennes finally gets some quality screen time in this movie and boy does he own every scene he's in. The cold stares and mannerisms he lends to Voldemort are perfect. You really do feel the presence of evil in his character. The body of work that Fiennes has put in over these movies as Voldemort has earned him recognition as one of the best villains in movie history.
Radcliffe totally gives his best performance as well and really brings Harry full circle from the boy wizard he was in the first movie. I see a bright future for Daniel as an actor going forward. I can't really say the same for Watson and Grint (especially Grint who may be a one-trick pony). All three do a great job of grounding the three characters at the end of this movie. We watch their final scenes realizing just how much they've gone through (both the characters in the story and the actors themselves).
The final battle between Harry, Voldemort and Neville Longbottom!?!? is extremely intense and pitch perfect for ending this series on the right note. After an hour long epic slugfest between good and evil (I can't overstate enough just how BAD-ASS the action in this movie is), we get the much anticipated "19 years later" epilogue scene from the final book. SPOILER ALERT if you haven't read the books......
The scene is well done although the actors do look out of sorts as their "older counterparts". Harry looks about the right age but Emma Watson seems as if she hasn't aged much at all. In watching the final sequence I can only think that despite Rowling's vow to leave this Potter universe behind, she and Warner Brothers have way too much built-in cash to rake in by extending the franchise to the "next generation" of wizards. I'll be shocked if we don't see another "Potter" book within the next 5-10 years.
But for now, this is THE END. And what an end it is. This movie is light years better than Part 1 and actually ends up being the best Potter film of the entire series (Goblet of Fire is a close second for me personally). This is exactly the right way to close out a movie franchise (take notice, Matrix Revolutions, Spider-Man 3, INDIANA JONES!!!, etc...). Deathly Hallows Part 2 entertained me more than any other movie this year and gets my first 5 JR rating since Inception a year ago. I'm glad that it ended up breaking the opening weekend record (a mark that may just be beat next summer by The Dark Knight Rises).