If you thought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was too slow, prepare to have your need for speed satisfied.
From a ride on a dragon’s back to the epic final battle at Hogwarts, Part 2 rarely pauses as it roars to the series’ finish.
The action picks up up right where Part 1 ended, with uber-villain Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in possession of the powerful Elder Wand, while Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) search for the remaining Horcruxes, items containing pieces of Voldemort’s soul.
As Harry nears the inevitable showdown with his nemesis, he ends up back at Hogwarts, where his past and future collide with devastating consequences.
For fans of the Potter universe, this is a bittersweet experience, especially after watching these kids grow up before our eyes. The films have grown up, too, developing a maturity that fits the darker subject matter.
Harry is faced with not only his own possible death, but the deaths of all the people who have worked so hard to protect him, right down to the youngest Hogwarts student. Even the venerable school itself is not safe, and seeing it under attack packs a real emotional punch.
There are quieter moments, too, including a famous one in the Forbidden Forest that may earn a few tears of its own. The actors have inhabited these characters so beautifully for so long, it’s a joy to see them at work when the movie holds still.
The younger stars have become confident adults, easily holding their own with the who’s-who supporting cast (Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, etc.).
Director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves — both series veterans, supported by author J.K. Rowling — know exactly what these people can do and which scenes will resonate most with the audience, making sure they get the proper emphasis.
There are still some lags, especially when flashbacks and exposition take over, and the 19-years-later epilogue works much better on the page than it does on screen.
It’s also odd that lesser characters like Griphook, the Gringotts Bank goblin, get more attention than Hagrid or Lupin, who have been much more vital to the overall story. Splitting the final book into two movies wasn’t a bad idea (there’s a lot of ground to cover), but Yates and Kloves might have been more focused if they hadn’t had that luxury.
These are minor quibbles, given the scope of the film’s accomplishment. Deathly Hallows brings Harry, his friends and his fans to the exciting end of a journey that has lasted over a decade.
It works its own kind of magic, the kind that comes from a great story, well told.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: 3 stars out of 4
Rated PG-13 Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes