Part 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hits the ground sprinting, maintaining its relentless pace through almost the entire two-hour running time. It's really half a movie when you get right down to it: Part 1 saw all the players being maneuvered into position; Part Two, on the other hand, is all about execution, as fans of the J.K. Rowling-penned book series know very well.
The movie commendably keeps the needs of those fans in focus throughout. Never once does the story submit to the temptation to recap previous events. This is the adapted second half of the final story in a seven-book series --- if you're not clear on what's going on, then you shouldn't be in the theater to begin with.
If you are a fan who's been keeping up, your ticket is probably already purchased. All you really need to know is this: Deathly Hallows: Part 2 isn't the best movie in the Harry Potter series, but it is an excellent and completely fitting conclusion. It may well be the one that takes the most creative departures from the book, but it's all in the service of delivering a better cinematic experience. Since this is a review, though, I guess I'll go into a little more detail.
In the last movie, all of the assembled major and minor Harry Potter players got to step up, say a few lines and take a bow. There's much less time for talking here. Everyone still gets a chance to step up, but here it's so they can all have a badass moment. Even if it results in their death. You may be worried seeing mention of "creative departures," but make no mistake: Deathly Hallows pulls no punches. The right characters die for the right reasons; any changes from the book exist mostly to help move things along, and they work well.
Our three stars are, of course, at the center of it all. We've watched Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson transition from child actors into adult ones over the years, and this is their coming-of-age moment. The trio's stellar performance carries us through, giving the nonstop barrage of action scenes some much-needed purpose. Their chemistry plays a big part of that; these three actors have literally grown up together, and their bonds of friendship that extend beyond the movie set are writ large across the screen.
Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is an action movie at its core, much more so than any of the previous Harry Potter films. The set pieces look stunning, the culmination of more than a decade of evolving special effects work. The Gringotts heist is an unqualified highlight, but it's the Battle of Hogwarts, which spans most of the movie's final hour, where all of the pieces fall together. There are giants and oversized spiders, soldiers made of stone and scores of wizards flinging spells at one another. It's beautiful chaos; just when you think we've hit a peak, the level of intensity steps up a notch.
The more story-focused moments look back to Rowling's novel in all of the right ways. Harry's final encounter with Dumbledore is a standout moment, serving as a breather between the non-stop action of the Hogwarts throwdown and the final showdown with Lord Voldemort, which is also handled perfectly.
The only misstep is the much-talked-about epilogue, a 19-years-later look at our key players in which our three stars (plus Tom Felton) stroll around in older-person makeup as they send their own kids off to Hogwarts at the start of the school year. It's a scene that plays much better on the page than it does on the screen. Maybe Warner Bros. should have hired Daniel Stern to do a voiceover here? The epilogue doesn't take anything away from the movie, but it does feel tacked on and unnecessary.
Overall, though, Part 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a big win for both the series and for director David Yates, who also did fantastic work on Part 1, Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince. He's overseen the big-screen telling of the darkest stories in the series, no small challenge for such a family-oriented set of releases. Like those that came before it, Part Two strikes the perfect balance between scary, unsettling imagery and the lighthearted adventures at the core of each story.
That's really the long and short of it. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the movie you've waited 10 years to see. There's no last-minute disaster for the franchise, no bungled conclusion that undoes everything leading up to it. Harry and his friends take one last ride and, as you'd expect, it's non-stop thrills all the way through.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 opens Friday nationwide.