Everything ends. 10 years of build. 10 years for millions and millions of fans around the world to wonder just how the Harry Potter franchise would end. While many of those fans learned exactly how it ended when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the book released in 2007, seeing the conclusion come to cinematic life is finally upon us. No one, not J.K. Rowling, not the cast, not the director David Yates, have let us down, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the conclusion to the conclusion, ends up being the most satisfying conclusion that could possibly have been made. Not only that, it comes off as the best Harry Potter film to date and even rivals such notable series enders as Return of the King and Return of the Jedi. With time, it could even find its way to surpassing them both.

The synopsis is about as simple as the Harry Potter films get. With only half a book to deal with in this last film, it all boils down to the third act, the last few chapters, the point where everything comes to a head and the ultimate battle rages on. The setting this time around isn’t a tedious forest, something those who weren’t too fond of Deathly Hallows: Part 1 will be thankful for. Instead, the setting for the final battle is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The combatants are the forces of good versus the forces of evil, but that goes without saying, too. And at the heart is Harry Potter, played for the last time by Daniel Radcliffe, versus the evil Voldemort, played by Ralph Fiennes.

The series has had ups and downs, bumps in the long and winding road from Harry learning his wizardry powers to finally coming face to face with his archenemy. For the past four or five films, at least since Yates took over directing duties on Order of the Phoenix, the series has spun its wheels a bit, biding its time and building to this seventh story. Plot progressed. Characters grew. Some even died, but knowing you were right in the middle of an overlaying story whose conclusion wouldn’t be seen for two or three more films was always a hindrance to be taken into account. With Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the stakes are at their highest, and every emotion, every painful loss of a notable character is felt. It’s now when everything matters, and the stories and arcs that have come before are allowed to meet their respective finales.

It’s in the battle between Harry and Voldemort. You know at least one of them isn’t going to make it to the end, and everything that has come into play between the two characters, even though they haven’t shared much screen time, comes into play. It’s in the relationships between Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint). The child actors have grown into adults as have their characters, and the journey we’ve taken with them for the past seven films and ten years pays off as well as it possibly can. When choices are made between any two of them, it sends shockwaves through your memory, forces you to remember the children they were and gaze at the young adults and fine actors they have all become.

The emotional journey is felt in secondary characters, too. Every character, at least every named character, has their moment to shine in Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves allow for this in the film’s run time and pacing so that no character and no event ever fekt short-changed. Deathly Hallows: Part 2 could actually be seen as a study in time management in film. Nothing is rushed. Nothing feels left out. Every character is given their just due. And it’s all in their in a film that runs just over two hours. It really is a wonder to behold all they are able to pack in to a film with a run time of less than three hours.

And then there’s Alan Rickman as Snape, the enigmatic yet oftentimes closefisted teacher who has since become schoolmaster at Hogwarts. In Deathly Hallows: Part 2, every action from this character, every question you may have had about him, is answered, and it’s gloriously and heartbreakingly constructed. And behind it all is Rickman, pillar of serious and genuine performance that he is. In the short time he’s given in this last film, you realize no one could have played this character quite like Rickman, and among the innumerable ways in which this last story makes you want to go back and revisit past ones, his performance throughout this arc is at the top of the list.

But Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is more than just overwhelming emotion. The action staged is impeccably constructed, as well. There’s been a question about Yates’ ability to truly craft decent action, but within the two films that make up Deathly Hallows, the questioning can stop. Much of the film revolves around or has as a backdrop one, large battle around Hogwarts. While we don’t see much of the battle first-hand, we see enough. Much of the true emotion that comes from it, the lost lives being the main source of said emotion, comes in the aftermath when Harry and his friends are seeing the damage Voldemort and his minions are creating. It could be a way of not having to shoot much action, a way for Yates to work around what he himself sees as a weakness in his direction. However, it works better this way. The emotional impact is stronger when the results of this battle are revealed after the fact rather than seeing them first-hand.

Which brings us to the 3-D element, not an element often brought up in reviews, as they don’t generally qualify for every viewer of the film. Unfortunately, when the case is such that the 3-D distracts, when it is so bad that it takes you out of the film, it almost has to be brought up as a warning. Such is the case with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, a post-converted splotch on an otherwise masterful work of cinema. Audiences are given a choice, not always the case, and they should be told that, as has been seen before, the 3-D in Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is not only not good, it’s a diversion.

Yet when that seems to be the only truly bad element of a film, it can hardly be taken into account against the film itself. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a flawless consummation to 10 years of steady build. At any moment, the series could have lagged to the point of dropping out completely. It could have given up anywhere in any of the previous seven films, but despite finding a few dips, it never sank. It’s gotten us here, and thank Dumbledore for that, because with a capper as masterfully put together as Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is, it makes revisiting the entire journey all the more worthwhile.

Jeremy’s Rating: 9.5 out of 10

July 15, 2011
by Jeremy Kirk