‘Potter’ finale thrilling, magical

Emma Watson, from left, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe star in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2. Show caption
Emma Watson, from left, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe star in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2.

Film blends action, poignancy; Reviewer’s rating ★★★★

Seeing an opportunity to make at least twice as much money as usual, the powers that be behind the Harry Potter movies split J.K. Rowling’s seventh and perhaps final Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, into two films.

Because Rowling’s stories about Harry and his friends at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry spawned the most successful film franchise in history, the decision made financial sense. Artistically, however, it yielded the relentlessly downbeat Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1.

Released late last year, the mournful and tortuous Deathly Hallows - Part 1 mostly lacked the fun, thrills and adventure seen in the six previous Potter movies. Apparently, director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves, two Potter series veterans, saved nearly all of book seven’s good stuff for Deathly Hallows - Part 2.

Filmmakers, cast (featuring many returning faces), special effects, everything, come together brilliantly in Deathly Hallows - Part 2, the Potter movie that is, by far, the greatest of them all.

A fast-moving film rich with action - in the Potter world that often means explosive wand duels - and a grand Lord Of The Rings-style assault, Deathly Hallows - Part 2 also makes time to be the most mystical and poetic of the series. As brave lad Harry faces his ultimate challenge - a one-on-one confrontation with his life-long enemy, Voldemort - the story turns truly moving.

Picking up exactly where Deathly Hallows - Part 1 ended, Part 2 returns to Harry’s desperate search for horcruxes, the hidden, scattered objects into which Voldemort has stored pieces of his soul. With each horcrux Harry finds and destroys, the Dark Lord grows weaker.

As always, Harry’s friends, Hermione and Ron, are by his side. With the future of Hogwarts and the world of wizards in danger of falling to Voldemort and his army of death eaters and dementors, Harry finds many more allies among the students and faculty. Like days of old, the castle that’s home to the school becomes a fortress under massive attack.

Despite its frequent action, Deathly Hallows - Part 2 holds, among all eight films in the series, the most human drama. Daniel Radcliffe, the British actor who’s played Harry since the series’ start in 2001, gives his deepest performance yet as the young wizard willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good.

Part 2 gives two other prominent regulars, Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, their best scenes in the series.

Another top-flight British thespian, Maggie Smith as Hogwarts stalwart Minerva McGonagall, also rises from the massive cast for pivotal scenes.

Of course, no film is perfect. Deathly Hallows - Part 2 peaks too soon. Amidst the overall glory of what may or may not be the final Harry Potter movie, that’s a minor flaw. There’s also a sweet postlude, one that confirms the series’ theme that, even in the serpentine face of evil most powerful and determined, love, good magic and loyal, brave friends shall endure.