Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Directed by David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe,
Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action, violence, and frightening images
2 hrs. 10 mins.

Finally, after seven films and thousands of spells, the last Harry Potter film has arrived. Some will breathe a sigh of relief, others will cry.

The good news for Potter fans is that the series finishes strong, perhaps the best of the eight. So, whether you’re happy or sad about Harry’s disappearance, at least you’ll enjoy the finale before walking out in the bright sunlight and asking: “Now what?”

When Deathly Hallows Part 1 left off, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) had stolen one of the three deathly hallows (the elder wand) from the tomb of Professor Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon).

With wand in hand, Voldemort and his large army of deatheaters, wizards and trolls have launched a full assault on Hogwarts. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) leave their safe havens and return to defend their alma mater.

No doubt DH2 provides a number of great battle scenes. The sparks fly and Harry (with help from his classmates) shows courage in battle.

And there are more than a few twists to the ending. Ever wonder why Snape hates Harry? And why does Harry really get those bad headaches? But the real surprise is who saves both Harry and Hogwarts. You’ll never guess. Unless, of course, you’ve read the book. In which case, shhh.

Director David Yates has returned for his fourth stint as a Potter director and, in contrast to his soft and loud approach in Part 1, this time he lets out all the stops. There are explosions, fireworks and spirits everywhere, not to mention the destruction of Hogwarts and some villainous behavior by some very reputable wizards.

What’s most impressive here is that Yates keeps the storyline front and center and the pace moving. It all goes without so much as a hiccup — remarkable, considering all the plot threads floating overhead. The film is a solid two hours, but, with his experienced hand at the helm, you hardly notice.

What is noticeable is the growth of the main characters as actors. In the beginning, the series featured children learning to act. Their shortcomings were glossed over by the humor of wizardry gone awry. No one expected anything more.

With DH2, you can envision some Oscar nominations among the cast. Radcliffe in particular seems to relish  his gritty role. This is Harry fighting, getting floored, getting back up. Even with those wire-rimmed frames, he’s found his steely face. One felt a little sorry for him as he fought for his seat at the wizard’s table. Now there’s the sense he shouldn’t be messed with.

Watson has also found the grownup Hermione — the woman who loves, thinks brilliantly and protects valiantly. And even Grint, who normally serves as Potter’s dopey second, has discovered his manhood. It seems, as Watson’s beau, he now has something to fight for.

There are also supporting roles that might get a serious Oscar nod: maniacal Fiennes, enigmatic Gambon, stone-faced Rickman. Even stiff-necked Dame Maggie Smith takes off her pointy hat and lets loose a little fire.

Remember what voters did for Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King? In this case, with eight movies piled up and a great finale, you can bet Warner Brothers is counting on some Academy Award magic.

The Potter film series has had more than its share of ups and downs. At least this time around, it ends well and makes sense. The audience (and Harry’s fans) will appreciate his strong finish, and after all, Potter’s tutelage at Hogwarts was all about learning. As Harry proved, even wizards need time to grow up. He has, and no doubt Dumbledore would say to all of this, “Well done, Harry Potter. Well done.”