THE FIRST HARRY POTTER BOOK was released in the US in 1998. Thirteen years is a long time to be invested in a franchise, but some of us have been. It helped that the books kept getting better, and the movies followed the same upward trajectory.
While the book series ended in 2007, this week marks the release of the second half of the final film—the conclusion to a series that, particularly since David Yates took over directorial duties with The Order of the Phoenix, has remained remarkably true to the spirit of J.K. Rowling's texts. And if it's bittersweet to see it end (again), any sentimentality is offset by how well every element of the final installment is handled. (WARNING: If you don't know what a Horcrux is, the remainder of this review is probably not for you. You probably don't even have a soul.)
Part Two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows picks up immediately where Part One left off: Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has just robbed Dumbledore's grave of the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand ever and part of the fabled Deathly Hallows. Meanwhile, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) set out to find the remaining Horcruxes—which, a little hilariously, after the tense mission to steal the last one from the Ministry of Magic in Part One, largely involves rummaging through towering junk heaps.
The Deathly Hallows: Part I was a slow-burner that focused on feelings and character development over action. It's a great movie in its own right, and it solidly grounds what we've all been waiting for in Part II: The Battle of Hogwarts, the final showdown of Harry and his friends against the assembled forces of Voldemort and his Death Eaters. It's the climax the whole series has been leading up to, and it's just as thrilling, imaginative, and emotionally gripping as it should be. Just as important, though, is that amid all the wand-fights and Giant battles, there are moments of sweetness, humor, and genuine tragedy—and, of course, the long-awaited make-out scene between Hermione and Ron. FINALLY.
There are reminders, of course, that what you're watching is a multibillion-dollar franchise responsible for making lots of people lots of money—namely, the generally unnecessary 3D in this installment. (Though the dragon flight is pretty fun.) But as a whole, The Deathly Hallows: Part II is the conclusion that Rowling's saga deserves. It's a bit sad to see it end, but it couldn't have ended any better.