The opening moments of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two are delivered in complete silence. Moody silence. We see iconic images of Professor Snape lording over Hogwarts, of Voldemort's snaked nose and sour glare, and then finally little Dobby's grave is projected on-screen (sad times). "It all ends" hovers like a whisper in the wind. The tone is stark and sullen, but perfectly set. We know we're in for a cinematic happening, a decade of remembered stories in our rearview. The music swells, our collective shared consciousness with the leads permeating the vibe. It's time to finish this saga. We're off!
Making up the first spoken-word scene, Harry Potter's quest for Horcruxes again takes center stage. Harry is still on the run, but he cuts a deal straight away, placing his trust in a sharp-toothed goblin* who is willing to trade access for material goods. Potter and company must track down certain items, figure out how to destroy them, and all while evading Voldemort and his minions. The final film in the Potter epic flies by, but it also feels more focused than previous iterations. Where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One felt a bit "we must go to Place A so we can do Thing B" (with had no real ending), this one centers around the Battle for Hogwarts, so we're appropriately finishing our saga where the main trio bonded.
Speaking of the power trio, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are again stalwart companions, though truthfully they have less to do this time around. The film rests upon Daniel Radcliffe's portrayal of Potter, and he fully delivers on the promise of being a wonderful boy ... while also becoming a brave man. We've seen this group grow up together, and by this point it's impossible to judge how you'd feel about this canon if you weren't previously immersed in the world. However, having not consumed the books, I can verify the series works without knowing the particulars, though it certainly felt as though the die-hards were being taken care of, too. This is a big summer action film in the best sense of the genre, with legitimate character development and complex motivations helping to keep even the shortest of attention spans satiated.
Once the board is set and the die are cast, the final hour of the film is a sight to behold. Death Eaters and Dementors roam the grounds of Hogwarts, there's a spell involving huge stone warriors, and Kelly MacDonald makes a quality mini-appearance. Many of our favorites from the Potter universe receive at least a screen moment or two. Additionally, the ending of the series is never telegraphed, which allows the narrative tension to be sustained throughout. The big question for non-reading audiences builds and builds. How exactly ARE they going to end the most important series of our generation? Themes of redemption and sacrifice were woven in effortlessly, and for a nice change the effects and 3-D never detract from the emotional heft. Solid moments of levity are interspersed throughout, giving the audience momentary breaks from all the tumult. J.K. Rowling even manages to throw out a little love bouquet to the writers of the world as a main character states flatly, "Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic." Hard not to agree with that sentiment.
An enjoyable couple of hours at the movies, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two ends the franchise in a manner befitting both fan enthusiasm and box-office might. This is the way the Harry Potter saga was meant to end, with everything in its proper place, the spirit of Potter resolute.
*Originally said troll ... which was evidently incorrect. Whoops.