As might be expected of splitting the final Harry Potter novel into two films, "Deathly Hallows Part 2" feels like one giant, climactic conclusion. Yet the abundance of breathtaking action and epic drama creates a fitting end to the legacy that doesn't disappoint in building a sense of escalating excitement. Inevitably, the film falls short when it comes to elements that the book offers far more time to embellish, such as the impact of supporting characters' final confrontations and their poignant tragedies. The pacing does benefit from this necessary truncation, but those not exceedingly familiar with the Potter lore might find themselves pondering where they last saw several of the characters. These minor distractions aside, the boundless imagination and effective theatrics successfully play upon the emotions to result in a cathartic and triumphant finale for the epic journey.
Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has now acquired the powerful Elder Wand of the Deathly Hallows legend as Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) frantically search for the final few Horcruxes in an attempt to destroy the evil wizard. Their quest takes them from the treacherous vault of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) to Hogsmeade Village and back to Hogwarts School where they must make a desperate final stand against Voldemort and his massive army of Death Eaters.
It needs no introduction, and anyone unaware of what has happened in the first seven films has no excuses. To even watch a movie with the words "Part 2" in the title insists that prior knowledge and familiarity be obtained. It's no mystery that this is the close of a decade-spanning series and that it represents just the final chapters. This is partially why it succeeds over Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, which felt terribly fragmented - although it doesn't have a precise beginning, it definitely has an ending. And thankfully, for those who haven't read the novels, it's largely satisfactory. The showdowns, duels and monumental confrontations are expectedly prodigious, but it's the abundance of long-awaited answers revealed that really hits the spot.
The new locations are vast and mind-boggling, the sets beautifully decorated and detailed, and the creatures more impressively monstrous. Hulking trolls, an enormous scaly dragon and a fiery winged serpent are just a few of the mythical additions. Even the spells have become more creative and saturated with special effects, while the number of notions derived out of nowhere has decreased (there are undeniable comparisons to be made with The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars series, but it's difficult not to borrow from those franchises when dealing with fantasy - especially when it comes to silly names). But perhaps most welcome is the change in tone concerning Harry's ultimate rivalry - for the first time in several movies, he has competent allies beyond Ron and Hermione. Characters such as Neville Longbottom, Cho Chang, Professor McGonagall and Horace Slughorn have been absent for a while and finally show up to aid in their complex quest and defense of Hogwarts. "I'm afraid you really don't stand a chance," comments Ollivander early on, which follows the mood of the previous two films - but his statement is thrillingly proven erroneous by Harry Potter's later, pulse-pounding coup of the castle.