| The thrilling conclusion to the most successful franchise in movie history is the best one in the series. Readers and non-readers alike will be extremely satisfied with the energy, emotion and action in this lightning-paced adventure. The ultimate battle between the forces of good and evil brings to the forefront themes of love, death, friendship and betrayal.
Although questioned at the time, the decision to split J.K. Rowling's seventh novel into two parts has turned out to be a wise choice considering the massive amount of information essential to the story arc.
In Part 1 released on Nov. 19, 2010, the titular Deathly Hallows was explained in a tale of three brothers, who cheated the Grim Reaper and were each given a powerful, revered gift. They consist of the invincible Elder Wand that chooses its master, the Resurrection Stone that brings back loved ones from the grave and the Cloak of Invisibility.
Part 2 picks up with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) taking possession of the Elder Wand after removing it from former Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry headmaster Albus Dumbledore's (Michael Gambon) coffin.
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) are hiding out in a safe house by the beach. Their plan to defeat the Dark Lord revolves around finding and destroying magical objects know as Horcruxes that contain fragmented pieces of Voldemort's twisted soul.
Having eliminated a diary, ring and locket, the scavenger hunt continues for the three remaining Horcruxes.
A cup that belonged to one of Hogwarts founders is residing in an underground bank vault. Hermione disguises herself as Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) to gain entry. A roller-coaster ride and a fire-breathing dragon are highlights of this episode.
The next object is a diadem (tiara) belonging to another female Hogwarts founder. This brings Harry, Ron and Hermione back to a much different Hogwarts. They are guided by Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) through a secret passage onto the campus and greeted enthusiastically by a group of students that includes Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) and Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch).
Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) is now the headmaster and the students are forced to march in rigid formation. Harry confronts Snape and accuses him of killing Dumbledore. Professor Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith) steps forward and wins a wand face-off with Snape, who exits in a cloud of black smoke.
After locating the tiara, Harry, Ron and Hermione make a narrow escape on broomsticks avoiding being consumed by fire.
Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters assemble on a promontory overlooking Hogwarts. The staff and students along with the remaining members of the Order of the Phoenix frantically make preparations and chant spells to fortify their defenses.
The siege begins with the Death Eaters charging the castle-like fortress. A lengthy battle ensues, leaving Hogwarts in ruins with many familiar faces dead or wounded.
Throughout the movie, Harry and Voldemort are able to read each other's thoughts. This inner radar allows Harry to know Voldemort's every move.
Everything leads up to a final confrontation in the forest between Harry and Voldemort. Before Harry displays his bravery and courage, he informs his followers that the last Horcrux resides in Voldemort's snake, Nagini.
Those who have read all the books will be miles ahead in understanding everything that happens in the movie. If you are like me and have only been a movie watcher, you will find that this movie makes sense for a change. The path is made much clearer and this yields a tremendous payoff for those struggling to follow the entire saga over 10 years and eight films.
Radcliffe, Grint and Granger have grown up before our eyes. They have matured into solid actors and have become their characters. It is sad to have to say goodbye to them. You may find yourself shedding a few tears as you finally experience closure to a long and arduous journey.
Fiennes voice work stands out as the villain. He has a powerful presence on screen. Rickman also deserves kudos for making his enigmatic character so integral to the proceedings.
The casting of distinguished British thespians continues to be the franchise's strongest suit. Those making memorable appearances worthy of curtain call applause include John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman, Jason Isaacs and Ciaran Hinds.
Director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves seem to be on the same page in building intensity and flawless execution. This concluding swan song goes out with a bang rather than a whimper.
The pacing, editing and forward momentum were just right throughout the 130-minute running time. There were no dull spots that dragged the story down like the time spent in the secluded wilderness in Part 1. The movie even doles out several doses of humor as relief to the dire circumstances.
Oscar nominations should be piling up in several categories including visual effects, art direction, cinematography, makeup and musical score from renowned composer Alexandre Desplat.
It is highly recommended that you see the movie in 3D with the Harry Potter-style glasses since it adds depth to the screen. The sharper and much-improved picture quality has a crisper contrast of light and dark.
Besides Voldemort's reptilian face, the snake and the dragon, this installment is not as scary as previous movies making it suitable viewing for ages 10 and up.
This must-see destination event of the year will shatter all box office records. You can choose from three formats. Besides the standard 2D and the higher-priced digital 3D, the IMAX 3D premium version is available in Johnson County at AMC Studio 30 and AMC Town Center 20.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"