J.K. Rowling’s marvelous, magical, epic tale of a young wizard’s harrowing journey through the twisted philosophical thickets of good and evil doesn’t so much end (as ad copy declares) as come full circle in the rousing and deeply satisfying “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”
Through 10 years, seven best-selling novels, eight movies and a gazillion-dollar cottage industry in ancillary goods, the Harry Potter franchise has charted an increasingly convoluted and darkening, but steady, course toward the earnest, owl-eyed Harry’s final showdown with the evil, reptilian Lord Voldemort.
After last fall’s rather too deliberate table setting in “Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” the final chapters drawn from Rowling’s sprawling, 759-page book find in “Part 2” a firmer narrative footing and momentum to an appropriately thrilling, thunderclap climax (with a sweetly nostalgic, turning-of-seasons epilogue tacked on for good measure).
Synopsis is hardly needed here because, first, the story’s density would require all manner of torturous verbal acrobatics, and, second, because anyone queuing up to see this picture has most likely read the novels and/or seen all seven previous film adaptations and knows fully what to expect. Newbies would be wise to start at the beginning, and Muggles might be advised to skip the whole thing entirely.
But for the initiated, who take the full meaning of Voldemort (a chilling, snake-faced Ralph Fiennes), his smoky Death Eaters and their campaign to conquer the magical world and wipe out Muggle-kind, all the keys are in place by the swift opening of this film.
Heroic Hogwarts wizards Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) are still on the hunt to find and destroy several Horcruxes, artifacts that hold pieces of Voldemort’s soul and make him essentially immortal.
Director David Yates (who has helmed the last four Potter movies) and screenwriter Steve Kloves (who has written all but 2007’s “HP and the Order of the Phoenix”) ably corral the twisty narrative complexities of the endgame and move things swiftly through several elaborate CGI set pieces — a stealth visit to Gringotts Bank and a roller-coaster ride through its labyrinthine vaults; a fiery raid on the vast Room of Requirement, and, most impressively, the death-dealing Battle of Hogwarts pitting Harry’s loyal allies against Voldemort’s rampaging, bloodthirsty legions.
The filmmakers also seem keenly aware of the elegiac nature of this final outing, and as they necessarily kill off certain beloved and bedeviled characters on the bloody path to showdown, they also allow others to enjoy pithy if brief encores (most notably Maggie Smith’s starchy Minerva McGonagall, along with figures played by such British acting stalwarts as Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, Jim Broadbent, Miriam Margolyes, Julie Walters, Michael Gambon and others).
A few revelations relating to the cryptic past of ostensibly slithery Professor Severus Snape (Gothically creepy Alan Rickman) and his history with Dumbledore, Harry’s mother and the murder that started it all add to the deliciously ambiguous moral complexity of the tale.
The film’s jam-packed two-hour-plus running time also features a humorously heroic appearance by heretofore obscure Hogwarts student Neville Longbottom (a very appealing Matthew Lewis) and some vague reconciliation between Harry and snide archrival Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and much more.