ALMOST 10 years after the cinema release of Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, the most financially successful film franchise in history reaches its tragic and spectacular conclusion.
Millions of readers, who nervously turned the pages of JK Rowling’s final tome in summer 2007, already know the narrative twists that lie ahead for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson).
There may be no dramatic tension but that’s of little consequence to ardent fans because David Yates’s hugely entertaining adaptation of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 bids fond farewell to characters we have grown to love, and who have literally grown up before our eyes.
Certainly, the eighth film has its niggles.
The final chapter rests heavily on the shoulders of Radcliffe and while he has improved as an actor, he still doesn’t possess the emotional range or vulnerability to provide a strong emotional connection to Harry’s grief.
Thankfully, Radcliffe’s woodenness cannot wreck one of the film’s best scenes – a sombre reunion with long-lost friends in The Forbidden Forest.
Watson and Grint shine in their few scenes including that long-awaited kiss, and both sob convincingly as their teenage wizards come to terms with the enormity of their loss.
The introduction of 3D and IMAX 3D for this climactic film is driven more by box office greed than creative invention.
None of the Harry Potter films so far has taken more than a billion dollars at the box office.
The ticket levy for 3D coupled with our nostalgia will ensure Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 becomes the most successful film of the long-running saga.
It may not be the best film of the series – that honour still belongs to Alfonso Cuaron’s stunning interpretation of Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, which plumbed the dark, foreboding undercurrents of JK Rowling’s writing with flair.
However, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 brings down the curtain in style.
The film opens with Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) stealing the powerful Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s grave, which he will use to slay Harry.
Dastardly acolytes Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) press forward with their diabolical plans, while Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) fills the vacant post of headmaster at Hogwarts, which is encircled by Dementors.
Elsewhere, Harry, Ron and Hermione continue their mission to track down the final Horcruxes, which contain fragments of Voldemort’s blackened soul.
The quest leads to Hogwarts where fellow students Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) and Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) are ready to lay down their lives to protect Harry from Death Eaters including Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and his Slytherin sidekicks.
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 builds relentlessly to the final battle at Hogwarts, which is brilliantly realised with a seamless conflation of live action and dazzling digital trickery.
There are echoes of The Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers as the forces of darkness breach the school’s walls with horrific intent.
An attempted break-in at Gringotts Wizarding Bank introduces the blind dragon which guards the Lestrange Vault and the search for Rowena Ravenclaw’s lost diadem in the Room of Requirement is similarly thrilling.
Aside from the central trio, the third film belongs to Lewis as heroic Neville and to Rickman’s treacherous teacher, whose tragic history is revealed in a heartbreaking Pensieve flashback.
The coda, taken directly from Rowling’s book, is an unintentionally hilarious misstep courtesy of unconvincing ageing make-up.
Giggles aside, there will be few dry eyes when the end credits roll.
By Damon Smith.
Released: July 15 (UK & Ireland) (12A, 130 mins)
NO SWEARING, NO SEX, VIOLENCE, RATING: 8/10