Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 opens right where Part 1 left off — with Voldemort stealing the Elder Wand right out of Dumbledore's grave. We then zoom across the jagged landscape to see Hogwarts for the first time since 2009's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. As students solemnly march through the courtyard beneath the icy gaze of Dementors and Death Eaters, one senses that gone are the days of magical wonder, here are the days of fear and violent oppression. These opening scenes establish a dark mood that never substantially lightens throughout Part 2's 130 minutes.
The action begins almost at once, with Harry and pals looting Gringotts Wizarding Bank to steal and destroy yet another Horcrux. After breaking out of Gringotts on the back of a (surprisingly cute) dragon, the group heads for Hogwarts — where the majority of Part 2 takes place — to find yet another Horcrux. The action is nearly nonstop, with battles galore and displays of defensive magic that are astonishing. I wouldn't say seeing Part 2 in 3D adds much to the experience (I didn't notice it most of the time), but there are a few moments where the 3D effects are impressive. No matter how many dimensions you go with, Part 2 is a visual stunner. From the bright lights of spells whizzing through the air and the all-encompassing glow of a Patronus to wizards being propelled through castle windows and wide shots of magnificent landscapes, Part 2 is truly a joy to watch. (And never once did I think to myself, "Well, that looks fake.")
Like the first part of the Deathly Hallows duo, Part 2 matches the gravity of the novel unlike any of the previous films. Director David Yates superbly captures the chaos of the battle at Hogwarts, and I must admit that watching Hogwarts' destruction was like watching my own house burn down right in front of me. I didn't expect to choke up, but in doing so I realized that Hogwarts isn't simply a fictional school; it's a very real place in the hearts and imaginations of Potter fans all over the world. The same goes for J.K. Rowling's characters. The deaths of Fred, Tonks, Lupin and Snape stay with the fans, because to us they are real. Not "real" in the sense that they actually exist — most Harry Potter fans are not delusional — but "real" in the sense that they have affected us in a tangible way.
Despite the overall intensity and solemnity of the film, Yates adds dashes of humor, romance and hope when it's needed. As such, we get to see Neville be a badass and stand up to Voldemort, Ron and Hermione share their first kiss (which is cute, although not how I remember it in the book) and Mrs. Weasley kill Bellatrix Lestrange. (Bonus points for the inclusion of the ghosts of the Mauraders.) Also included is a segment devoted to Snape's clandestine love for Harry's mother and his true allegiance to Dumbledore. The only major thing that is missing from both the Deathly Hallows films is more of Dumbledore's adventurous and mysterious past. The films touch upon it some, but it's mostly left out.
Since Deathly Hallows was split in two, Yates was able to devote a sufficient amount of time to many important aspects of the book that would have been lost in a single film. That being said, there were times during Part 2 where even I wasn't sure what was going on. It's true that I haven't read the novel in several years, but how are those who never read the books (they're out there) going to understand the film? Ultimately, this breakdown from book to screen illustrates how incredibly difficult it is to adapt a book like Deathly Hallows into a movie. This novel, like all of J.K Rowling's novels, is incredibly detailed, and every detail counts. How can a film version possibly hope to explain it all?
All that said, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a remarkable adaptation that conveys the visually stunning, touching and truly epic conclusion of a beloved series. Farewell, Harry. We will miss you.