2-1/2 stars: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 debuts in theaters July 15, 2011. (Credit: Handout)

HOW bad would this review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" need to be in order to convince fans to tear up their advance tickets? Conversely, could even the most glowing superlatives drive nonfans to theaters after 10 years of indifference?

Here, then, are the facts. "Part 2," due in theaters Friday, closes the final bookboard on a multibillion-dollar franchise comprising J.K. Rowling's seven novels and Warner Bros.'s eight films (the last book was split into two, with "Part 1" released in November). Those sobs you're hearing are emanating not only from bedrooms everywhere but also from the boardroom of a certain studio in Los Angeles.

"Part 2," in which Harry makes his final stand against the negative-nosed Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), seems even less concerned than "Part 1" in appealing to nonfans. The film begins with the briefest of recaps, but the basics of the plot, in which Harry searches for the evil trinkets called Horcruxes that fuel Voldemort's power, must be absorbed through osmosis. There are several unwieldy chunks of exposition that seem almost unnecessary given the target audience.

Likewise, the secrets that are revealed (look for Alan Rickman, as Severus Snape, in a lengthy flashback) will probably resonate only with those who have spent a decade expecting them, just as the near-total destruction of Harry's beloved Hogwarts school will horrify only those who fantasized about studying there. Still, Fiennes and Rickman get the actorly moments they've been building toward for so long, and the film is most fun when it sticks to mechanics: roller coaster rides, battle scenes, close calls. (Fans can add a half-star to this review.)

"Part 2" certainly marks the completion of a singular cinematic achievement. Surely no other film series can boast such a seamlessly visualized world over so many installments. That's partly because the main "Potter" cast has never changed, with Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint (as Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, respectively) growing from wobbly prepubescents to confident adults before our eyes. A revolving crew of four directors (David Yates ushers us out) and screenwriter Steve Kloves (credited on all but one film), helped maintain an impressive visual and tonal consistency from one film to the next.

"Part 2" earns a pass by staying in constant motion, since the outcome isn't much in doubt. And as you might have guessed, this absolutely, positively final film still allows room to build upon the "Potter" brand. That's closure for you.

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