by Tim Ross

Harry Potter movies are epic in scope in both special effects and their themes, but that’s not at the heart of what makes them work. They’ve been helmed by some of the most creative directors in the field, but that’s also not why they’ve endured for more than a decade, becoming the highest-grossing film franchise in history.

The films’ main characters, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), have been played by the same actors throughout and they’ve grown into stars with a supporting cast populated by some of the strongest actors in the industry, but none of these reasons are what really makes the franchise so magical.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2” works, as do all the films, because they’re based on J.K. Rowling’s wonderfully written books and because the screenplays have all been helmed by the same writer, Steve Kloves. His loyalty to Rowling’s vision and his consistent writing throughout the series have helped the actors and fans grow together on a singular journey to this dark, delightful end.

Part 1, released last November, may well have been the weakest of the bunch, at least in terms of the thrills and action Potter fans are accustomed to. In baseball terms, it was relegated to set-up status so the star closer could come in and strike out the side to win the game. Part 2 doesn’t disappoint.

Virtually every moment of this film is charged with danger and possibility. It is a spare, dark film from which action sequences spring forth in short, staccato bursts out of quiet and sometimes reflective moments, but every frame pushes toward the well-known conclusion.

Part 2 is quite different from, but just as satisfying as, the long, action-filled mysteries Harry and his friends have solved in the past. Only there’s less mystery this time. There’s essentially nothing to solve here, it’s all about decisions and consequences.

The film picks up where Part 1 left off with Harry, Hermione and Ron searching for the missing horcruxes that hold pieces of Voldemort’s soul, which they need to destroy so the Dark Lord will be weak enough to kill. Meanwhile, back at Hogwarts, Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) is now headmaster and Harry’s friends, Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), Seamus Finnigan (Devon Murray), Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) and love interest Ginny Weasely (Bonnie Wright) toil under his Draconian rule.

As Harry quests about for the horcruxes, he finds himself linked to Voldemort more than ever before and the two move steadily toward a destined meeting. Sides are drawn and the battle for Hogwarts begins, but even the largest battle scenes are rapid events and the action inevitably returns to a more intimate deadly journey.

Fans of the series know what’s coming next and I won’t spoil anything here. The film thrills and captivates and the well-known, loved characters had the audience cheering and crying, sometimes in quick succession. And, as always, Harry and his friends are more human than most Muggles, the name given to those who can’t perform magic.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2” is magical because it relies on the same human values of love, friendship, courage and loyalty that all the stories before it displayed. For a series of books and films about witches and wizards, it remains one of the more human stories told in theaters in a long time. It’s a magical end to one of the most epic franchises moviegoers may ever see and is a fond farewell to The Boy Who Lived.

Grade: 3.5/4