CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ten years ago, after four years in development, Warner Bros. released "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," an adaptation of J.K. Rowling's best-selling children's novel. A worldwide box office success, the movie raked in an astounding $974.7 million -- nearly eight times its budget -- and thus, the cultural phenomenon of the "Harry Potter" film franchise was born.
The final film was split into two parts. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" was released in November. Then, at midnight Thursday, "Part 2" was released, wrapping up a franchise that has delighted fans for a decade.
Following a brief summary of the end of "Part 1," "Part 2" picks up exactly where the first part left off. Harry, Hermione and Ron are still in search of the four remaining Horcruxes, items that house pieces of Voldemort's soul and make him immortal until they are destroyed.
However, now Voldemort has seized control of the wizarding world, and with Hogwarts under the tyranny of Severus Snape, no place is safe for the trio. Danger and betrayal lurk around every corner.
For the 130 minutes the movie is on screen, it never stalls or fails to enchant. Memorable scenes such as the break-in at Gringotts Wizarding Bank and the fiery destruction of the Room of Requirement will go down in cinematic history for their wonderful use of special effects and genuine tension.
The only shame is that the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort goes out with more of a fizzle than a bang. The actual wand battle differs from the book and lasts a mere minute before the final blow is dealt.
The film is being shown in 3D, but as far as that is concerned, you're actually better off seeing it in 2D. Yes, there are some 3D moments that will impress, but the "come at you" visual effects are nothing you haven't seen already in "Green Lantern" or "Avatar." Not only will you save money by seeing the movie in 2D, you'll also be getting the benefit of seeing the version with brighter lighting and richer colors.
Even with all of this technical wonder, though, the emotional impact of the novel remains intact, delivered on screen in the portrayals of Rowling's wonderful characters. Molly Weasley (Julie Walters), Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) stand out the most because of the incredible job done by the actors playing them.
The moral focus of the series is not lost, either. While issues such as social class and the treatment of minorities are examined throughout the entirety of "Harry Potter," each installment also focuses on its own specific issue. In "Deathly Hallows: Part 2," it's the pain of war as well as how far people will go and what they will sacrifice to get what they want, be it good or bad.
Everyone has a character he or she can relate to the most in the "Harry Potter" franchise, whether it's the heroic Harry Potter, the courageous and strong-willed Neville Longbottom, the academically-inclined Hermione Granger, the reluctant but brave Ron Weasley, the eccentric outcast Luna Lovegood or someone else entirely. The film tries to give all these characters satisfying conclusions (even if that conclusion is death), and such an effort is nice to see.
Additionally, the epilogue that takes place 19 years after the events of the film is a wonderful gift to the fans. The cast members that appear in the final scenes have had their faces digitally altered to make them look older, and the effect is marvelous.
Though it's with a heavy heart, we must accept that "Harry Potter" is no more. The story is over and the characters have reached their end. It is a fulfilling end, but an end nonetheless.
This may sound obvious, but "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is a film that will only truly be appreciated by those who have seen all the movies or read all the books and have watched the characters grow up in their minds and before their eyes. If you are only slightly familiar with the "Potter" franchise, absolutely do not see this film until you become more acquainted with the story so that you too can truly appreciate its greatness.