PRESSING THE AIR out of the previous seven movies like an enchanted paperweight, the final Harry Potter film marks not only the mournful conclusion of a venerated franchise — it also represents a shift in how, and for whom, J.K. Rowling's lore is rendered for the screen.
Plenty of book-to-film adaptations are lambasted by ardent print fans who rag on studios (they don't read, man!) for cutting corners in the name of cinematic and commercial efficacy. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 doesn't fit that bill: In contrast, it skews to the bookworms, painting in playful strokes often recognizable to hardcore fans only. You're outed as a Muggle or Squib if half the audience laughs or cheers at something you don't get.
Not that the core story is difficult to digest: With Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in possession of the powerful "Elder Wand" and our hero (Daniel Radcliffe) on a frantic search for the last of the Horcruxes (erstwhile fragments of LV's soul that allow for his sprightly, demonic demeanor), most Part 2 scenes are building blocks for the climactic Battle of Hogwarts, where the two factions finally dance, blowing up a shitload of Scots Baronial architecture in the process.
Though there are snack-size portions of the youthful, magic-charged mischief that four-time Potter director David Yates is so good at staging, there's simply no time for Hermione and Ron (Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) to shoegaze or for Harry to sulk — Yates is too busy marching the kids through the thickets of death, remorse and salvation, a candid, intermittently maudlin journey that should spark empathy in superfans and front-runners alike. Same goes for Alan Rickman, whose meaty performance as the tortured Severus Snape seals his status as the best overall actor in the series.