Ten years. Eight films. Countless actors and production crews. It's all came down to this. While the first part of the Deathly Hallows failed to overwhelm this critic, its conclusion more than makes up for it in being just as dark and gruesome as its predecessor but also retaining something Part 1 ultimately lacked: magic and belief.
For those, like myself, who haven't read the books, the plot is relatively straight forward. After escaping the clutches of the odious Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) at the end of Part 1, Harry and his two best friends, Ron and Hermione sough to destroy the remaining Horcruxes so they may finally rid the world of the dark lord known as Voldemort (Ralph Finnes). Through this they travel to the depths of a dragon infested cave of riches, back to the bleakness of the English lake district which ultimately leads them and essentially every single other remaining character to ever grace the saga - who ain't dead yet - to an epic, magic fuelled, battle to the death at Hogwarts.
There is a surprising amount of blood, there is death, there is genuine emotion and tragedy, there is some truly spectacular, fantastical magic, however there is also a great deal of fun to be had from this film for the whole family. We all know Daniel Radcliffe never truly felt like Harry Potter when we first met him at the beginning of The Philosopher's Stone, but watching him grow into the role and into the presence he's become is perhaps one of the most heartening things to come out of the 10 year series, I feel.
Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, though taking more of a lead in Part 1, came of age beautifully as the solid backbones to Radcliffe's final performance as the boy who lived. While the wonderful Evanna Lynch - a true star in my eyes - shined as the logically mad Luna Lovegood, controversially the real star of the 'younger cast' was the truly excellent and thoroughly endearing contribution from Matthew Lewis as the bumbling Neville Longbottom, the ultimate underdog hero of the whole tale.
As always however the younger cast are understandably outshone by their older peers such as Alan Rickman in a scene stealing moment, and treated with the respect he deserves as the ambiguous Severus Snape. Maggie Smith is more headstrong this time out in the role as the graceful Professor McGonagall. Michael Gambon was as classy as ever in his brief scenes as Professor Dumbledore as was Ciaran Hinds as his brother. I could be here all day mentioning everyone else including the likes Jim Broadbent, John Hurt, Jason Issacs, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Kelly MacDonald, David Thewlis, Gary Oldman, Robbie Coltrane and Mark Williams. When has a film series ever attracted a classier ensemble of actors? Savour it because it may never happen again.
I've always been slightly critical of Warner Bros choice of staying with David Yates after he delivered two of the most lacklustre entries of the whole series for me, The Half Blood Prince and Part 1 of the Deathly Hallows. However the studio's faith in him is duly rewarded in some truly spectacular camera-work and adding a real sense of grandness to the occasion. Though if I'm honest when compared to the finales of some other mega blockbuster events such as the final scenes of Lord of the Rings or the original Star Wars trilogy, general movie goers, as oppose to avid Potter fans may leave feeling slightly underwhelmed by the lukewarm final scene set 19 years later.
Nevertheless looking back on the past 10 years of Harry Potter, as films and as a general phenomenon, it's rarely ever failed to inspire the imagination. It's delivered iconic moments which will stay with its devoted audience forever, from the first time we see Hogwarts in Philosopher's Stone, the giant spiders in The Chamber of Secrets, the darkly presence of Gary Oldman's Sirius Black in Prisoner of Azkaban, the proper arrival of Voldemort in Goblet of Fire, really should I really keep going?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 may have just saved the best action, emotion and suspense for last, but it's still not entirely perfect as a film. However, after all was said and done, when good finally triumphed over evil, when loved ones were lost, reunited and finally found, millions of fans everywhere will notice a void and ask themselves what's next to look forward to with the Harry Potter franchise now officially over. Mr Radcliffe, Mr Grint and Ms Watson may rightly ask themselves where they will go from here, after cementing themselves firmly and unexpectedly in cinematic history. And also for us general film fans, critics and viewers alike, may weep in despair or rejoice in the thought it's all finally finished. Regardless of your feelings, you have to admit, the boy did good. The boy did good.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is out everywhere now. Part 1 of course is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now.