For the most part, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II picks up right where Part I, the franchise’s shining beacon on a hill, leaves off. “The Deathly Hallows”, which marks the conclusion of J.K. Rowling’s celebrated series, is a dark, dark book, with plenty of death, sadness, and agony. In both Part I and Part II, director David Yates, who’s grown quite nicely since decent-but-unspectacular stabs at Parts 5 and 6 of the HP saga, properly chooses to tell the story with (mostly) imagery and music. Part I, in particular, captures the fear that grips the land with a surprisingly deft touch. Gone were the frequent goofy exchanges between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Warson), replaced by ominous lighting and subtle glances. The atmosphere conveys more than dialogue ever could, and it’s a joy to watch, especially for die-hard Potter fans. Part II mostly keeps this pattern up—the whirlwind revelations of Snape’s (Alan Rickman) true motives and loyalties, a highly anticipated emotional powerhouse in the books, will bring tears to any fanboy’s eyes—but Yates occasionally lets himself slip: he can’t quite keep himself from slipping in a groan-inducing “zinger” here and there, and the postscript, which was arguably necessary in the novels, could definitely have been axed from the picture. Still, quibbles aside, it’s a very strong closing act to the cinematic adaptations of the beloved books. I found myself giving fairly weak entries, particularly Chamber of Secrets and Order of the Phoenix, a pass due to my joy in seeing Hogwarts and co. on screen in all its glory…but along with Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, Deathly Hallows represent the finest films of the lot, and should become components of many a holiday marathon viewing session.

70/100