July 15, 2011 -- "I'm ready to die," says the boy wizard who built the behemoth movie empire, near the end of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2." His grim expression is enough to cast doubts in the minds of even the most hardcore "Potter" fans.
Of course, they know what actually happens. But for the eighth and final installment of the biggest film franchise since, well, ever, it's an apt declaration. It's over, folks. That's all J.K. Rowling wrote. No more "Potter" for you.
But what a way to go out.
"The Deathly Hallows -- Part 2," in theaters today, is everything "Potter"-philes have been waiting for. There's action. There's suspense. There's a bit of humor to lighten things up. There's even a few stolen kisses.
The gang's come a long way since 2001, when the first "Potter" film hit theaters. As Harry, Hermione and Ron, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have grown up on screen, tumbling up like stems from seedlings, transforming from cute kids into captivating actors with the help of a supremely talented cast. (Maggie Smith, as Hogwarts deputy headmistress McGonagall, is the mother hen you don't want to mess with. And has there ever been a nemesis more capable of making skin crawl than Ralph Fiennes' Lord Voldermort?)
Visually sumptuous, the film overwhelms with sweeping shots of the now bleak, desolate, "Potter"-dom. Overwhelming is a good thing. Director David Yates has, as he did in "The Deathly Hallows -- Part 1," created a universe that sucks you in and hurls out one sensory delight after another. As Hermione observes early on of the gray, otherworldly landscape: "It's beautiful here."
It's sad, too. The hallowed Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where it all began, gets torn to shreds in a war of wands. Many moments in the film are all but guaranteed to move fans to stand up and clap, cry, or both. No spoilers here -- suffice is to say, some staples of the series don't make it to the end. Others who perished appear again.
To be clear, this movie isn't for kids. The themes dealt with here are adult stuff, and the fantastical villains that emerge from balls of fire and torrents of water are enough to induce many a mid-summer nightmare.
But for those old enough to absorb the magic and mystery of the series, "The Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" exceeds expectations. Even if you know how the final showdown goes down, you'll hold your breath. Two hours fly by. No one wants it to end. But so it goes, and this film is an epic farewell.