Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Ten years and more than six billion box-office dollars since the original film was released, and Harry Potter is still as huge a draw as ever. Since the first book was published in 1997, the story of the slight-looking 11-year-old boy who was not just a wizard but the wizarding world's hero-to-be, has been encouraging millions of children around the world to read more.
From the minute young Mister Potter was introduced, in a cramped cupboard under the staircase of the Dudley household, much of the world fell under - for lack of a better phrase - his spell. It goes without saying that the muggle world (that's non-magical types) has changed irrevocably since JK Rowling scribbled the first notes for her stories in a café in Edinburgh. A whole generation grew up alongside Harry Potter and his companions. They rejoiced with him when he discovered his true destiny; they shed tears when characters he was close to were killed; and they cried a whole lot more when the series of novels drew to a relatively satisfying close in 2007. Now the movies, which made stars of Daniel Radcliffe (Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), are drawing to a close.
The behemoth of a last book in the series - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - proved too much to tackle in one go, and the result has been two instalments, the second of which will be in cinemas this summer. The story here begins, as always, at Potter's home from home - the modest terrace house that belongs to his only living relatives, the Dudleys. Dumbledore, Potter's mentor and the much-loved head teacher at Hogwarts, is dead, murdered at the hands of Severus Snape at the end of the Half-Blood Prince.
Unable and unwilling to return to school for his final year; Potter, along with his best friends, Weasley and Granger, is forced to leave the safety of his allies in order to track down and destroy the remaining horcruxes - the (mostly) inanimate objects in which Potter's arch-nemesis, Voldemort, placed parts of his soul in his bid to achieve immortality.
After 10 years, the three lead actors are totally at ease with their characters. Watson, in particular, who has always been the strongest of the three, is on top form as Granger, and is almost unrecognisable from the tiny, frizzy-haired geek she portrayed in the Philosopher's Stone.
But despite the actors' increased confidence, the best scene in the film, by far, does not employ the acting talents of any of the cast, other than a beautiful narration from Watson. Recounting a famous (and fictional) children's story, The Tale of the Three Brothers, the artistic vision created is utterly joyful. Supposedly written by a famous wizard, Beedle the Bard, the story is one of many in a book left to Granger in Dumbledore's will, and one which helps the trio on their dangerous journey.
Directed by David Yates, who took on the role of director from the Order of the Phoenix, the penultimate instalment is by far the best Potter movie so far. Unable to fit in every minor detail, as is always the case when translating a book to the big screen, Yates nonetheless does a magnificent job, focusing on the most important segments of the first half of the book.
With Yates keeping hold of the reins for the final film, the Deathly Hallows Part 2 almost certainly won't disappoint.