Who's In It: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, John Hurt, Helena Bonham Carter, Julie Walters
The Basics: This is the last time we'll get to see our friends and enemies from the wizarding world this time around, and they're going out with a bang (and a crash, scream, etc). Harry, Hermione and Ron have almost found the last of the hiding places for Voldemort's soul. Once they destroy them, Voldemort, in all his no-nose wickedness, can be obliterated. This movie is 100% action, folks. No fat here to trim.
What's The Deal: First and foremost, if you haven't seen at least the film prior to this one, Part 2 will be exciting but lacking in context. And on a personal note, you haven't earned it anyway, so there. But having said that, if you are even a casual fan of the series, this movie delivers on every level. Even if I try really hard to put on my Party Pooper Critic Hat (which looks something like a wizard's hat, coincidentally), I can't come up with anything. Obviously there's a ton of pressure to wrap everything up in a pretty, forlorn package, and it does so with an effortless style that makes me wonder how other series finales got so screwed up. This one doesn't end 18 times (like Return of the King), there aren't a lot of fancy monologues, and I didn't feel manipulated by the music when people died (which happens frequently). Overall, this HP 7.2 makes a great case for lifting the entire third act out of a picture and just making that your sequel.
Why The Movie Casts Such A Spell (Warning! Spoilers Abound): I have not read the final books, so I had no idea how all the baddies get their comeuppance (nor did I know that Hedwig was gonna get it in the last picture, which infuriated me so much I almost walked out on general principle). I was surprised at how this was a full-blown war movie, and the crafting of the battle was so precise and compelling that it propelled itself forward at lightning speed. It's pretty normal "double agent" and "dirty fighting" plot points, but the details surrounding it make it feel very fresh--essentially, the series' use of magic and wands instead of normal tools (combined, of course, with a great cast, technically precise execution, and the audience's strong emotional attachment) dress up what would otherwise be cliche. They even get away with one-liners. Bellatrix Lestrange (Bonham Carter) gets sent off with the same naughty language written in the book (so I'm told), uttered by Molly Weasley (Walters)--and if Nic Cage had said the same thing, we'd make fun of him. Instead, I was cheering--such is the magic of Potter.
Tearful Goodbye: Like everyone else, I am wistful that this is the last we'll see of our friends (until they start making prequels and spin-offs). Over the years, I have become fond of the only real details I can remember from each picture, which include the following: kids sighing and giving each other meaningful looks, magical plants causing trouble, people eating weird food, and Butterbeer. Man, I will miss living vicariously through actors drinking what I'm sure is an incredible drink. This muggle loves you guys.