It may not initially be called one, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a war movie. A large-scale battle takes place for about 3/4 of the film, one with good guys and bad guys who we’ve come to know over the past 7 films of this franchise. Taken as a standalone film, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 isn’t all that great, because it fails to give us any reason to care about what’s taking place. But with a series that spans 8 films, you can’t look at it this way. Or at least, you can’t without taking a large amount of flack from fans of the film.

Picking off where Part 1 left us, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are still looking for mystical Horcruxes. These Horcruxes are the only reason that Voldemort (Raplhe Finnes) is allowed to continue living. He’s put a fraction of his soul into each of these objects, and with them still being on the planet, he will live on even if his body is destroyed. Because of this, our three young leads have been given the task of destroying all of the Horcruxes, so that Voldemort can be killed once and for all.

Their search eventually takes them to Hogwarts, the school that they had attended for the previous few years. Now that Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is dead, Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), has become Headmaster, acting under the order of Voldemort. So heading to Hogwarts is likely a dangerous move, even if it never seems that way. Harry and his friends eventually force Snape to flee the castle, effectively waging war on Voldemort’s army.

It’s this war that spans approximately an hour and a half of the final film. Returning are more or less all of the main and secondary characters from the first 7 films who are still alive, and even some who were killed. It plays out like a cast reunion, which will definitely please fans who have stuck with the films this long. They’ll get the opportunity to point at the screen and giggle with glee when they see a character who’s disappeared for a couple of films. They’ll be even more gleeful when that character gets a dedicated scene where they get to show off.

It’s times like these that made me glad that I watched this film. Seeing characters who I thought would possibly be written out or given actions that would only be implied actually get their turn in the spotlight was incredibly enjoyable and satisfying. When someone like Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith), who didn’t even appear in Part 1, get one scene where she gets to wave her wand around and do something important to the story was almost enough by itself to make the movie worth watching.

This becomes especially apparent when you take a look at Part 1, where the secondary characters got maybe one or two scenes total, appearing more like cameos than as actual characters with importance. This problem is largely rectified here, with only a couple of character not really having any significance. Two characters that I noticed in particular where the giant, Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), who does absolutely nothing, and the evil witch, Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), who continues to be the most underutilized talents in this production.

I thought that people shooting special effect particles at one another for over an hour could get boring, but that wasn’t the case (mostly). This is mostly due to their being a sense that this is an all-or-nothing movie, where everything will come to an end one way or another, and that nothing is going to be left in reserve. Most of the actual fighting is left for background characters, with the tension coming from the fact that Voldemort could pop in any moment before the leads have destroyed all of the Horcruxes. And he does pop up, with these moments having real drama and evoking fear in the audience.

Taken as a standalone film though, it’s not really all that good. It’s just a standard war film that has less actual battles than you’d hope for, as well as not explaining much of anything. So don’t go into this film without seeing most of the previous films, because you’ll be very confused. You might even be confused if you haven’t read the books, because there are some moments where the film doesn’t explain something in as much depth as it should, which, when you think about it, has been a problem with pretty much all of the films in the series.

As a result of excluding a lot of content from the book, there are also some pacing issues which occur, especially if you take Part 1 into account. Part 1 was incredibly slow paced, with little actually happening. Part 2 rarely gives the audience a break, which makes it seem odd when looking at it with the first Deathly Hallows film. They’re completely different films, but neither one really works by itself.

I suppose you can say similar things about the entirety of the Harry Potter franchise. The end result has always been better than the sum of its parts. As an entire franchise, the Harry Potter series has done something quite incredible. Keeping roughly the same cast together for over a decade, adapting seven books all in a row — it’s been quite a journey both for those involved with its creation, and also for the audience. And now that it’s over, you can look back and be amazed at what’s been created, and how the hard work has paid off.

If by now you have watched the previous films, chances are you’re going to watch this one anyway. I don’t know what I can say to get you to, except to tell you that it’s much more exciting than Deathly Hallows: Part 1, which is a welcome addition. Even though these were filmed back-to-back, this film doesn’t suffer from the problems its predecessor had. You’re probably going to go see this film anyway, assuming you’ve seen all of the ones that came before it, so all I can say is to go do that as soon as you can. You won’t be disappointed.