Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II opens in theaters next week, marking the final installment in what's become the most successful movie franchise of all time, with a $6.3 billion haul over the last decade. And just as Potter fans are anxiously awaiting the film's release, a handful of critics lucky enough to catch an advanced screening couldn't wait to post their reactions online. The verdict: Deathly Hallows Part II is "sensational," "thrilling," and "the grandest of grand cinematic endings." Indeed, the last film is receiving the best reviews of any in the eight-movie franchise, but its most effusive praise raises a question that may be controversial to fans of J.K. Rowling's beloved series: Is the movie better than the book? (Watch a trailer for the film.)

It's a "gorgeous" improvement: Deathly Hallows is "monumental cinema," says Philip Womack at Britain's Telegraph, and its "greatest triumph" is that it overcomes the "deficiencies" of Rowling's novel. In her pages, the climactic final battle at Hogwarts was "a damp squib," failing to "muster the epic feel needed." But the film manages to turn Rowling's fight scene into a "genuinely terrifying spectacle." The film, in turn, becomes a "triumph."
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, review"

And justifies the decision to split the last book into two films: The "squabbling" that plagued Deathly Hallows Part I is a thing of the past, says Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter. The "narrative balance and refinement," and perfectly orchestrated "massive chessboard of events" in Part II make this film an "outstanding capper" to the franchise, "fully justifying" the decision to split Rowling's sprawling book into two parts. Deathly Hallows Part II "will grip and greatly please anyone who has been at all a fan of the series up to now."
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: Film review"

C'mon, it's not that good.: It's true that Rowling's final book could've used some editing, says Richard Godwin at This Is London. The prose "flowed to hundreds of pages, without ever quite coming into focus," spurring Warner Brothers to split the novel into two films. And director David Yates does, for the most part, "make up for the shortcomings of the final book." Yet despite his effort to "oomph it all up for the climax," the film ultimately fails to achieving the "epic quality" of the Lord of the Rings series.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (in 3D) review"