By Jeff Jensen
Updated July 01, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Of all the pivotal moments in the final Harry Potter movie, the one that weighed most heavily on Daniel Radcliffe was a quiet one: Harry’s solo trek through the Forbidden Forest for an unexpected reunion with loved ones who died so he could live. His father, James. His mother, Lily. His godfather, Sirius Black. ”It was a very hard day, just because it was so emotional, and because I had built it up so much in my head,” says Radcliffe of the scene shot on the soundstages of Leavesden Studios. ”It’s a moment that so many fans of the book talk about, so I knew it was important to them, and I took it upon myself to deliver it.”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (out July 15; rated PG-13) follows Harry’s continued quest to destroy magical objects holding pieces of Voldemort’s soul (not to mention the Dark Lord himself). The film features no shortage of climactic scenes. Chief among them: Harry and Voldemort’s battle at Hogwarts. ”This is a war movie,” says Rupert Grint, who plays Harry’s right-hand man, Ron Weasley, in the $200 million-plus production. ”Lots of things blowing up. Lots of bodies buried in the rubble.” If you’re even a little fuzzy on your Horcruxes and Deathly Hallows, you might want to bone up on your Potter — screenwriter Steve Kloves says the final movie hits the ground running. ”Ever since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we’ve talked about our obligation to the audience in terms of summary,” says Kloves. ”Once we got to Deathly Hallows, we all agreed: The price of admission is that you know where we are in the story based on what we’ve presented in the movies.”

And for a few dollars more, you can get a 3-D experience, too — something director David Yates feels he didn’t have the time to pull off for Deathly Hallows — Part 1. (”We didn’t get enough shots of sufficient standard,” he says.) Don’t expect a gimmicky approach to the technology, though. ”I wasn’t too keen on the kind of 3-D where things pop out of the screen,” says Yates. ”I was more interested in adding greater depth to scenes that deal with environments with great scale and space.” Look for extra-rich detail in a scene set inside Hogwarts’ massive Room of Requirement and in an action sequence with Harry, Ron, and Hermione (Emma Watson) escaping Gringotts Bank on the back of a dragon.

One thing filmgoers won’t see in any dimension is Harry in the buff. In one of the most discussed passages in J.K. Rowling’s novel — SPOILER ALERT! — a temporarily deceased and totally naked Harry lands in limbo for a chat with Dumbledore’s ghost in a heavenly version of King’s Cross train station in London. In the film, Yates promises, Harry is clothed: ”I thought it would be a tad distracting otherwise.” Yates also reshot the film’s 19-years-later epilogue last December after jettisoning his first attempt because he felt the aging makeup he’d originally had on the stars was too heavy-handed. The stars agreed. ”I looked really overweight, and with this weird feathered hairpiece they put on me, I looked like a mutant Donald Trump,” says Grint. ”It didn’t work at all.” The director ended up using less makeup — and subtle digital effects — to convey the illusion of Harry and friends in their late 30s.

As for Watson, she faced her own challenges during the finale, estimating that she spent a third of the shoot soaking wet, as the story demands. But she loved how her normally uptight character got to become a little unleashed. ”It was great fun to finally play a cut-loose version of Hermione, who’s all like, ‘Well, screw it! I just rode a dragon! I’m probably going to die! I might as well just kiss Ron!’ She has nothing to lose. None of us have anything to lose. Because it’s the end, you know?” Sadly, we do.