With only four days left until the blockbuster event that is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, many a fan has been preparing for the grand finale by revisiting the other seven films in the fantasy series.

For those of you who don’t have it in them to spend some 18 hours accomplishing that task, Warner Bros. has been kind enough to release a compilation video that recaps the entire franchise in five minutes.

It’s been about ten years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hit the scene back in 2001, grossing some $974 million worldwide and paving the way for future installments in the mega best-selling-book-turned-film franchise. Now we’re on the second half of Deathly Hallows and the differences between these first and last films couldn’t be more pronounced.

That’s partially because Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson all boast much improved acting chops now, but it’s also due to the maturing tone of these films, with each subsequent chapter being darker and more adult in content and style. Plus, the vast improvements in visual effects and convincing CGI over the past decade has helped, too (just look at the cartoony troll in Sorcerer’s Stone vs. the convincing giant in Deathly Hallows: Part 2 for case in point).

For more proof of that, check out the “Harry Potter – A Look Back” featurette below:

Early reviews for Deathly Hallows: Part 2 peg it as being a fitting epic finale to the franchise and very much the roller coaster ride a lot of moviegoers have been hoping for, after watching the more introspective and broody Deathly Hallows: Part 1. If there’s been one consistent complaint about the film so far, it’s that the running time (some 130 minutes) is just barely enough to cover and conclude all the various subplots, character arcs, storylines, and the relatively divisive epilogue in an appropriate manner.

On the other hand, almost all of the Harry Potter movies have suffered from that issue to some degree, feeling at times almost like a best-of collection of scenes from the original source material. Author J.K. Rowling simply packed so much necessary narrative material into her novels that this was always going to be the case to some degree. That is, unless these movies were allowed to carry on for 3-4 hours – but then, that’s what the Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers franchises are for (Zing!)

That’s all to say: Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is definitely shaping up to be the most emotionally-churning installment in the series and possibly the best overall as well. Considering that most franchises seems to run out of gas by the time the third movie is released (see out 10 Best Movie Threequels list as evidence of that), it’s all the more impressive that the Harry Potter series is still chugging ahead at full speed at this point.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 opens in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D theaters around the U.S. at midnight on July 15th, 2011.

Source: Warner Bros.