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AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Jaap Buitendijk
In this film publicity image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, from left, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe are shown in a scene from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”

A fitting finale for Harry Potter and friends

Posted: July 21, 2011 - 10:15am

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”
Warner Bros. Pictures
2 hours, 10 minutes

Harry Potter has been a film and literary phenomenon for better than 15 years now. Worldwide, kids and adults alike have thrilled to the adventures of the boy wizard and his pals as they battled Lord Voldemort and the forces of evil. I’ve seen a lot of mania associated with these films, but I’ve never had the opportunity to experience it from Potter’s home turf, so to speak. So in honor of the eighth and final “Harry Potter” movie, I queued up at the local cinema in a charming little village called Henley-on-the-Thames to cheer on the defenders of Hogwarts with the home team. (Lest you think I think I flew all the way to England just to see “Harry Potter” I can assure you it was just a coincidence. A happy one, but a coincidence nonetheless.)

When we showed up at the theater, I was a little surprised to find that the showing I wanted to attend was sold out. I guess I shouldn’t have been, though. This may have been a Sunday matinee in a local theater in a relatively small town, but Harry Potter is still a favored son and everyone wanted to show up to support him. We did get tickets for the next showing, though the girl in the box office was sad to tell me that my wife and I wouldn’t be getting seats together. That’s kind of a cool thing about going to see a movie abroad, you get to pick your seats, just like going to an event at a stadium or a major concert hall. We got to be close, though, which was fine.

After sitting through the requisite “turn off your cell phone” warnings and the 10 minutes of commercials and previews, the show finally began. It’s funny — going to a movie at home, I get really annoyed by the commercials. I don’t like the idea that I’m paying to be advertised to. Here in Britain, however, I found the commercials charming and funny. That’s either the benefit of novelty, or the simple relaxed joy that comes from being on vacation. Either way, I was able to start off the movie in a good mood.

Everybody knows the story of Harry Potter by this time, and if you don’t, I doubt you’ll be lining up for the eighth film in a series. This one is “The Deathly Hallows, Part 2” and, where the first film dealt mostly with Harry, Ron, and Hermione slogging around the country looking for horcruxes (tiny, secreted-away pieces of Voldemort’s soul), this movie is all about the epic battle of Hogwarts. For the majority of moviegoers, spoilers aren’t an issue as they’ve read the book already, but for the few that haven’t, I’ll refrain from revealing too much. Suffice it to say that author J.K. Rowling, and by extension director David Yates, have come up with a thrilling and exceptionally satisfying finale for both the story as a whole, and for the characters in particular. The film is exciting, action-packed, and surprisingly moving.

One of the nice things about this movie is how remarkably subtle it manages to be. By the eighth film in a series, lesser movies would be shouting out callbacks to previous films simply to establish some kind of legitamacy. Not so much here. Sure, there’re shots of things they want you to remember, but it’s all done softly and quietly, and, in the case of a flyover of the burning Quidditch fields, hauntingly. The beautiful cinematography by DP Eduardo Sera does much to enhance the sense of finality, the gravity in the film. Together with excellent performances by everyone involved, especially Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape, who finally gets to shine, the combined “Deathly Hallows” goes a long way toward erasing the debacle that was “The Half-Blood Prince.”

“Deathly Hallows, Part 2” would have been good wherever I saw it, but it was nice to get to go with such a friendly audience. Surely these people recognize parts of the countryside that we in the U.S. do not, and get references that may well go over our heads at home. There’s one point where Harry makes a funny remark about King’s Cross, a London train station, and the crowd ate it up. As we’ve learned doing dinner theater over the years, people love local jokes.

Now that Harry Potter has finally reached its conclusion, is there anything to take its place? Certainly there have been several series that have attempted to take up the mantle over the last 10 years, mostly to spectacular failure. We certainly haven’t seen sequels to either “The Golden Compass” or “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.”

Coming next summer, we’ll see the big screen adaptation of “The Hunger Games,” the first in a trilogy of futuristic stories about a brutal regime and a heroic teen girl. These are very good stories, and likely will make good movies, but the innocence and wonder of the Harry Potter series is gone, possibly never to return. Even the last few movies in that series are more for older teens and adults than they are for kids. It’s sad to think that these stories are at an end, but the movies are all quality and worth returning to, and of course we’ll always have the books themselves.

And who knows, by the time my kids are grown, they’ll probably be rebooting the entire series for a new generation. I’m sure they’ll have better special effects then, but they’ll have to go a long way to top “The Deathly Hallows.”

Grade: A.

“The Deathly Hallows, Part 2” is rated PG-13 for some pretty scary violence.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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