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The spell remains potent right up to the very end. Harry Potter fans — and who’s not? — will be delighted to discover that the final Harry Potter film delivers pure cinema magic.
Maybe, if you haven’t seen the previous Potter films, or at least read the J.K. Rowling novels upon which the series is based, then the eighth and final movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, will seem like a confused, disjointed jumble. But, oh, if you have watched the earlier movies, this latest is a fitting climax, bringing the adventures of the boy wizard to a cathartic, satisfying, heart-tugging conclusion.
In this final film, a now nearly adult Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) must do final battle with his longtime nemesis, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). The Dark Lord unleashes his very darkest arts in an attempt to crush Harry and his allies at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (Listen to a BBC radio interview with Fiennes about his character in the series.)
During the course of the movie, Harry and true blue pals Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) risk life and wands as they find themselves up against various, often terrifying foes. Was ever there a pluckier, more resourceful trio?
Characters familiar from earlier films show up again here, and a couple of new ones are introduced. Even at this late date, Part 2 has a few surprises up its sleeve (at least for those who haven’t read the book or have forgotten it), with a seeming villain turning out not to be such a bad guy after all, and the dearly departed reappearing for moving reunions with Harry.
The movie, the fourth directed by David Yates, hurtles along at a bracing clip but knows, especially near the end, when to pause and let an emotional scene play out so that it achieves its full impact. Warning: there are a couple of scenes late in the film that will leave only the most hard-hearted dry-eyed.
The special effects, including the usual broom aerodynamics, a flying dragon and a large-scale battle with all manner of monsters attacking Hogwarts, are as impressive as ever.
In the end, though, the true power of the Potter films lies in the cast. The usual array of superior supporting players, a virtual who’s who of British acting talent, is on hand to take final bows, some for only a scene, and some for longer. Playing Professor Minerva McGonagall – I just wanted to write that one last time – Dame Maggie Smith gets to rock Part 2, defending Hogwarts as if she were Joan of Arc leading her troops to battle.
Finally, how fortunate are we that a decade ago, an untried pipsqueak named Daniel Radcliffe was cast as Harry? With each movie, his acting skills and understanding of the character have deepened until, just as with Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, it is now impossible to think of anyone else playing the role. In this concluding film, he gives Harry all the courage, nobility and goodness the boy wizard so thoroughly deserves.
Now all that remains is to wait another 15 or 20 years for the inevitable reboot of the series. By then, Radcliffe will be almost old enough to play Albus Dumbledore.
Have you seen the final Harry Potter film? Without spoiling anything, what did you think?