The Harry Potter phenomenon was, well, phenomenal. First-time novelist J.K. Rowling (How magical is that?) created not a series of seven stories but one story broken into seven parts. (Well, 450 million parts, if you count the number of individual books she’s sold.)  Each novel represented a year in the character’s lives, taking the protagonists from pre‑adolescence to adulthood. At a time when literacy is declining and her target audience’s allegiance and attention was divided between video games and puberty, Rowling asked her readers to stick with her characters for seven years, reading books at least twice as long as the usual 200-page Young Adult volume. And they did! (We can only hope this feat is duplicated by someone from this group!)

And now, a decade after the first movie, we have the final film adaptation of her story, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II.

In Part I, Harry and his friends are on the run; the evil Lord Voldemort has take over the Ministry of Magic and is hunting Harry while Harry hunts for the Horcruxes, repositories for Voldemort’s soul. If he can destroy them, he can destroy Voldemort forever—if Voldemort doesn’t get him first.

Now, when your opus is optioned for the movies, don’t be surprised that your 1600-word description of the hero/heroine’s lair is reduced to


and takes up about six seconds screen time. Even with 20 hours of film, telling Rowling’s 3885-page story necessitates compression, combination, and omissions that have had hardcore Potterphiles moaning from the beginning. Part II has the unenviable task of not only tying up Part I but the other six films as well. Looking at the series as a whole we discover we have accepted a lot on faith—they tell us something and we just go with it. (Example: Harry is famous from birth in the wizzarding world as The Boy Who Lived; we are told he is the Chosen One but not why he is the chosen one or who chose him. We’ve seen Tom Riddle turn to the dark side just like Anakin Skywalker but Darth Vader’s motivations are much clearer than Lord Voldemort’s. On film, anyway.) Perhaps these questions are more fully answered in the books. Perhaps it’s best we think of the films as a sort of alternate universe version of the books—very similar to them but also sort of “different.”

But “different” doesn’t mean “disappointing:” Deathly Hallows II is beautifully photographed and edited, with makeup and CGI designed to serve the story rather than overwhelm the viewer. A very smart script mixes poignancy with pyrotechnics and despite our familiarity with these characters we are still genuinely surprised—and moved—by them.

The ending is sort of, “…and they all lived happily ever after” and for the optimistic there are even hints that there could be other stories in the future, but I hope not. (I, for one, am not looking forward to Harry Potter and the Midlife Crisis, Harry Potter and the Senior Discount…) No matter how good you are, you’re only great if you know when it’s time to leave the stage, and you do. Harry and company go out here on a very high note.

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