It’s been quite an adventure.
As I’ve mentioned over the years, I’ve only read the first “Harry Potter” book. Not bad, entertaining story. But I’ve enjoyed all of the films immensely. All seven of them. Make that eight.
Hogwarts. Shrouded in darkness and patrolled by Dementors, the school is nothing short of a prison now, with Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) acting as warden. He has assured “you know who” that soon Harry Potter (Radcliffe) will return.
On a desolate beach Harry is paying his respects to his elf pal Dobby, who died saving Harry and his friends in “Part One.” Harry, Hermione (Watson) and Ron (Grint) must continue to search for the remaining three horcruxes that “you know who” (better known as Lord Voldemort) requires to obtain ultimate power. Their adventures lead them back to Hogwarts and the greatest showdown between good and evil since Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader mixed it up in “Return of the Jedi.”
As the final chapter in the “Harry Potter” saga, the filmmakers could have taken the easy route and just walked through the story. Instead they have created a film that takes its place proudly alongside the others. The focus of the film is squarely on our trio of young wizards, though we do get to meet some new characters, including Aberforth Dumbledore (Ciaran Hinds), the brother of Harry’s beloved, and quite dead, headmaster. “Remember,” Dumbledore tells Harry, “it’s the wand that chooses the wizard.” Good advice, that. The familiar faces of Harry’s past also return, including Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) and Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith), though there parts are almost secondary. The film belongs to the kids and the bad guy. As Lord Voldemort, Ralph Fiennes is outstanding. His eyes lifeless, his every word accompanied by a “hiss,” Fiennes’ performance is one of pure evil. In 2003 the American Film Institute named the above mentioned Darth Vader the third greatest movie villain of all time, behind Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates. I think when that poll is taken again in the future “you know who” may top the list. The three main stars are, as in previous films, pitch perfect. It has been a unique experience, as both a moviegoer and a critic, to watch them grow virtually before my eyes. Where once stood cute, precocious kids now are strong, confident actors, with Radcliffe the standout of the three. Not yet 21 (he hits that milestone on the 23rd of this month), Radcliffe has shouldered a franchise that has grossed over $2 BILLION! Incredible.
The production design and special effects are equally well done. From a ride on the back of a dragon to a battle between everything (from giants to stone soldiers) on screen, the excitement level never drops. A quick caution to parents, however. This is probably the most violent film of the series. Blood flows and children die. But if the youngsters in the audience have read the books they probably already know that.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And the “Harry Potter” series has become an adventure that everyone should take.