Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

(In theaters, July 2011) As review-proof as they come, this second installment of J.K. Rowling’s final Potter book is all narrative pay-off after the often interminable setup of Part One.  The action moves back to Hogwarts and stays there, although what happens is closer to a local Armageddon than a traditional school year as the two opposing camps of the wizard civil war finally clash.  There are a few deaths (quickly glossed over), but also a few triumphs along the way:  Neville and Mama Weasley each get unusually good moments for themselves, and the film goes have the feel of an eight-volume epic conclusion.  There isn’t much more to say than even though this conclusion may not be a startling cinematic achievement it itself, it delivers what fans were hoping for.  (If you didn’t see it opening day with a psyched-up audience, well, you missed one of the rare times where seeing a film with a big raucous crowd can add a lot to the experience.)  It’s far more appropriate to take this opportunity to salute the eight-film series with a deep bow and a flashy tip of the hat: I don’t think there’s been such a long-running series with this sustained level of quality before, and the bet that Warner Brothers made in going forward with this series has handsomely paid off for everyone even as other attempts to create kids-film franchise haven’t gone past a first film.  The way the actors have grown up in front of our eyes is amazing, and Deathly Hallows Part 2 can’t resist showing us a few sequences of baby-faced Daniel Radcliffe to remind us of the long ten-year road from the first film to this one.  While it hasn’t been all good (Alfonson Cuaron’s job on the third film hasn’t been equaled, and the seventh film seriously dragged at times), it’s been a remarkable adaptation of complex books and the result will, I think, be enjoyed by many people for a long time to come.

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