Last 'Potter' a fine finale
In 1997, the world of fiction was introduced to a new hero.
I am, of course, referring to Bruce Willis in "The Fifth Element," but in the literary realm, a young bespectacled wizard was taking the world by storm.
Children, teenagers, college students and adults were raving - some a little more privately than others - about "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," while I sat wondering if it had anything to do with Col. Potter from TV's "M*A*S*H*."
Turns out it didn't, though it seems a fine inspiration for some peculiar fan fiction.
When director Chris Columbus ("Home Alone") released the film version (of "Potter," not "M*A*S*H") in 2001, he brought author J.K. Rowling's record-breaking series into cinemas, and to similar effect. It was groundwork for a collective experience. Seven movies and several directors later, viewers had watched these characters - and their young actors - grow up before their very eyes, each entry like a moving photo album. Granted, some of the films were better than others; after all, everyone goes through puberty.
And like his cast members, four-time "Potter" director David Yates grew into his role.
In the final film of the series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," Yates gives fans what they want: A chance to say goodbye.
And surprisingly, it's not a long goodbye. This last installment is the shortest "Potter" film of the series at 125 minutes, but it doesn't seem like such, and in a good way. Well-balanced with visual spectacle, emotion, considerable action and solid performances, "Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is the sum of its parts, and it all adds up to an entertaining, if not bittersweet, close to the series.
As the actors and characters matured, so did the films, with the last several entries barely resembling the admittedly more kid-friendly introduction. "Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is no exception.
The film picks up right where the last left off, dropping audiences right in the midst of Harry Potter's (Daniel Radcliffe, "The Tailor of Panama") plight. Harry and longtime friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint, "Wild Target") and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson, "The Tale of Despereaux") are tracking down the last remaining horcruxes, objects that contain the life essence of vengeful foe and all-around bad guy Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, "The English Patient").
With Voldemort's grasp on the world of magic tightening by the minute, Harry and company must hasten their desperate search, while protecting those they love at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Since the last film, dubious professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, "Die Hard") has assumed the role of headmaster, as Voldemort's goons hold the school - and its students and faculty - ransom, on condition that Harry turn himself in to meet his fate.
It all comes to a head with a bedazzling siege of the school, rife with magical warfare, fallen characters and secrets revealed. It's an electric and epic conclusion to a story 10 years in the telling.
Yates offers plenty of fan service, which sometimes works to the film's detriment. He's so intent on letting fans bid their farewells to their favorite characters, almost everyone who's survived the latter films makes an appearance, some reduced to mere cameos, like Emma Thompson's ("Stranger Than Fiction") Prof. Trelawney, Jim Broadbent's ("Hot Fuzz") Prof. Slughorn and Robbie Coltrane's ("GoldenEye") Hagrid.
Meanwhile, others earn a chance to shine. Radcliffe, Grint and Watson have fully matured into their roles, making their performances seem like second nature, while Rickman gleefully devours his increased screen time.
Yates almost seems rushed, glazing over certain plot points that otherwise seemed important. To his credit, though, he's ditched the meandering subplots that ultimately led to nowhere in the some of the series' previous entries, keeping "Deathly Hallows: Part 2" moving at a brisk and satisfying pace.
The special effects this go-around are outstanding, particularly in an early scene that harkens back to the Chris Columbus era with a trip to Gringotts Wizarding Bank, demonstrating the filmmakers' proficiency in creature makeup and computer-generated imagery.
The same can't necessarily be said for the film's epilogue, which seems more like an awkward bookend, but it offers fans one last moment with these memorable characters.
Presented in both 2-D and 3-D, the latter is a surprisingly effective post-production treatment. But "Deathly Hallows: Part 2" can be enjoyed either way, with the 3-D serving to complement, rather than enhance. As always, though, the magic shouldn't lay in the visual effects, but rather the storytelling, a sentiment Yates has embraced.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.
For show times, see page 12-B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.