To no one's surprise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 shattered box office records as fans flooded theaters to see the final installment of a wizarding saga over a decade in the making. For Potter fans, DH2 is definitely bittersweet, marking both the triumphant end and resolution to a story and mystery that many began in their childhoods, as well as a farewell to the beloved characters they followed and watched grow up on that epic journey.
However, if you haven't read the Potter books or seen all of the movies, the Pottermania bathing the globe might have left you feeling somewhat left out. And to some degree, I know how you feel -- I've never read a Potter book, and I've only seen the first and last two Potter films, which often left me feeling somewhat befuddled.
But having seen DH2, I can tell you that one only needs an elementary knowledge of the Potter world (which most Potter fans could give you in five minutes or so) to appreciate how far the series has come and appreciate at least some of the satisfaction hardcore fans are feeling that the story and the film series have left on such a high note.
I'll say upfront that I'm not the best person to review a Harry Potter movie. I haven't read the books, and I've only seen the first and, now, the last two Potter movies in their entirety.
While there was much I admired about the early films I saw -- like a great supporting cast, excellent effects, and impressive production design -- I wasn't able to fully engage in the story, which seemed to be one life-threatening, all-important challenge after another, until the movie simply ended without me knowing what was important. The fanciful language can be hard to grasp, and there are so many characters and storylines to keep track of, to the point that I felt the books had not been adequately streamlined for film so they could be understood by those who hadn't read them, unlike 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 2) isn't like that. The story is clear -- Harry and his friends must find and destroy the remaining objects (known as horcruxes), which represent the soul of the villain Voldemort before Voldemort and his army can destroy the Hogwarts wizarding school, kill Harry, and control the world.
Most of the dozens of named characters make only short appearances, and almost all of the film takes place in and around Hogwarts, without a lot of teleporting around to far off realms. While Rupert Grint and Emma Watson bring depth, maturity and emotion to Harry's best friends and nearly constant companions -- Ron and Hermione, 'Deathly Hallows 2' is Harry's story and actor Daniel Radcliffe's movie, with a performance that very well may earn him some Oscar buzz.
After the movie, I sat down with a friend who is a die-hard Potter fan so I could get a sense of what it is readers, especially young ones, might be taking away from Harry's journey and its cinematic conclusion. What emerged is that it's not so much about the story's messages, but the genius of how author JK Rowling evolved the story to not just reflect the ages of the characters, but also the readers as they too grew into young adults.
The early films, with their focus on action, mysteries and puzzles, seem more pitched to a younger audience, almost like magical Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys stories. While many kids dread school, the idea of leaving horrible stepparents to attend a special school staffed by wise adults to develop unique and powerful abilities seems like a fantasy kids could embrace.
But as the stories progressed, Harry is forced to confront an uncomfortable reality -- that adults, with their own motives, secrets, and allegiances, can't always be trusted, causing Harry and his friends to strike out on their own and bear more and more of the burden and danger of their unfolding quest, as well as the increasing responsibility Harry feels for the community that is protecting, fighting, and sometimes dying for him.
Now, at the story's conclusion, we find Harry completing his arc from wide-eyed, trusting child to the leader and great wizard he was prophesied to be, bravely leading not just his fellow students, but also his mentors. Harry, ever the reluctant hero, now fully understands the dark realities of the world he lives in, and while others will help, it's his responsibility to deal with it, both for himself and the sake of others. In short, Harry, the child we were introduced to in 1997, is now an adult in a difficult world, as are the readers who were children when they first joined him on his quest. But perhaps those readers learned that whether they are children or adults, even the greatest challenges can be overcome if you have courage and the help of a few good friends.
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