Grand Finale

The eighth and final Harry Potter ends on a spectacularly high note

This is it, kids. Absolutely, positively the end of Harry Potter. I feel good about that, knowing I will never have to sit through another one. The franchise that started 10 years ago (seems more like 10 lifetimes) has at last written a penultimate “The End.” I’ve outgrown Lilliputian witches and goblins with flying broomsticks, and so has the cast. With boobs, hairy armpits and other star-making accoutrements, the time has come for them to pursue headier goals, such as Broadway musicals and Vogue covers.

But before we wave adieu, let it be said that for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the eighth and final installment, goes out with Fourth of July fireworks. For dedicated children who are aging along with the spellbinding midget warlocks they adore, a new Harry Potter movie is always a call to arms. They won’t be disappointed in this one. The three heroes are as panting and breathless as Liza Minnelli, and even to an aging Muggle like me, the movie makes sense for a change. As boring and deadly as the last one was, it’s now obvious why director David Yates and ace screenwriter Steve Kloves (let’s pray that with Harry out of his system, this fine craftsman will get back to serious business of writing superior scripts, like his Wonder Boys, Flesh and Bone and The Fabulous Baker Boys) put us all to sleep with the plodding narrative details in Part 1. They were saving the best for last.

You still need a deep foundation in J.K. Rowling’s fertile Potter history to make sense out of the mystery Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) must at last solve in the spectacular battle to save Hogwarts, continue the battle of good vs. evil, discover the missing Horcrux, and save the world from Lord Voldemort. The book devoted hundreds of pages to the final resolution, which is why it had to be divided into two films instead of one. (They also needed extra time and a double budget to perfect the myriad digitally mastered 3-D special effects that magically unfold before your eyes in Part 2 such as an exploding theme park.)

Mercifully, the film wastes no time cutting straight to the chase as the kids gather in an underground hideout to plan their strategy to seek and destroy the remaining Horcruxes, which are the wands made of unicorn hairs and the heartstring of a dragon that make Voldemort invincible. The goblin Griphook leads them to the first one, hidden deep inside a bank vault, where the first effective use of 3-D hits you right between the eyes on an underground railway that looks like a ride on the Cyclone at Coney Island. Escaping over the rooftops on the back of a flying, fire-breathing monster, Harry has two of the wands that make up the Deathly Hallows. In order to save his life and destroy the forces of darkness, he must locate the third, called the “elder wand,” which Voldemort needs to rule the world. The search takes you on an adventure full of unprecedented thrills that will take your breath away.

Everyone returns, including the brother and dead sister of the beloved Professor Dumbledore, who lives in an oil painting, and even the ghost of Dumbledore himself, played once again by Michael Gambon. Hogwarts is now in the malevolent hands of the sinister Severus Snape (hissing, sniveling Alan Rickman) who is holding students and staff hostage as they wait for Harry to rescue them. The walls and platforms that hold up Hogwarts crumble and collapse like Tinker Toys in a masterpiece of destruction, turning the school of magic into the world’s most colossal rubbish heap. A humongous man-eating snake with fangs that strike the audience in 3-D almost devours Hermione, while Ron narrowly escapes a cauldron of flames on a broomstick. With Hogwarts gone and almost every member of the cast killed off by Voldemort, there could obviously never be another installment. But there’s still time for tender-hearted Professor Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith) to save the day with a spell she’s been waiting for years to try. There is even a flashback that explains the sinister role Snape played in Harry’s life story that I found unexpectedly touching. The only thing left to do to bring this saga to a heart-stopping conclusion is for Harry to enter the forbidden forest of death like a true hero and face his destiny with Voldemort, played one last time by the hatchet-faced Ralph Fiennes, who actually shows his human side for the first time. Frankly, I’m sorry to see him go.

None of it makes one lick of sense to Potter outsiders and a lot of the dialogue is pure jabberwocky, decipherable only by those who know the books by heart. This includes billions of rabid fans, so I don’t think anyone is even slightly worried that a little formality like incoherence will affect the box office. The movie never wore out my patience like Part 1 did, because the awesome effects take over where the plot used to be, and although this is the end, my guess is that it will fire the imagination for years to come. What fun to feel like a kid again. I had a marvelous time.

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Spin Me Right ’Round ( I’m glad we survived the compact disc era. Computers have rendered them obsolete, and compared to vinyl long-players, there was never anything sexy about them to begin with. When CDs became prominent, cover art really took it in the shorts. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, we had cover art that you’d want to stare at while the record was playing, cover art that could expand upon the feel of the music you were listening to depending on how many bong hits you’d taken.