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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: movie review

Eight films and $2 billion later, a poignant send-off for 'the boy who lived.'

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The special effects have almost always been powerfully elegant, none more so than in "Deathly Hallows 2," where a trip to a wizard bank turns into a supernal roller coaster ride inside a cavernous vault where heaps of jewels and gold multiply voluminously, insanely. We are presented with the nightmarish image of Hogwarts as a black and brutal expanse presided over by hovering Death Eaters and a cruelly imperious Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, in a brief performance of genuine depth).

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"Deathly Hallows 2" also brings back, if only fitfully, many of the wonderful British character actors who have flitted in and out of the series, including Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, Jim Broadbent as potions professor Horace Slughorn, and Maggie Smith, whose Professor Minerva McGonagall crisply defends Hogwarts against Voldemort's looming hordes.

It has always been one of the hallmarks of this series that even when the plotting, especially for those unversed in the books, resembled a brambly thicket, and the cinematic magicmaking was more overloaded than inspired, the acting served up by this ongoing parade of hall of fame hams carried the day.

The acting by the three mainstays – Radcliffe, Rupert Grint as Ron, and Emma Watson as Hermione – was never up to that level, but it was entirely adequate to the roles' demands. "Deathly Hallows 2" is, in any case, primarily Harry's story, and so Grint and Watson are relatively sidelined. Ron and Hermione do, however, get to kiss for the first time – an indication of just how dire things have become for them.

It is not often that we can chart a series over 10 years featuring the same child stars as they grow into adults. This phenomenon gives "Deathly Hallows 2" a particular poignancy, since audiences will likely look at these young actors and see themselves growing old as well.

But I don't bemoan the end of the series. It has run its course.

The filmmakers may have felt this, too. The climactic dramatic resolution is not overdone, like the multiple endings in the final installment of "Lord of the Rings," and the brief coda that takes the story into the future appears almost as an afterthought. This understatement, especially given what has come before, is pleasing, and it's also a token of respect for the series' devoted, longtime audience. The filmmakers are saying, "We've all grown up with this together and we know how much this story means to us. No need to make a big show of it now."

Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.

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