It All Ends
Perhaps the most obvious question here is: can a viewer walk into the last installment of the Harry Potter series cold; does the movie stand on its own? The first indication that the answer is no aside from the “Part 2” in the title is the eerily quiet opening. Three young people looking the worse for wear and extremely trouble are ensconced in some sort of safe house in the middle of nowhere. There is obviously a lull in the action as if moviegoers had taken a dinner break and just returned for the second half and final conclusion. That doesn’t mean it’s all indecipherable.
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), the one with the glasses who seems to be in charge, asks a wizened-looking old man (John Hurt) to examine a few well-worn wooden wands the way you might ask an elderly master violin maker about a possible rare Stradivarius, a Guarnerius and a Guadagnini—are they authentic, do they still have the power to produce the legendary magical tones? And the old master’s answer is that they will only respond if the user is a descendent of, say, Paganini, etc. Which, of course, is reminiscent of Luke Skywalker, his legacy for good and his innate ability to handle his special wand. But here we go looking back and the need to have seen the first Star Wars and the second installment and on and on. Let’s just face it. With this kind of movie we are and have been for decades in the age of serials.
Which brings us to the obvious fact that the movie in question is the final cinematic edition of a whole series of seven books read by young and old starting in the 1990s with the relative innocence of Harry at the age of nine in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” followed by “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and so on and so forth. Its appeal, it seems, was universal: a slight, mistreated little boy who possessed secret magical powers; a potentially great wizard. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. J.K. Rowling, we’re told, first came upon her creation riding on a train in the U.K. envisioning a little boy who didn’t know who he was.
Therefore it all had to evolve as fans lined up to buy the next adventure and see the movie of the book they’d devoured, unfolding as the act of growing up unfolds until the present day when Harry, Rupert (Ron Weasley) and Hermione (Emma Watson) have gone through the relatively benign trials and tribulations of the English boarding school Hogwarts featuring a curriculum of wizardry with the usual good kids and bad kids, to ever more difficult and harrowing experiences until here we are at this safe house facing the machinations of death and evil incarnate in the form of the spectral, ghostly Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and a cinematic landscape that’s a far cry from the comfy initial boarding school for little kids.
As for this movie itself, it is the culmination of the Hero’s Journey myth about sacrifice, death, and resurrection, sacredness, final confrontation with the powerfully evil. The hero, in this case Harry, must bring back something lost: Love, Devotion, Hope, Loyalty. Life at Hogwarts under Alan Rickman has been lost under his leadership of suspicious Darkness. Of course, these are the same values dealt with in Fairytales, which teach about moral issues, all universal and timeless.
And so, we come to the final movie in this series where Harry and his friends must use their knowledge of Magic, which can be employed to change anything, endlessly. You can change a vicious dragon, into a flying saviour with love in its heart, or turn attacking enemies into monarch butterflies (well, that’s what we would do). The other magical part of this cinematic series is the use of such special British actors as: Maggie Smith(Professor Minerva McGonagall), Michael Gambon(Professor Albus Dumbledore), Ralph Fiennes(Lord Voldemort), Alan Rickman(Professor Severus Snape), John Hurt(Ollivander), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix LeStrange), and Julie Walters(Molly Weasley) to name only some. Of course, this is a British production with the fabulously strange and creepy (but sometimes cozy) British boarding school located in a beautiful magical castle where they teach their unique brand of Witchcraft-and-Wizardry. Add in the amazing action and CGI effects and the evolving mystery centering on Harry’s true identity and fate, what could be more fun for the worldwide youthful (any age) culture which has so embraced the books and the movies. American audiences and readers can be transported to a place far different from what they’re used to.
A devoted fan recently explained that the overall theme in the end teaches that “Love is more important than anything else – money, success, etc. And that includes love between friends, loved ones, and followers such as fellow Hogwarthians.”
In the end, one might easily ask: Would you send your children to Hogwarts? When all is said and done, some do.