Harry Potter. After a decade of saying it, I might never have cause to say it again. Harry Potter. Dum-ble-dore. Vol-de-mort. Snape. Her-mi-oh-nee.
No, it's not as momentous a day as the one in 2007, when lunatics the world over queued up at midnight to buy the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. OK, I was one of 'em but it was Friday, I didn't have to get up the next morning. And along with millions I had to know who lived and who got Avada Kedavra'ed as Potter-ites say. We had a lot invested.
The opening midnight screenings of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 were completely sold out, even though most people knew the ending. They wanted closure. J.K. Rowling, good as she is, isn't a prose stylist: The films put interesting faces to names and fabulous designs to humdrum descriptions. In the novel, the climactic wand-off between Harry and Voldemort is notably lacking in grandeur. Here's a case where movies can add a bit of magic.
We also need a final look at Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Emma Watson as Hermione and Rupert Grint as Ron. We met them when they were little and watched them go through puberty and have their first snogs. Then Radcliffe went naked in Equus on Broadway and Watson went to Brown and dropped out and became a fashion plate.
Is this the little boy at Hogwarts?
So many years. So many top-flight British actors showing up for teeny scenes and making enough to buy country estates.
Now, finally, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2, the last book split in half by a studio terrified of losing a franchise, with the result that Part 1 felt padded.
But Part 2 works like a charm.
Not a charming charm: It's somber, weighty, funereal -- a war film, with blood and rubble under low, gray English skies. Before Harry faces off against the monster who murdered his parents, he, Ron and Hermione — fugitives now -- track down the last horcruxes, pieces of Voldemort's soul injected into sundry objects. Trouble is, Harry and his nemesis have a telepathic link -- which Harry senses as he and his friends emerge, wet and shivering, from a river.
"He knows if we find and destroy all the horcruxes, we'll be able to kill him," says Harry. "I reckon he'll stop at nothing to make sure we don't find the rest. And there's more -- one of them's at Hogwarts."
"What? You saw it?" asks Hermione.
"I saw the castle and Rowena Ravenclaw. It must have something to do with her," says Harry. "We have to go there now."
"Well, we can't do that -- we've got to plan. We've got to figure it out," says Hermione.
"Hermione," says Harry. "When have any of our plans ever actually worked? We plan, we get there -- all hell breaks loose."
That's the only self-conscious joke in the series -- which reminds me to tip my cap to Steve Kloves, who wrote seven of the eight Potter films and evidently had his own telepathic link with J.K. I hope he goes back to making movies as original as his film The Fabulous Baker Boys.
The director of movies 5 through 8, David Yates, goes for deep-toned Gothic horror, which doesn't make for highs and lows but a steady aura of doom. Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 features his and cinematographer Eduardo Serra's most expressive work, which you don't need to see in 3-D to be awed by. The climax is fully realized: the blitzkrieg-like attack on Hogwarts, the revelatory flashback involving the past of Alan Rickman's Professor Snape, and the final duel, rich in mythic splendor.
Goodbye to Ralph Fiennes's Voldemort, who slowly evolved from primordial slime but stopped at the reptile stage and is here like a drug-addled rock star in his final days, surrounded by sycophants like Helena Bonham Carter in a fright wig. Goodbye to Rickman, who conveys Snape's tortured soul by inserting supernaturally longer pauses between syllables. Goodbye to Maggie Smith and all those royal bit players. The young actor I'll miss most is Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood, with her queerly fluted monotone. Spin her off, J.K.?
Is shame the key to the whole Potter series? We see Harry prove himself over and over and still wind up an outcast, a victim of his birth and even his own celebrity. Will there be no end to his humiliation? There will. You exhale at the close of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 as you do at Dickens. There is family, acceptance, and social justice. The kids are all right -- and their creator is richer than the queen. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.