At long last, 10 years of blockbuster films and long lines at theaters are over – prolonged for another umpteen million dollars in ticket sales by breaking the last movie into two films, starting an awful new trend that it appears “Twilight” is primed to follow, heaven help us – as the “Harry Potter” franchise has come to a close.

Truthfully, Warner Brothers should be commended for selling a film series profitable enough to run a small, nay, a medium-sized country. The visual artists and designers who created Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry deserve praise for crafting perhaps the most intriguing, dazzling and memorable set in moviemaking history. The casting crews and directors should be commended for turning the series’ three child leads into talented adult thespians and surrounding them with a fantastic cast of supporting actors. Harry Potter’s musicians, the character’s costume coordinators and, of course, author J.K. Rowling have also lent abundant creative talents to a significant cultural phenomenon.

It’s just too bad that the sum of the parts couldn’t have made a better whole.

The “Harry Potter” movies ranged in quality from legitimately entertaining to corny, tempting Pottermaniacs with hints of awesomeness, but never quite ascending to the level of the books, or so those who have read them tell me.

And that’s exactly where Harry VIII, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” falls short – it very well may be a satisfying conclusion to the series for those who knew the books and knew what they were about to see; but for someone like me who hasn’t read the books … I was lost.

I’ve gone back and seen all of the Potter films so I was ready for “Part 2,” but I haven’t seen Harry VII since it came out in theaters, and so when Harry VIII started, I expected some storyline to ramp up into the new film.

Nothing doing. The film begins with characters who aren’t introduced, storylines that aren’t explained and references to characters the audience hasn’t met. It was like sitting at a dinner party where everyone knows the inside jokes except me.

And while that may be forgivable or even easily overcome by renting “Part 1” before visiting the theater, the moviemakers’ other neglectful exclusions of those who haven’t read the books were a grievous oversight.

I assume these questions I still have after watching the film are answered by J.K. Rowling, but they weren’t by Warner Brothers: What happens to the Resurrection Stone? How does Harry come back to life? How does Draco’s mother know he’s alive? How again did Severus Snape get into Voldemort’s service? And when it’s revealed he’s actually a good guy – which was done too quickly and casually for such a powerful plot twist – what’s up with the magic deer spell? I mean, I remember how the blue deer saved Harry, but why did Snape suddenly release it and what did that signify? And, do you want to run that lame explanation for why the Elder Wand was loyal to Harry by me again?

Maybe these things all made sense to those who have read the book, and maybe “Part 2” was filled with “aha” moments for fanboys, but Harry VIII did not do a good job of wrapping up the story for those who have only seen the movies. Consequently, some of the mystique and wonder of the entire franchise was lost.

On the positive side, Harry VIII may have been the best-acted of all the films, was loaded with lovely special effects and visuals, contained a handful of laughs and plenty of salutes to the minor characters’ past contributions to the story and struck an appropriately sentimental tone in its finale. The entire series is truly a filmmaking feat.

As for worldview, many of the same issues that haunt the entire franchise naturally reappear: witchcraft, spells and magic, ghosts and talking with the dead, etc.

Likewise, many of the same virtues are brought back, too: heroism, good triumphing over evil, loyalty, self-sacrifice and so forth.

Particularly for those who have tried to liken Harry to Jesus Christ, “Part 2” finally treats audiences to the grand, heroic moment when Potter willingly lays down his life to save the world – though sadly, the film’s climax is a bit disappointing, neither as gripping nor as dramatic as the scenes, say, in Gethsemane and Calvary. Another missed opportunity by the filmmakers. These should have been bold, exclamation-point moments in Harry’s saga, but instead they seemed to just slip by on screen.

More riveting was the evil Voldemort’s very Satan-like, “day after the messiah’s death” speech: “Harry Potter is dead! From this day forth, you put your faith in me!”

There are other strong, Christ-like parallels in there too, such as the line, “The boy who lived came to die,” and, said to Potter’s mentor, who knew all along the young wizard would have to give up his life to save wizardom, “You have been raising him like a pig for the slaughter.” Too bad the character didn’t say “like a lamb.”

The film also contained some very anti-Christian themes, however, such as when Potter “dies,” enters the bright white light and talks to the old, bearded man in a white robe (yes, I know it’s Dumbledore, but you can’t miss the striking similarity to the Father on fluffy white clouds).

Pointing out that he’s amending a former resolution that help is given to those who need it, the God-like figure tells Harry, “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who deserve it.”

The amendment boldly contrasts Christianity’s true message of salvation, that no one gets to heaven by being good enough or deserving it, but only by surrender to faith in the Son of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In the end, I have many Christian friends who tell me the books are filled with parallels to Christ and metaphors for truth. Perhaps they are. Maybe the books are a blessing I simply haven’t tasted yet.

But the movies? The “Harry Potter” films are far more about magic than about metaphor, more about friendship than faith, more about special effects than salvation. “Deathly Hallows, Part 2” is no exception, though from what I’ve heard, it was supposed to contain the climactic Calvary scene that made muddling through the world of Muggles worth it.

Fans of the books will still feel a need to see this film and feel an honest fondness for what was legitimately one of the better movies in the franchise.

For me? Frankly, I’m glad it’s over, so we can move on to better movies whose worldviews aren’t so laced with wanton wizardry.

Content advisory:

  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” contains a small handful of minor obscenities and no profanities, though one obscenity is very strongly delivered.
  • Lead actress Emma Watson, however, has grown up and become a bit of a sex symbol, so there are, naturally, a few gratuitous shots of a wet Watson in a low cut dress, showing off a bit of heaving cleavage. Frankly, it’s a stupid addition and is gone in a flash, but it was a painfully obvious boob shot. The male characters strip off their shirts in a changing scene and there are a few kisses in the film.
  • As this is the franchise’s final battle, there is a fair amount of violence, including magic burst battles, explosions, falling and dying characters, witches being disintegrated and so forth. Notably, in one scene, Voldemort walks in puddles of blood through dead bodies in a rather gruesome way. Also, a character is repeatedly and rather traumatically struck by a snake, loudly and powerfully. The scene takes place behind frosted glass, however, so little gore is actually seen.
  • Naturally, the film is loaded to the brim with occult themes and symbols: magic wands, magic spells, magic charms, ghosts, talking with the dead, spells spoken aloud in a faux-Latin language and potions and books and symbols of all sorts, though I don’t recall any that are overtly Satanic. The “heaven” scene is also a significant element of the film, but completely innocuous and intentionally vague, without much discussion – anywhere in the film – of religious themes in the “Muggle” world.

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