Andy Bockelman: Thanks for the magical memories, Harry Potter

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2”

3.5 out of 4 stars

130 minutes

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Ralph Fiennes.

Now playing at the West Theatre and at Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

The moment has come when fantasy characters and the audiences that love them are closer than ever.

As the forces of good and evil involved in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2” steel themselves for the most deciduous moment of their lives, that same sense of finality spills out into a crowd ready for an ending they knew had to come sooner or later.

Though he’s gone through so much in his seven years as a wizard, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is coming closer and closer to his final task. With the help of friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger (Rupert Grint, Emma Watson), Harry has finally made progress in hunting down and destroying Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) horcruxes in an effort to rid the world of the dark sorcerer once and for all.

But, their mission couldn’t remain secret for long, with Voldemort aware of their plans, throwing everything he can at them to protect his interests. As the trio travels back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to complete their quest, the allies of the Dark Lord descend on the castle, starting a war that will forever shake the foundations of the wizard world.

With everything crumbling around him, Harry’s courage is put to the test as he comes to realize the only way to win is through the ultimate sacrifice. While his friends and loved ones have helped him this far, this is a decision only he can make.

After watching him in the role for the better part of 10 years, it’s almost unsettling to see Radcliffe completely grown up and taking on the brunt of Harry’s most powerful moments as he scrambles to prevent more innocent blood from being spilt. Still, the young actor makes the title character no less compelling than when he cast a spell over us in 2001 as the boy who had no idea of his destiny when he received his first bit of owl post.

Grint and Watson remain unscathed though in the background, the two finally coming to terms with their unspoken romance amid the chaos that surrounds them. Others are not so lucky, with casualties aplenty on both sides, perhaps the most profound of which is the death of Hogwarts headmaster Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), whose true intentions in his past dealings are made clear to Harry for the first time.

At the core of all the suffering, dropping all pretension of “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” is Voldemort, with Fiennes throwing his weight into the role of the most evil wizard of all, whose newfound possession of the unbeatable Elder Wand — one of the mysterious Deathly Hallows — doesn’t seem to be helping his cause as Harry and friends cross off more and more horcruxes on their checklist.

But, as with any good battle, it all comes down to the final showdown.

When author J.K. Rowling waved her wand and pulled out all the stops of her seventh book, it was difficult to imagine anybody encapsulating so much action into a workable movie. With the stratagem of splitting the last story in half, director David Yates achieves the best possible outcome we could hope for in the napalm-fueled finale as loose ends are tied up, long-awaited make-out sessions begin and our heroes pass the hardships of growing up with flying colors — Gryffindor red and gold all the way.

One near-forgotten character after another in the “Harry Potter” universe turns up at one point or another: Harry’s old Hogwarts classmates and teachers, Voldemort’s cronies and of course the dearly departed, as Harry meets up with the spirits of more than a few loved ones who have passed on, including his parents (Geraldine Somerville, Adrian Rawlins), Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) and Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon).

Dumbledore’s gruff brother Aberforth (Ciarán Hinds) and grim Hogwarts ghost The Grey Lady (Kelly Macdonald) are among the few newly introduced personalities, with Steve Kloves’ screenplay keeping things trim and uniquely confined to the theater, leaving the film a separate entity from its print origin.

Some moments stay the same, some are tossed out entirely and others are altered just enough. Book purists may gripe, but isn’t it enough to have the right conclusion even if it’s done in a different way, you silly Muggles?

The drawback of releasing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in halves is the prolonged sensation for fans that everything is coming to an end. And, while all good things must do this, it’s tempting to pull a Voldemort and devise a way to make it last forever at the expense of the series’ soul.

If there’s one thing audiences should take away from the franchise, it’s that being able to say farewell is the most powerful magic trick of all. That’s how Harry would want it.

But, in all honesty, if Rowling wants to stir up another cauldron’s worth of adventures, I’ve got a standing reservation on the Hogwarts Express.

Now playing at the West Theatre and at Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

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