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By Michael Calleri

After seven books and seven previous films, the Harry Potter saga comes to a very entertaining conclusion in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2." Whether or not this will satisfy dedicated fans of the hugely popular novels is anybody's guess. Potter adherents would certainly relish more of Harry's wizardry, but J.K. Rowling, the series' author, vows that there will be no future Potter works.

However, after watching the new movie, it's obvious that there is definitely an opening for another film. Hollywood studios have never looked away from the possibility of squeezing more money from an enterprise, even if the creator of said enterprise opposes it.

The dark and dangerous finale is packed with plenty of adventure. Splitting the source novel into two movies was a controversial choice. I thought "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" lacked power. It seemed to be treading water, biding time, as it were. It would absolutely have been better if only one feature had been made from Rowling's last Harry Potter book. "Part 1" didn't fully satisfy.

Cliffhangers don't really work in today's entertainment environment. Besides, how can a cliffhanger work if most of the audience -- the legions of readers -- already knows how the story progresses and concludes?

But split the book they did, and now we have Harry, Hermione and Ron all grown up. It's a given that an older, lightly bearded Harry has come to the point in his association with Hogwarts and magical powers that he has to put up or shut up. It's vital that he have a showdown with the creepy Lord Voldemort, whose villainy is brought to wicked life thanks to a superb performance by Ralph Fiennes.

The battle will take place over a succession of scenes, and they are the highlights of a tightly written, smoothly directed finale. The Hogwarts world takes a dark turn as Voldemort makes his final violent thrust for total dominion. Harry, Ron and Hermione set out to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes, which are magical things that provide the malevolent Voldemort with his nasty energy.

Harry and his friends' quest leads them to a strange ride atop a seething dragon, a meeting with Aberforth Dumbledore, who is the brother of murdered Hogwarts school headmaster Albus, and a visit to a vault at Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Through it all, Voldemort and his gang of murderous Death Eaters, including the decidedly frightening Bellatrix Lestrange, prepare for the destruction of Hogwarts.

The Harry Potter films have always been about character, and I commend the men and women behind these pictures for staying true to the literary conventions established by Rowling.

With "Part Two," director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves avoid being flashy. There really is a wealth of substance to the story. As three main characters prepare for Harry's battle against Voldemort, the dialogue expertly advances the plot. The special effects are sometimes familiar and occasionally exceptional, but regardless of how familiar they may be, they are done extremely well. There's also a hint of romance between two of the three kids, but I won't tell you who is smitten.

One of the great pleasures of the movie, and of the overall series, is watching the many performers who comprise a veritable Who's Who of British stage, film, and television.

You've got the important trio -- Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron), and Emma Watson (Hermione). And in addition to Fiennes, look for Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson, David Thewlis, John Hurt, Ciaran Hinds and Gary Oldman, as well as Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Tom Felton, Gemma Jones and Michael Gambon.

Some characters return to enchant and entice fans with important moments, whereas others appear for only seconds, barely speaking a complete sentence. And their character names are still fantastical and alluring: Sirius Black, Severus Snape, Rubeus Hagrid, Professor Dumbledore, Helena Ravenclaw, Lucius Malfoy, Lavender Brown, Remus Lupin, Fleur Delacour, Prof. Minerva McGonagall, Bellatrix Lestrange, and the single-named Ollivander.

With Hogwarts at risk, a fact that dominates the film, there are dream sequences that take us back in time when Harry, Ron and Hermione really were children at a unique school for special students.

There is also the admirable consistency of respecting Rowling's words. By and large, the movies have remained faithful to the original books, in which the author concocted a complex tale, yet one that is quite accessible.

There is genuine satisfaction in having things explained. Are there surprises? Of course there are. Do you need to have read the books, especially this seventh book, to follow the goings-on? It would be helpful.

The feature is available in 2-D and 3-D. None of the special effects merit 3-D, which means there is no reason to pay extra for an image that would be dimmer in that format.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is successful at what it sets out to do, which is to tell the stories contained in beloved books in cinematic terms, and to avoid the excesses of special effects that can overwhelm the senses. The film is great to look at, wonderfully acted and has plenty of identifiable characters.

As jarring as the fight-to-the-finish is between Harry and Voldemort, this is still a film about happiness, albeit the kind of happiness you feel after graduating from wizard's school and vanquishing an enemy.

Harry deserves to be happy. You need to see the movie, to see if he is.

As for more Harry Potter films -- well, the truth of the matter is that Harry Potter really can't go on forever. This new picture is a fitting conclusion to a series that did many things right, including making kids eager to read. No sequel is necessary or warranted.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com July 19, 2011