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Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times Knight at the Movies: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times
2011-07-20

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"I open at the close" reads the inscription on the magical, golden object that the young man with the lightning-shaped scar on his forehead draws from his coat pocket. The precious article had been left to the young man, an orphan since birth, in the will of his elderly mentor—the recently murdered, gay headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Dumbledore.

The golden talisman, in the hand of our young hero—itself a neat metaphor for the millions of audience members enthralled by Harry Potter mania for a decade—finally opens to reveal one last secret at the conclusion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (hereinafter HP8).

It's been a long 10 years waiting for that little golden orb to open—a delicious 10 years in which we fans of fantasy films have reveled in the intricate, dark pleasures of all eight of the Warner Bros. film adaptations of the J.K. Rowling best-sellers (each scripted by Steve Kloves—a gargantuan task). There has never been a film series to compare with the Harry Potter saga and, not surprisingly, the box-office figures for this final installment have been off the charts, setting new records and surely pleasing studio accountants who are assured of bragging rights for at least the next little while. Laudatory as the financials are, though, it's the creative fulfillment of Rowling's vision that is the most impressive accomplishment of the franchise.

Not having read the dictionary-sized novels, I have come to each new Harry Potter movie with fresh, delighted expectations. That's how high the bar was set for me with the first installment, 2001's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Credit that movie's director, Chris Columbus, and his crack design team for getting the look and feel of the magical locations just right; Kloves for penning a script that winnowed down (by all reports) Rowling's digressive tween tome while being faithful to it; John Williams for another magical, memorable film score (his "Hedwig's Theme" has presided over each of the subsequent movies as surely as Harry's owl familiar); and Rowling herself for insisting on an all-British cast that has populated the movies with a dream ensemble. Then there's the young trio at the center of the films—Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Rupert Grint as Ron and Emma Watson as Hermione—who have held its own against these acting titans while giving audiences the pleasure of becoming pseudo-parents and watching "their children" grow and mature with each outing.

Director David Yates, who has helmed the final quartet of movies, assuredly oversees the cycle to its finish. The battle between the good wizards (Harry & company) vs. the baddies (Voldemort & his minions) occupy the bulk of the picture (which resumes, like the Flash Gordon serials of old, with the last scene of the previous installment—in this case, showing a triumphant, malevolent Ralph Fiennes, as Lord Voldemort, clutching the elder wand).

The emotional journey of Harry, Ron and Hermione, as well as several of the other characters, plays out as the battle races toward its conclusion. There will be painful reassessments, the resolution of budding romances, and, mostly, a maturity as the trio has together learned how to deal with the impact of death on their lives. There's really no point in reiterating the intricacies of the plot beyond that simple summary (and if you haven't been around for the previous seven movies are you really all that interested anyway?). Both seasoned viewers and the curious will find lots of familiar fantasy blockbuster set pieces here—battle scenes, chase sequences, cliffhangers, etc.

One of the particular pleasures in this final film for the millions of faithful fans is seeing the old locations and minor cast members return (alongside the leads)—it's like a pleasurable family or high school reunion. We get to go back into Gringotts, the mysterious goblin bank; spend more time—just about all in fact—back at Hogwarts itself (although the wear and tear from the final battle on the school is fearsome); and, best, get screen time with old favorites like Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Matthew Lewis and Alan Rickman. There are even glimpses of Emma Thompson, out actor Miriam Margoyles and others (although I didn't catch sight of either Imelda Staunton or Zoe Wanamaker).

As this decade of Harry Potter cinematic experiences wraps, I find myself in a bit of a nostalgic funk and yearning for more. Rowling understood this dual reaction and provided her readers with a coda that takes place 19 years after the conclusion of the battle—something HP8 replicates. It is with this epilogue that I must report my one real twinge of regret when it comes to this last movie and the series itself.

As we watch Harry & Co. putting their own kids on the train for Hogwarts, it was nice to see how everyone had paired up so neatly and produced such darling little sprites. However, as my eyes scanned the platform and the magical train, taking in the emotional goodbyes, I realized with a start that something was missing. Where were the gay characters? You mean not even that blond cretin Draco Malfoy—who screamed gay through the entire series—turned out not to be a poofta? Really?! All this fuzzy, feel-good wizardry and wonderment and fine talk about heroes and courage and not one gay character other than the dead Dumbledore (whose proclivities were not announced during the movies but in interviews Rowling gave after the fact)? Not one? Nineteen years later and not one? What gives?

So, as I have done hundreds of times when watching movies that I love (and a lot that I don't) I mentally rewrote what I was seeing on the screen at the conclusion of HP8. I imagined queer characters that weren't immediately apparent mixing right in with their heterosexual doppelgangers. In my mind, then, that little golden orb with its inscription, "I open at the close" wasn't the last of the secrets left to be uncovered in the realm of Harry Potter's world and I eagerly await further revelations. They will be magical and fantastic and breathtaking—and gay as a goose. I guarantee you.

Check out my archived reviews at www.windycitymediagroup.com or www.knightatthemovies.com . Readers can leave feedback at the latter website.


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