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Final Harry Potter Film Brings Series To A Close

Seven novels, eight movies achieve unparalleled success

From left: Emma Watson as Hermione, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry and Rupert Grint as Ron, in a scene from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” The three actors have starred in all eight Harry Potter films. (click for larger version)
July 13, 2011
In today's world, consumers won't wait in line to buy much. When they do it's for one or more of these reasons: bragging rights, the scarcity of a product, and the desirability that product features.

Apple's periodic release of new gadgetry seems to provoke this behavior. So do the release of new video games and the opening of mega-hyped motion pictures.

Surprisingly, in the final years of the last century, people around the world also began standing in line to buy books. Books? Yes, books.

When J.K. Rowling's first tome "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was released stateside in 1998, it became a huge hit seemingly overnight. In the beginning, its legions of admirers may have been children, but Harry and his friends and their plight soon became "must-reads" for adults, too.

When each of the six subsequent volumes was released, devotees of all ages lined up at bookstores around the world. Sometimes in costume, sometimes in pajamas, readers waited for the midnight release to get their Potter fix. Sleepless weekends ensued as fans eventually read all 4,100 pages (U.S. versions) over the course of 10 years.

All in all, the novels have been translated into 67 languages. Over 450 million copies have been sold.

The "Harry Potter" movie series has achieved its own nearly incomparable success. Seven novels have been translated into eight films, the last one released this week. The first seven movies are all found among the top 35 worldwide box office hits of all time.

The Harry Potter saga may best be described as a battle between good and evil. Magical powers are the privilege of both sides, but one profound difference seems to tip the scales toward evil.

That difference is the sophistication of the evil forces. Their dedication to destruction and dominance has festered for a generation, building strength to the point of near invincibility.

Their main opposition is the school kids, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint). Throughout the stories these three mature from children into strong young adults. They identify their gifts, and nurture them from comical to powerful and beyond. Over time we see them question their fates, develop self-awareness and accept the inevitability of their purpose. It is their pure courage that makes them any match at all for evil.

While it's true that the British didn't invent acting, their mastery of it – whether on stage or in film – cannot be denied.

Selecting three children to star in the "Harry Potter" series may have caused the producers some anxious moments. Fortunately, the choices they made become one of many magical elements of the film series.

"Potter" has made true stars out of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint. Only 11, 10 and 12 years old respectively when the first movie was made, they have matured before our eyes. They have also achieved remarkable professional progress, matching the demands of the material as it deepens and darkens.

In addition to its three capable stars, the "Potter" series has employed a veritable who's who of British actors. Kudos to just a few of these pros who respect their roles, no matter how large or small: Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman, Jim Broadbent and Jason Isaacs.

A true product of our times, the "Harry Potter" film series is loaded with special effects. And, they are amazing. Still, the films do not depend upon them. Rather, the effects are used to enhance the telling of the story – they are never used in place of it.

This week the final installment, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" opens. Two things are certain. First, people will be more than willing to stand in line to see it. Second, it is assured a slot among the top 35 box office hits of all time.

One other thing is likely. And that is that fans who've adored the books, published from 1998 to 2007, and the movies, released between 2001 and 2011, will feel a genuine sense of loss. Still, for 13 years they lined up for Harry and he never disappointed. It doesn't get much better than that.

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