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Potter finale saves the best for last
Deathly Hallows an action-filled, emotional end to stellar film series
Cast members, from left, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe are shown in a scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2." - photo by Jaap Buitendijk

 AP Interactive: Click HERE to see how the Harry Potter series main characters have changed over the years, and how the series ranks at the box office all time.

Series finale bittersweet to local fans

‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2'

Starring: Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter and Tom Felton

Rated: PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.

Runtime: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Bottom line: Excellent end to a great series.

True landmark events are hard to come by in the world of movies, an art form dominated by disposable entertainment.

 But once in a great while a genuine milestone comes along, and we know we're witnessing a film that will come to symbolize an era, or in this case, the end of an era.

 Whether you are a fan or not, you cannot deny that the Harry Potter movie franchise has characterized the past decade as much as any other series.

And now it is coming to an end. This is a true movie event.

The Harry Potter franchise, I would argue, is the most enduring and successful continuing series in movie history. It isn't the most lucrative franchise in dollars amounts. But show me another series of eight movies that feature the same cast of characters played by the same actors (with the exception of Richard Harris, God rest him) and that tell one continuous story, while maintaining a level of quality on par with the Harry Potter movies.

The James Bond franchise has had to reinvent itself repeatedly. "Lord of the Rings" is outstanding but it's a mere trilogy. Not even the classic Thin Man series, which I love dearly, can claim to offer the same consistency in quality for as many films.

The Harry Potter franchise is in a class by itself.

So when I tell you that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II" might be the best film in the series, you know that it's a meaningful statement.

Director David Yates, screenwriter Steve Kloves and the entire cast — all of whom return, right down to the actors who play Harry's anonymous classmates — knew the expectations they would have to meet, and they have risen to the occasion in remarkable fashion.

The story, as if you need to be told, presents the climax of Harry's quest to destroy all of the horcruxes, the various objects in which Voldemort has hidden parts of his soul. The Dark Lord and his Death Eaters stalk Harry and terrorize his friends all the while. Eventually, the story will return us to Hogwarts for a final battle royal and the ultimate showdown between Harry and Voldemort.

Numerous secrets are revealed along the way, and just as many subplots find resolution. As the tagline goes, "It all ends here."

This film, unsurprisingly, packs in more action than the previous seven - we have a lot of ground to cover, after all - but it is also more emotional than any of its forebears. Many will shed a tear when the inevitable epilogue arrives.

But a handful of earlier moments aim squarely at our hearts as well. We mustn't forget that this all began with the death of Harry's parents, and that tragic event infuses this film.

Against all odds, the filmmakers have managed to live up to the historic hype that awaits this film's release. They may have even saved the best film for last.

The only flaw of "Deathly Hallows II" is one it shares with most blockbusters these days (say it with me): 3D. For your own sakes and ours, movie producers, please just give up on this technology.

"Deathly Hallows II" is being released in 2D, 3D and IMAX, and I highly recommend choosing 2D. That way, the money that would have gone toward the 3D premium can be used to buy a ticket to a second viewing.

Because this movie might garner more repeat viewers than any movie this decade. Not only is it good enough to experience on the big screen twice, but saying goodbye to Harry, Ron, Hermione and everyone else in the Potter universe is going to be quite difficult for some fans.

We have literally watched these characters and actors grow up. Parting is truly such sweet sorrow. Let's prolong it while we can.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.