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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 premieres tonight

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If last year's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" marked the beginning of the end with a gripping feeling of doom and gloom, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" wraps things up once and for all on a note of melancholy.

Oh, it's dramatic, to be sure: gorgeous, somber and startling as the young wizard faces his destiny and fights the evil Lord Voldemort. But the end of this staggeringly successful movie franchise, an epic fantasy saga spanning eight films over the past decade, provides a necessary emotional catharsis for Harry and for us. Even those who aren't ardent Potterphiles — who aren't waiting in a line around the theater with their homemade wands and hand-drawn lightning scars — might find themselves getting unexpectedly choked up a couple of times.

That's always been the real magic of the series, based on J.K. Rowling's novels: that mixture of the exotic and the everyday, the otherworldly and the utterly relatable. No longer the innocent children they were when they entered Hogwarts, Harry, Ron and Hermione are growing up and moving on, and so must we. That the future of the wizard world hangs in the balance in this final installment is only part of the tale.

Still, director David Yates has accomplished the difficult task of bringing it all to a close in satisfying fashion. Having directed the last four of the eight films, Yates has provided a momentum and cohesion to the "Harry Potter" canon, which has gotten progressively darker and more mature. And Steve Kloves, who's written all but one of the screenplays in the series, has once again risen to the challenge of trying to please purists and casual viewers alike in adapting Rowling's revered writing.

It's hard to imagine how complicated this must have been, given the density of the mythology, even though the final book was divided into two films. (Although the epilogue, which features some of the main characters decked out in grown-up makeup, does seem a bit cheesy and hasty and it might inspire a few giggles.)

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