We are told by those who claim to know, that there are people on this planet who do not have the cinematic canon of “Harry Potter” committed to memory — otherwise sentient beings who could not tell you the difference between a Horcrux and a house-elf, who might not even know why the dark wizard Voldemort wants to kill young hero Harry. Some of those folks might be tempted to miss the first part of the series finale, which opens Friday, on the mistaken notion that six movies in, it’s too late to catch up. For these unfortunates, we offer this brief magical education.
The basic mythology: As an infant, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) miraculously survived a murderous attack by the evil and xenophobic Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), one that seemed to destroy Voldemort and left Harry with a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt on his forehead. To protect the orphaned Harry from the attentions of Voldemort’s revenge-seeking followers, the Death Eaters, Harry was placed in the custody of his “Muggle” (non-magical) relatives, the Dursleys. On his 11th birthday, Harry learned about his magical gifts and entered Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As prophesied years earlier by one of his professors, the owlish, odd Sybill Trelawney (Emma Thompson), Harry becomes the Chosen One — the only person capable of killing Voldemort, who, as the series evolves, recovers from his injuries and gathers increasing power.
Where we are now: At the end of the sixth film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” Harry and Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) figured out that Voldemort had cheated death by dividing his soul and concealing the pieces in magical items called Horcruxes. Two of the charms have been destroyed, but Harry and his best friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), believe they must destroy the five others in order to finally defeat Voldemort. Meanwhile, Voldemort ordered Harry’s long-time schoolmate nemesis, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), to kill Dumbledore. When he was unable to, Dumbledore’s own ally and Hogwarts professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) stepped in to finish the job.
Full story: ‘Harry Potter’ countdown: A primer for muggles