There is, in every decade, a phenomenon that marks it. It etches the world and casts its name into Eternity’s elusive memory, forever remembered, forever loved.
In 1990, J.K. Rowling was sitting in a train station. While she was waiting for the delayed train that would take her from Manchester back to London, young Harry Potter was born. In a few years, this bespectacled, black haired boy took over the world. Harry Potter became a phenomenon.
J.K. Rowling has quite an imagination. And what an imagination it is! She showed us a world whose society, culture, beliefs, politics, educational system, social mores and traditions are so like ours. It is a world like our own, but not quite. She gave us Quidditch, she made us wonder what butterbeer tastes like, she showed us Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, she singlehandedly sacked Boogeyman and replaced him with Dementors, and she gave humankind another scientific name, Muggles.
She is also blessed with a frightfully terrific talent at writing.
I remember the first time I met Harry; it wasn’t the most promising of memories. It was through an article in Newsweek chronicling how the release of the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, has made millions of people in the world line up outside bookshops. It didn’t interest me much, I didn’t know Harry then. (Though I wondered what force in the universe made people line up the whole night outside of bookstores – of all places.)
I had my answer two years later. Despite the initial disinterest, I wanted to know what the hype was all about. I borrowed the books from classmates who had Php 1,500 in their family budget to spare. (Naturally, I was never able to read them in chronological order, but no matter.) I read my first Harry Potter book, The Goblet of Fire, with a blanket over my head. I knew the book was good when I laughed out loud in the middle of the night. A year after that I was able to read another two Harry Potter books, The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets. The other four came years later. J.K. Rowling didn’t have me at ‘Hello’. J.K. Rowling had me in the last thirteen words of the first chapter of The Goblet of Fire, “95 miles away, a boy named Harry Potter woke up with a start.” (I’m still not certain how that happened.)
In both the first book and the first movie, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the half-giant Rubeus Hagrid, tells the scrawny boy who had just turned eleven a few minutes before, “Yer a wizard Harry.” They are in the middle of nowhere, there is a storm, and the scrawny boy’s dreadful, portly family, The Dursleys, cower in the background. The boy’s name is Harry Potter, and he is a wizard. But he doesn’t know that at the moment so somebody has to tell him. Hours later, Harry is introduced to the wizarding world, which, a decade ago, had already been introduced to him.
And so starts Harry Potter’s adventures. The world followed. And the rest was, as they say, history.
Now, the series has drawn to a close: the horcruxes has been broken, Hogwarts has become a battleground and allies and foes meet in one final showdown. As Harry says to Lord Voldemort, “Let’s finish this where it started. Together!” we are reminded that this is an epic tale, and the hero fights alone in the end.
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows 2 gave a satisfying conclusion to a franchise that deserves nothing less. Tears were shed, mouths laughed, hands clapped – we know it was a befitting finale to the decade-old tale.
The eighth movie was the best Harry Potter movie for me simply because it was the only one which satisfied me through and through. The first four were okay (good, even), the next two were dreadful, and the seventh I cast-off as a more of a build-up to the tension-filled finale. This last movie, now this was inspired.
Harry, Ron and Hermione have grown up. They are no longer the children they once were, their innocence had been clamped down by what they had gone through. No longer do they prance around like children on a mission to satisfy their curiosity, here, they know the danger of their task and face it with both trepidation and bravery. They fear for their lives and for others, but they accept the risk and the inevitability. Hermione isn’t the-girl-who-knows-everything anymore, Ron has become mature – they are no longer the insecure lovebirds who can’t quite tell each other how they feel. After four movies, they finally kiss. (And when they smile after, I know everyone in the audience smiled too.) But the giddiness ends quickly. Ron and Hermione both fade into the background as the movie lets Harry walk the hard path every hero has to take, Harry has become somber, he is now a fighter, and he is ready.
Other characters have changed too. Neville Longbottom the most. No longer is he the chubby, unexceptional, poor Neville. He has become lean, tall, strong, and the go-to guy of the school – and he has the right amount of facial stubble to prove it. (In the books, Harry and Neville became Aurors – who would’ve thought Neville would become one? But he did.) Neville is the wizard poster child of loser-turned-hot-cool-guy (I don’t know about you, but I did not see that one coming.) He wielded The Sword of Gryffindor, beheaded Nagini, and in my head he gets the girl in the end (said girl being Luna Lovegood.. yeah, I’m shipping them). There is much to be surprised in him.
Draco Malfoy finally, grew up. He is no longer the snarling, Slytherin bully. From the Half-Blood Prince we have seen his vulnerability, confusion and helplessness. He is still all of these things in the last movie, and more – there is a haunting in his eyes now. It was a bless to see him in Hogwart’s side (Initially. But I don’t blame him when he walked over, it was his parents after all. Besides, all three of them walked away from the battle.)
As it ends, I remember the great many characters I have come to know over the years. Strangers whose names were once foreign to my tongue now echo with eager familiarity: Professor Severus Snape, Bellatrix Lestrange, Professor Minerva McGonagall, Lucius Malfoy, Rubeus Hagrid, Professor Albus Dumbledore, Dobby, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Tom Marvolo Riddle/Lord Voldemort. I love the fact that almost each supporting character is played by a British film legend, Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Maggie Smith (Professor Minerva McGonagall), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), Michael Gambon (Professor Albus Dumbledore), Ralph Fiennes (Tom Marvolo Riddle/Lord Voldemort). I’ll stop throwing names now. But it can’t be helped. They – each of them – has the ability to steal the scene just by standing there (or in Bellatrix case, sashay madly around). All they have to do is be in the camera angle, and my eyes zero in to them.
I believe this blog post has gotten a bit too long (and there’s already too much pictures). I just didn’t have the heart to have this in a few mediocre paragraphs. Ten years of unparalleled emotional investment wouldn’t just permit that.
Look how much you made me care, J.K. Rowling.