“This boy will be famous, a legend”¦ Every child in our world will know his name.” Written more than 14 years ago, this quote from the opening pages of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” is almost unnerving in its accuracy. In worlds both real and fictional, Harry Potter is indeed a legend. Starring in seven bestselling books and eight blockbuster films can have that effect (not to mention defeating a dark lord as an infant).
Before proceeding, I should disclose that I have been a diehard Potter fan since I was eight years old. I won’t bother feigning objectivity: I think Rowling’s books are perfect and I have been thoroughly impressed and entertained by each film adaptation. As such, it probably goes without saying that this summer marked a pretty big moment in my life and the lives of millions. On July 15, the “Harry Potter” saga as we know it ended with the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”
Possibly the most critically lauded of the “Potter” movies (though that honor may remain with Alfonso Cuaron’s game-changing “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) and already the most financially successful, the final installment in the film series advanced the remarkable feat that began with Rowling’s debut novel. It’s odd to recall that this multi-billion dollar franchise can be traced to a simple, earnest children’s book. The world created in “Philosopher’s Stone” seems, in some ways, too pure to be put in a category with the countless other franchises we’ve been exposed to over the years. Rowling’s writing throughout the series is personal, charming, and passionate; she addresses heavy issues like death, violence, and oppression with great skill and tenderness. How often are these adjectives associated with the inspirations for theme parks and Lego sets?
Luckily for Rowling’s fans, the film series never lost sight of the novels’ humanity. The motives behind the adaptations were, undoubtedly, fiscal, but the “Potter” movies achieved much more than financial success. Beginning with Chris Columbus’s endearingly wide-eyed, if overly faithful, adaptation and concluding with David Yates’s action-packed final act, the film series offered audiences a unique chance to watch beloved characters grow up onscreen, while maintaining a consistent level of quality. That the films didn’t match Rowling’s literary achievement was inevitable. That there wasn’t a bad film in the whole series is truly worth celebrating.
Viewers worldwide have enjoyed watching Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint inhabit their roles as Harry, Hermione, and Ron for the past decade. Their growth (in maturity, skill, and appearance) was an integral component of the films’ appeal. Likewise, the increasing darkness of the “Potter” films worked so well because the ominous tones felt deserved and appropriate rather than cheap or superficial. It hasn’t fully sunk in that I will no longer have these films to look forward to every one or two years.
Countless headlines have referred to this time as “the end of an era,” which it is; we will no longer experience the thrill of anticipating each new novel and film. Yet many neglect to mention what remains: seven wonderful books and eight remarkable movies to appreciate and enjoy for years to come.