As Harry Potter turns 20, it is difficult to summarize in reflection the effect it has had on my life. No, I am not one of those die-hard fans who would go so far as to try and make Quidditch a real sport, or on the virtual other end of the spectrum, someone who would go to the ends of the Earth to condemn the books and everyone who reads them to hell because of the large element of wizardry and witchcraft. But I was someone who became quickly enamored of the series just as it was taking off, and someone who spent a good portion of their teenage years with the nickname “Harry Potter” because of my shaggy hair and round glasses—so much so that when I switched to rectangular frames, people actually yelled at me for daring to change it up.
Missing plot points notwithstanding (No Quidditch House Cup? Barely any Sirius Black? Little to no emphasis on who the hell the Half-Blood Prince was?), the Harry Potter film series may be one of the most perfect incarnations of book-to-film adaptations. For one, they depicted J.K. Rowling’s prose almost word for word on-screen (even the more self-indulgent passages); and yes, there were some fantastical moments that could never be recreated visually the same way they were in our minds, but granted Warner Brothers does not reboot the series in twenty or thirty years, these images are as close as we are going to get to the real thing. For another, they had the sense to ensure that the actor signed to each role would continue appearing in every film. This may seem like a slight tidbit to some, but the fact that ten years went by and the only major actor switch-up occurred because the original actor passed away is nothing short of a miracle. There is no film series to my knowledge that has kept the same cast for as long a period.
But while the consistent actors was something done so incredibly right, it was the casting of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson in the three lead roles that was nothing short of brilliant. I remember being a little befuddled at seeing their faces when Philosopher’s Stone was coming out, and being particularly disappointed by that first entry. But by the time Prisoner of Azkaban rolled around, they were the epitome of everything Rowling wrote. These three actors were irreplaceable, and seeing them come into their own with each passing film is, quite simply, spectacular. Watching these films years from now with my own children (God-willing, of course), I think their growth as actors and more specifically, characters in this franchise, will be the most amazing and fascinating aspect of this series.
And while I still feel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows could have been one film if Yates and Co. had employed some creative editing, more montages and a whole lot less of an extended camping trip through the forest, I think the reality is that everyone did not want the party to end. They extended it to two movies so the film crew and the audience did not have to say goodbye so soon. We watch those children grow up into young adults; we as an audience also growing in varying ways. They did not want to let go, just as much as we did not want to let go. Sitting with a huge, sold out crowd and listening to so many individuals sobbing uncontrollably at the sight of some of these beloved characters lying dead on the ground (one specific “couple” lying side-by-side elicited some of the biggest gasps and wails I have ever heard in a theatrical setting, minus a rather insufferable incident during X-Men: The Last Stand which is better left forgotten) leads me to believe I am not the only one who feels this way.
So thank you Ms. Rowling, along with directors Mr. Columbus, Sr. Cuarón, Mr. Newell and Mr Yates… and yes, thank you, Harry Potter. Thanks for all the laughs, the scares, the gasps, the raw emotion. And a special thanks for letting some of us mirror our growing up with your own.
(Even if The Cursed Child kind of ruins everything.)