Last night, I attended the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. This blog post is about the experience of watching the movie and what it meant to me. If you aren't a fan of Harry Potter, 1) why are we friends and 2) this is clearly not the blog for you. Just stop reading, go in the corner, and look at your life, look at your choices. Seriously. Communist.
I know objectively it might seem kind of silly. After all, it was just a movie, Harry Potter is just some books...but honestly, if that's the stance you take than I kind of feel sad for you. Because life is a whole lot more fun when you fully embrace the things you care about and take joy in the community they bring. I was at that movie last night with 10 great friends and while we were all looking forward to different things and had different expectations, it was the whole experience that made it something I will never forget.
Last night was special, and not just because it was a great movie and a fun time. Harry Potter has been part of my life now for about 10 years. I received the first three books for Christmas in 1999 when I was in my sophomore year of college. I remember hearing stirrings about the series before then, and the son of my choral director dressed up as Harry for Halloween (complete with a golden snitch tied to a stick that he could swing around and catch), but I didn't really know anything about it. As usual, it was my Stepmom who gifted me the books (she also got me hooked on the Wheel of Time series--again, as a Christmas present) and when I sat down to read them over the holiday break....that was it. I was a goner.
When the Goblet of Fire came out in the summer of 2000, I inhaled and it then had to settle in for the long wait for Order of the Phoenix. By that time in 2003, I was working at the William and Mary Bookstore and actually worked the midnight release party. I remember walking the store, seeing all the kids, students, and grownups in costume, listening to readings of the previous books and just feeling privileged to be a part of something that was fun, had real depth and resonance, and best of all: encouraged kids to read. As soon as we started handing out the books at midnight, kids all over the store plunked themselves down on the floor and started reading. As someone who spent most of my childhood summer split between the library and the pool (where I would read the books from the library) it was one of the most thrilling things I have ever seen.
Half-Blood Prince came out in July 2007, when I was studying for the Virginia State Bar examination. I had pre-ordered it from Amazon.com and spent the morning waiting for Felicia, our mail carrier. As soon as I saw her walking from the house next door, I ran out the door to meet her. That entire summer I took one day off from studying--the day I got my hands on that book. For Deathly Hallows, it was more of a party. A group of friends and I drove down to Richmond where a friend owned a bookstore and was having a midnight release party. We snagged our books, and I think I made it to 4:00 that morning before I had to get some sleep. The next day, I read the book in my condo--lying in bed, sitting in a chair, lying on the couch...just picture a montage of me reading in various places.
My point is that despite my life taking me from college, to law school, to the bar exam, to an actual job and my own home, there has always been Harry. And of course, there has always been the movies. It became a tradition in my family to go to the Harry Potter movies and since the Rileys all have red hair we definitely got some "it's the Weasleys!" comments. Half-Blood Prince was my first midnight show, and the mixture of excitement, exhaustion, and adrenaline was kind of addicting. Attending a midnight show of Deathly Hallows: Part 2 wasn't just a sure thing, it was a damn requirement.
Because in a lot of ways, it's an end. Sure we have Pottermore from JKR, and maybe some supplementary stuff coming in the next few years, but the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 movie represented the last of the things to look forward to, the last thing to speculate, argue, and dream about. No more countdowns to something new and no more attending midnight show. It definitely doesn't mean Harry Potter as a fandom is over--I fully intend to keep having those Harry Potter themed parties and discussing the books and movies with my friends. Harry will live on in conventions, fanfic, and fan art. There's really no limit to the creativity that people are capable of once you give them a little push...and JKR has done that and more.
So last night was fun, unforgettable, but also a little sad. After all, it was an end. I always try to keep my expectations low when going to a movie like this--as a huge fan of the source material, it sometimes feels that you are setting yourself up for disappointment. I was so nervous through the entire movie that my legs would occasionally shake and I had to let out deep calming breaths. I think the reason I was so tense was first, that it was great movie that made the stakes feel real, but also that I wanted to love it so much, I wanted everything I loved from the book to be there, and I was scared (yes, actually scared) that the filmmakers would, at least from my perspective, "mess it up."
I won't give any spoilers here...but let me just say that there was not one instance where I was disappointed. Everything I wanted was there. All the moments, all the words, everything. This movie used the most of JKR's actual text than any other, and it made a huge difference. It was just...perfect. I can't say if I will feel that way in a few years, after I have seen it endless times and analyzed it from every corner. But right here, right now, I can say that it was one of the best movie-going experiences I have ever had. But not just because it was a great film: because it meant something to me. I felt that the movie makers really respected the material and the fans. That they loved it as much as we did, and that it meant as much to their lives as it has to mine.
So in the end...all was well.