I first met Harry Potter while I was in seminary, after my teacher-sister recommended this great book one summer while I was visiting home. She couldn’t stop reading it. Or listening was more like it, as the first few books we each passed around were the brilliantly produced audio books. There were days that my husband came home to find me in our tiny seminary apartment, sitting on the couch, listening to a tape player with tears streaming down my face, with the wide eyes of shock, holding my hands up to him to be quiet and not interrupt this crucial moment.
So then, it’s been around ten years of friendship - for some others I know it’s been even longer. Ten years of passionate reading, ten years of watching this young boy become a man, along with his two loyal and talented best friends, Hermoine and Ron. Ten years of experiencing a story so near and dear to our hearts come alive on the big screen. So it was with ten years of memories that I walked into a late-night showing of the final chapter of Harry Potter movies, The Deathly Hallows Part 2, by myself, popcorn in hand, and filled with a pile of mixed emotions. Grief, excitement, pure happiness and anticipation, sorrow and anxiety.
What I have marveled at in this past month while HP7.2 has been in the theaters, is the community that has joined Harry Potter fans around the world and how many of us can name these very same emotions. One friend had spent the week prior to the opening watching every movie one after the other, and admitted he had cried at the end of every movie. We talked about how emotional it was, how it was like saying goodbye to a friend we have cared for over the years, watched grow and change, and even knowing how it will end did not change or lessen the intensity of the emotions.
This friend watched it at midnight on opening day, and told me later that at moments of silence or quiet in the theatre, he could hear the audience audibly sniffling and crying. In the time since I’ve seen the movie, I’ve had conversations with people from around the country about Harry Potter, both the movies and the epic nature of the series of books. Most have shared they were satisfied: satisfied that the movie stayed true to the books, that this finale did justice to the story and the characters we have loved and followed for so long.
(What follows contains some spoilers - so if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie already, read on at your own risk...) Readers of Harry Potter will find this finale to be the most overtly Christological in theme and content: The significance of sacrificial love that conquers all evil in the end, the sacrifices offered by Snape and the Weasley’s which are rooted in community and love, Harry’s willingness to die for his loved ones when it comes to that, Harry’s death and then resurrection. Movie goers looking for these themes may be slightly disappointed that they are subverted by the extravagance of the final battle scenes. Big explosions, comic relief, and good-verses-evil standoffs have in some ways outplayed the more subtle themes of sacrificial love-conquering-evil.
But even so, lovers of Harry Potter will not be disappointed with this movie finale. Scenes that are loved in the book are present in the movie, actors shine in ways they have been building toward for years, and the cinematography and animation are seamless. Even now, as the movie has been showing for almost a month, moviegoers will find themselves swept up in the epic that has brought together people from all over the world, who have loved and lived with Harry Potter and are excited and grieved to see it all ending. If you’re looking for themes within the movie to preach on, you won’t be disappointed, but note as well the community that has built up around this epic story: a community founded and based in love.
Harry Potter 7.2 is a must-see, so the only question is... 3D or not 3D? You can’t go wrong either way, so grab your popcorn and enjoy!
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