Harry Potter and Me

It’s been more than a week since I’ve seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2 and I still can’t stop thinking about. Not because it was amazing or perfect; actually it was far from it. As I’m sure many other Harry Potter fans will agree, it marked the end of our childhood and the end of an era. Personally, the Harry Potter era truly ended back in 2007 when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” came out and us HP fans realized there were no more books to anxiously look forward to.

However, we always had the movies. They were never as good as the books and never will be, but they gave us something to hold onto. I remember thinking back then that fansites, like mugglenet, were lucky to have the films to report on after the books had finished. It’s not that people would stop checking these websites, but that the sudden end of continuous flow of information and speculation over the books would surely slow down online traffic. For me, this became true. In high school, I would shamelessly hog a school library computer so that I could check in on the latest Harry Potter news. I would pore over the website, reading updates on JK Rowling’s fifth book, then sixth book, and finally, her seventh book. I loved seeing the first photos from the sets of “Goblet of Fire” and “Order of the Phoenix.” My almost daily visits to these HP sites stopped after the last book came out, mostly because there was nothing to read up on. There would be movie news, of course, but I could read and see the pictures anywhere – gossip sites, the front page of yahoo!, facebook. For me, the end of the books signalled the end of the Harry Potter era and, as the last book came out the summer after my high school graduation, my childhood.

So why did I still feel a sense of emptiness and sadness at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 whilst the credits began to roll? Again, it wasn’t because the film was the perfect ending I had envisioned. I think, rather, it was the realization that the films and the excitement over them was finally coming to a close. It was the last time that I would be going to a Harry Potter MIDNIGHT PREMIERE. It was the last time that I would be sitting in the dark with tons of other Harry Potter fans, cheering for our favorite book scenes come to life, waiting for that pivotal moment to occur on the big screen, and yes, crying during the scenes that caused us to close the book for a moment to search for Kleenex. There’s just something about being surrounded by other people who are just as dedicated and passionate as you; I suppose that’s why concerts, festivals, and conventions (like Comic-Con) are so much fun. Perhaps, we sometimes feel alone in our interests and tastes, and only truly feel connected when we are with our like-minded peers. There’s nothing quite like shouting along to your favorite song with 300 sweaty other people or sitting with your fellow fans and admiring all of the homemade character costumes hours before a movie starts.

I think it’s safe to say Harry Potter truly defined a generation. Many people, including myself, grew up with the novels and the films. Each book release marked a different period of my life. “Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Chamber of Secrets,” and “Prisoner of Azkaban” were three of my favorite books in 4th and 5th grade, along with “The Baby-Sitters Club” series. I even did my book report on “Chamber of Secrets” and recommended to book to my class, even if fantasy wasn’t their thing. The summer before 6th grade and middle school was filled with reruns of Unsolved Mysteries, TRL, and repeated readings of “Goblet of Fire,” which to this day, still remains as my favorite of the series. “Order of the Phonexix” was not released until the summer after before high school and coincided with my growing interest in emo/pop-punk/teenage angsty music. So while Harry angsted away all summer at Prive Drive, wishing he knew what was going on in the magical world, I sat at home discovering “angsty” bands like Finch and The Starting Line (LOL), dreaming of the day I could go to Warped Tour. “Half-Blood Prince” came out the summer after sophomore year and I remember how my friends and I all brought our copies to our friend Miranda’s 16th birthday party/sleepover. Yes, we were that nerdy and dedicated. I still remember how I would occasionally look around to see one of my friends just sitting down with the book propped open. Wait, I also remember now that my parents refused to let me sleep over that night…but at least I did get to go to Warped Tour for the first time ever that summer! Win!

“Deathly Hallows” was probably the biggest and most exciting book release for me. It was the summer of 2007 and the book came out a couple of weeks out after the film adaptation of “Order of the Phoenix” so it was a huge Harry Potter filled summer. I recall attempting to reread all of the books before the “Deathly Hallows” release, but eventually giving up and just reading HBP two days before at my college orientation. I was also going to my very first midnight book release for “Deathly Hallows” so as soon as I got back from orientation (where I had met a few people because of our mutual HP love!) I went to Ross to find a Ravenclaw-ish tie as I was going to dress up as Cho Chang, obviously. Because she’s Asian. And I’m Asian.

Here we are holding the Snitch!

My friend Janet and I with some guy from MuggleNet who we harrassed

The book was the perfect ending to the series and there were many moments that had me laughing and crying. The epilogue, on the other hand, well, I try to pretend that never happened. Overall, I think JK Rowling did an amazing job of crafting seven books that spanned a decade, and accomplishing the impressive feat of getting millions of kids to drop those Gameboys and pick up a 600 page book. She’s an incredible role model, not just because she inspired so many people to embrace literature and writing, but because she managed to pull herself out of a difficult situation and make something of herself. One of the best moments of my life was when I got to visit The Elephant House in Edinburgh, Scotland where she first began writing the series. She is a huge part of my childhood and I will never be able to thank her enough for filling so many years of my life with magic.

Completing the cycle

In front of The Elephant House!

So about those film adaptations. I remember hanging out my cousin’s house sometime in the 5th grade and picking up one of her children’s magazines. They had a blurb about the first Harry Potter movie and how they had casted three small kids as Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

the trio!

I recall looking at this photo and being incredibly jealous because these kids, who were the same age as me, were going to be in the movie versions of my favorite books! I understood I wasn’t English, but surely they could have made an exception for such a big fan, right? My jealousy sprung up again in the 7th grade shortly before the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when the commercials and billboards were everywhere. My friend and I would talk about how we were going to be Cho Chang once they started casting for the third movie, obviously because we were Asian and they needed an Asian!

My parents, brother, cousins, and I all went to see “Sorcerer’s Stone” at the Alexandria Theater on Geary Street in San Francisco. This theater is also where I went to see my very first movie (in an actual movie theater!), The Indian in the Cupboard, and where I went to see “Chamber of Secrets.” Sadly, the theater has been closed for years now, and just stands empty and without purpose. I think I’ll always associate that theater with some of the best memories from my childhood.

“Prisoner of Azkaban” came out the summer after freshmen year of high school and I remember seeing another favorite movie of mine, “School of Rock,” right afterwards. This was the first time I learned just how easy it was to movie hop at the cineplex. The third movie blew me away. Here, finally, was a worthy film adaptation. Chris Columbus did a decent job with the first two movies, but I had thought they were too literal…and sunny. There was no way it was always that sunny at Hogwarts! Cuaron captured the atmosphere, spirit, and magic of the books and I was thrilled. I know lots of HP fans dislike POA because they changed a few things and the Mauraders are never fully explained, but it was, until “Deathly Hallows Pt 1”, my favorite Harry Potter film. Almost everything about it was perfect and the Time-Turner Scene is so well done.

I still think one of my favorite nights ever was the night my friends and I all went to see “Goblet of Fire.” Prior this, I had always gone to the movie theaters with my parents because they wouldn’t trust me to go with my friends/without parental supervision (they were very, VERY, overprotective). This marked another important moment in my teenage years because I was finally able to go somewhere with my friends…at night! I finally felt like a real teenager at the age of 16. We all had pizza afterwards and discussed our favorite and least favorite parts of the movie.

“Order of the Phoenix” was my first midnight screening ever and it would be my first Harry Potter movie in IMAX 3D! My friends and I got there two hours before and passed the time by playing cards and just goofing off. There were hundreds of other HP fans waiting in line; many had brought their laptops to rewatch the previous films and many more had come costumed. There were girls dressed up as Beauxbaton girls, a few kids as house elves, and of course, lots of people as Hogwarts students (putting those black graduation robes to good use). Finally, midnight rolled around and we all excitedly walked/ran into the theater. My friends and I ended up in the first few rows, sadly, and my neck hurt during most of the movie because of this. I didn’t really enjoy this movie, mostly because SPOILER ALERT Sirius’s death felt so anti-climatic. However, I will always remember the excited cheers that erupted when the little glasses icon started to flash at the bottom of the screen, indicating the start of the 3D scene. It was the first HP film to have 3D and truthfully, it was a nice scene and all, but was not necessary at all.

“Half-Blood Prince” came out the summer before I went to England for study abroad and my friends and I all went to see it together. I don’t remember much about this occasion just because I think I was preoccupied with my forthcoming adventure. I do remember camera whoring with the poster and in the theater. Oh, and when Dumbledore said, “I’m not worried Harry…I’m with you…” I started choking up because I knew what was to come.

HBP poster in London's Chinatown!

Platform 9 and 3/4 at King's Cross!!!! This worker actually knew what we were looking for and directed us to it!

“Deathly Hallows Pt 1” opened last November and my friend Caitlin and I went to see it in IMAX together. Strangely, after being friends for all four years of college, it was the first movie we had ever gone together. The theater allowed seats to be chosen before the actual screening so there was virtually no line when we showed up around 11pm. Still there were a few people in costumes, most notably a really scrawny guy dressed up as Hagrid, complete with umbrella wand.

Caramel Digestives, tea, HP shirt...ready for midnight!

“Deathly Hallows Pt 1” was amazing. I had learned over the years to go in to these movies with low expectations because changes would be inevitable and I would never enjoy the films if I expect them the have every single moment or quote from the books. Despite my low expectations, I walked away completely satisfied and excited. I don’t think ever happened before with the other films and I was almost shocked by how true to the book they stayed! Many of the shots were breathtaking and the animation for the Three Brothers scene was glorious. The trio had improved their acting so much and I was very proud of them, even though I don’t actually know them in real life. I’ve watched Dan, Rupert, and Emma grow up on the big screen just as I’ve grown up and it’s really nice to see how they’ve matured as actors and young adults. I think I’ll always feel attached to them because we’re the same age and even though they aren’t the Harry, Ron, and Hermione I see when I read the books, they’ll always be The Trio.

“Deathly Hallows Pt 2” came out last week and sadly, was not as good as Part 1. I don’t know if it’s because they had less material to work with or if it’s because my expectations were too high as a result of Pt 1. The Metreon had 16 screenings, I believe, and the place was packed. The line even had to be moved outside of the building! Pt 2 was as a good send off to the film series and you can bet I shed a couple of tears during certain scenes. I did feel a little bit disappointed that the movie was not as epic as I had hoped, but I did like it. A lot. The epilogue, which I never liked in its book form, wasn’t as bad in the film. I thought it was perfect that they paired John William’s “Leaving Hogwarts,” from the last scene of “Sorcerer’s Stone,” with the image 19 years older Harry, Ron, and Hermione sending off their own kids to Hogwarts. It was then that I began to feel an incredible amount of sadness because it would be the last time the three of them would be on the big screen as their characters. Although I had hoped for a better last film, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending.

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