Dear kabatch, schoolmates, brods, kabayan, officemates, Huttmates and friends :
A FEW DAYS from now, on 14th July to be exact (NZ time), theaters worldwide will open to the general public Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2, the eighth and final slice of the adventures of the boy-wizard. Across multiple media on various platforms across the seven seas and seven continents, you’ve probably heard more than you care to know about the franchise, so I won’t add any more superlatives, just two observations :
(1) First, that there will be relatively fewer people who will watch pirated, copied or otherwise illegal versions of the movie. Casual and serious fans alike have waited too long and have invested too much in both emotions and expectations to see an inferior version of what will probably be the most intense, action-filled and (expectedly) climactic episode. I can only be certain about my own experience, and after being enthralled and captivated by the storyline, imagination and near-perfect pacing of the saga, I wouldn’t want to diminish the experience with a poor picture, shadows of moviegoers flitting across the screen, and an imperfect suspension of disbelief which is de rigueur with all cinema in the fantasy genre.
(2) But the second observation is where it gets tricky : Notwithstanding the expectation of viewers to very high (literary and cinematic) standards, or at least to that which they have become accustomed (HPs 1- 7), or maybe because of it, I dare to say that better than three-fourths or 75% of the viewing public already know how the story will end, or at least have a pretty good idea how things will turn out (no spoilers nor spoiler alerts here, not to worry).
Whether or not statistics will bear me out, this is impressive. Movies have been adapted from novels and short stories before (Stephen King, John Grisham, Irving Wallace, J.R. Tolkien, etc.) but so rarely in filmmaking history have movies been crafted to become literally (pun intended) cinematic mirror images of the original work. As a result of both deliberate design and close collaboration between writer and production/directing teams, important plotlines and character development of key personages are given due attention. And yet, it is mind-boggling that interest and the box-office groundswell is, beyond already high expectations, at an all-time high.
But you’ve already heard so much of this and that, especially given the Hollywood culture of hyperbole. Knocking on wood, the entertainment industry on both sides of the Atlantic, the monolithic combine of film and downstream industries (movie merchandise, apparel and theme parks) cannot afford to see a less-than-supernova ending to the Harry Potter film franchise, with the box office gross expected to be between US$500 to 700 million at least. Anywhere in the civilized world, it is THE movie and box-office event of the year, to say the least.
It seems to require a gargantuan effort, but how to explain how a story about an idealistic, if naive boy wizard against a resurrected and much more powerful wizard captured the imagination of a jaded, desensitized and media-savvy generation of precocious online connoisseurs?
Attempting to just contemplate possible answers to this is daunting. Harry Potter is many things to many people : reinventing the age-old belief that the world of magic exists; the cutting edge special effects that have been a Harry Potter signature from HP & The Sorcerer‘s / Philosopher’s Stone; the byzantine, multi-layered and symmetrically-perfect storylines in HP & The Prisoner from Azkaban, HP & The Goblet of Fire and HP & The Half-Blood Prince, or simply the world-class acting from thespians like Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith and (not the least, heh heh) Ralph Fiennes. Simply put, there are so many reasons to enjoy the seven-part story.
Again, I can only speak from personal experience (what other kind is there?), while I put in words why the Harry Potter experience has been so memorable for me.
Before I launch into another few paragraphs extolling the franchise, a public relations exercise that the movie hardly needs, I confess that I bumped into those remarkable books at a very difficult time in my life. I was trying to pick up the pieces ( if any had remained ) of my life after relationship and career setbacks, and I had little to look forward to.
Without intending to, I absorbed the world in which Harry Potter and his friends inhabited. So real and yet so different was it from the mundane, impersonal world in which I existed. Enemies and dark forces awaited Harry at every turn, but his response to these were his emerging magical powers and his inexhaustible supply of gallantry, courage and love for his friends.
On the surface he was treated as an outsider-cum-newcomer to the wizarding world, but on a deeper level being a powerful wizard (and therefore an insider) was his birthright, he had only to assert himself and take what was his by destiny.
On more than one level this appealed to me, then and now. I had lost a considerable amount of hope and satisfaction in life, but the books reminded me that beyond the deep, dark forest there was a sunlit clearing that led to my destination.
Fast forward a few years later as a migrant in an unfamiliar land, I’m sometimes treated as an outsider and an unwanted newcomer. Only hard work and striving for goals will allow me to earn my rightful place as an accepted immigrant in my adopted land.
Yes, Harry was kind and compassionate, but when the moment required, he confronted his foes and vanquished them with love against hate, truth against lies, and good against evil. Sort of like telling me to confront my real-world problems head-on at full-tilt, the better to smash them to smithereens.
Now, multiply this template of applying Potter-good versus Voldemort-evil a hundred million-fold in everyday events in lives the world over, and I began to see why Harry’s creator and her masterpiece will most likely stand the test of time. Potter is Everyman, Lord Voldemort is Everything That Is Wrong in Life, and we are limited in our triumphs only by the creativity we use in righting such wrongs.
In the end, in each and every one of us is Harry, and on Thursday a hundred million strong of us will be battle-ready to smack our Lord Voldemorts out of existence. Now that is the true genius of J.K. Rowling.
Thanks for reading !
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- How Harry Potter Became the Boy Who Lived Forever (time.com)
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- Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived Forever (time.com)