Back in 2001, I was in 3rd grade. I had read some of the Harry Potter books, and I remember how excited I was when Sorcerer’s Stone was announced. I remember all the merchandise that came out, the multiple theater showings, and the fact that my overly religious teacher thought Harry Potter was promoting the “devil”, and my delight when I saw the VHS tape our living room table- left as a present from my parents. As the years rolled by, Harry Potter followed many of the ups and downs in my childhood and adolescence. It saw me through my elementary school innocence, my teen angst (I had all the Hot Topic merchandise to prove it.), and to the very end of my high school career. The films themselves reflected that. They began with a childlike whimsy, and gradually turned into the dark battle of good and evil.
Fast forward a decade later, freshly (as in probably two days prior) graduated from high school, my family and I stood sweating in the Southern humidity, in a disorganized line wrapped around as far as the eye could see- just to watch a free screening of the final installment of the Harry Potter franchise. The theater was packed to capacity, and I hated it. There were people bumping the back of my seat, some guy in the row behind us rudely placing his head between me and my sister so he could flirt with the girls in the row in front of us, and the poorly designed military theater smelled of body odor. I couldn’t wait to leave. As soon as the darkened Warner Brothers logo appeared on the screen, everyone fell silent. All was forgotten. And in that moment, for the last time we would see Harry Potter in all its glory. In modern film, there has never been anything else like the conclusion of Harry Potter. At the end of the film everyone cheered, but there was an air of sadness. Sure, everyone knew what was going to happen at the end of the movie, but it didn’t stop us from feeling. An era had officially closed. You know how iconic that final film was when the posters themselves had no title. Everyone already knew the inevitable was about to occur. At the end of Deathly Hallows Part II, as the theater goers were departing, I realized that a part of my life was over. I’m not being dramatic here. High school was done. I was getting ready to go to college, and start a new chapter. Many of my classmates were in the theater too, and now they are nothing but a hazy memory. Harry Potter, for many people represented something special.
To me, it told me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things, and that where you came from does not determine where you will end, and you can beat the odds.
Since the conclusion of the original Harry Potter films, I have had my fair share of victories and losses, disappointments and happy moments, and times where I didn’t know what to do.
Now 2016 is concluding. I found myself alone on a day off, and in need to see a movie. It’s been about two weeks since the release of Fantastic Beasts. I wanted to avoid the Thanksgiving crowds, so I finally went to see it. While I still have a soft spot for the world of Harry Potter, I hadn’t really thought about it in some time. I guess that’s a bad thing about growing up. You just don’t think about some things like you used to- but you never really forget them. Maybe that is why Hollywood is going through a remake and sequel crisis. It is tapping into the things that you don’t think about too much anymore, those things that strike you with nostalgia and emotions when you finally do. We want to remember a time when our lives were simpler. I am less than three weeks from COLLEGE graduation, and another major change in my life is about to occur. I thought back to Harry Potter again.
Fantastic Beasts is not the same tone as the original Harry Potter films. I believe it was trying to connect with the original audience. I felt my inner child glow with excitement as I heard the latest variation of John Williams’ magical score. Those of us that were children at the release of the first film are now grown up and see life in a different way. It’s been 15 long years and times have changed. We’re in a different era now. Fantastic Beasts is a genius blend of the whimsical and the dark. It aims to evoke a sense of nostalgia in us, but wants to make us think at the same time. At times, it seemed strangely real. It mainly utilizes themes of prejudice and fear of what’s different and unknown- things that are extremely relevant in our society today, particularly in America. At the conclusion of the film, I wasn’t unsettled, but I had encountered a strange sense of deja vu- a feeling that change is on the horizon. At the end of the film, I realized another part of my life is about to begin.
ADRIANA THE CINEMA SOLOIST