I, much like the rest of you, saw Harry Potter this weekend and while I didn't cry or have any sort of profound moment during the film, I did have one as the screen faded to black at the end.
I felt release, an emotional exhale if you will. It was over, it ended as it should have ended, and the ten year journey that we, the collective culture of our day, have been on ended right. For all the conservatives that threw up such Hell when Harry Potter culture came into its own, its ultimately not a story about magic at all. It's about good winning out no matter what. And not only did that happen in the story, but it happened with the films as well.
The films started as children's fare, fairly shallow given the direction the story would head eventually, and grew as the actors and as the audience did. What they became was, I dare say, the greatest franchise in cinema. Has there been any other franchise that's retained the same cast and has remained as relevant? Even the cinematic brilliance of the Lord of the Rings films can't compare to the sheer magnitude of the Harry Potter phenomenon. If anything, Harry and Frodo share a similar place in literature and cinema. More than the fact that they were both trying to take out a Dark Lord and were both trying to destroy something that held the power of said Dark Lord inside it, they stand together as the most contemporary literary heroes we have.
More heroic than James Bond, more believable than Batman and more heart than Jack Sparrow, Harry Potter and his gang of friends have seemingly walked with a generation as they grew. All over Facebook and Twitter, you could read people referring to this ending of the series as the 'ending of their childhoods.' It's for this reason why I feel that Harry Potter eclipsed Frodo in a way because millions of people have literally grown up with Harry. The connection is deeper, the growth more pronounced and the devotion more solidified.
I didn't necessarily grow up with Harry. I was older than the target audience when it started. But I have been along for the ride, and what a ride it's been. I should say this about this particular film: As someone who appreciates a good full-circle Oprah moment, all of the little things in the film that were reminders of the journey we'd been on together were enchanting. The pixies, all the professors from the previous films, the basilisk in the chamber...it made everything come together to be a really beautiful present. A gift to the people who've invested in all things Potter.
And that's what finales should be, a gift to the people who love it. We see it on television far more than we see it on film. The FRIENDS finale tied up the loose ends and gave the people we loved for a decade the hope that we all wanted for them. The LOST finale (however slanted your feelings might have been about it) closed in a brilliant and poignant statement about life, death, love and human nature. Of course, The Return of the King was full of gifts for fans, having four or five different closing moments actually.
So at the end of the film, as the screen faded to black on the image of the three characters we have loved for ten years and as my theater full of people burst into applause, I took a deep breath and smiled. Good won over evil, Neville Longbottom got thin and Bellatrix finally got what was coming to her. It all ended, and it ended well.