As one of the generation who grew up with with Harry Potter, what will I do now that the series is over, asks Jemima Owen
At the Empire cinema in Leicester Square, excited fans spill out of the lobby and into the street. Enthusiasts painted with lightning-bolt scars rub shoulders with artfully grumpy teenagers sporting the latest season from Topshop and favouring carefully applied eyeliner over round, dark-rimmed glasses. Flustered parents attempt to ignore their children’s pleas for £7 tubs of popcorn.
They are a diverse bunch, but that is what we have come to expect of a Harry Potter film opening. And this, the final instalment of the franchise that has gripped the teenage consciousness for 14 years, was always going to be big.
No fan of the series could have failed to acknowledge the level of expectation invested in the final Potter film. Images of Hogwarts’ smoking ruins with the ominous line “It all ends here” have adorned billboards and buses for months, and ever since the release of the solemn and introspective Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 in November, the question of whether part two would even begin to do justice to JK Rowling’s careful balance of action and emotion has dominated fans’ internet forums.
In the scramble to find the best seat on Friday night, the excitement has reached fever pitch. “The battle for Hogwarts is going to be mental,” remarks one viewer. “They need to absolutely nail this one!” remarks another.
Such pressure will be no surprise to David Yates, who has directed the last three Potter films. By now he knows his audience, and assumes they will need no reintroduction to the characters they have followed since 1997. He is proved right: no one appears lost when part two starts off at the exact point where part one ended. The audience is rapt.
Once again the cast seem to have kicked things up a notch; the acting is the best it has been since the release of the first film in 2001. The development of Rupert Grint’s Ron Weasley, which began in the last film, culminates in a truly impressive performance: a brief but painfully poignant scene where he breaks down upon witnessing a family tragedy leaves the cinema in eerie silence punctuated only by some sniffing. I suspect there might be a few damp eyes hidden behind the 3D glasses.
Yates builds the tension to almost unbearable levels, which, for those of us who have been devoted Potter followers since primary school, only serves to heighten the impact of the comic relief of beloved characters like Professor McGonagall and the terminally grumpy caretaker Filch. Some scenes, though, like Harry’s confrontation with the ghost of Ravenclaw tower, or the foetus-like manifestation of Voldemort’s dying soul, are frightening enough to keep hardened horror fans awake at night. At those moments, I decide the PG-13 rating is probably a good idea.
When, after two hours, the film comes to an end, there is deafening applause and a standing ovation. And, amid the praise and plaudits, there is also the inevitable melancholy that comes with witnessing what will be, for many, the end of an era. “It’s kind of sad,” remarks Charlotte, 14. Stephanie, 15, agrees: “We’ve grown up with these films.”
I can understand the gloom; from the age of seven, not a year went by where I didn’t find myself eagerly anticipating either the latest film or the newest book.
I remember feeling ridiculously jealous of friends allowed to stay up until midnight when Goblet of Fire hit the shelves, and the competition afterwards to who could finish it fastest. Now that the final film is done, there is a Boxing Day feeling in the air. The excitement is over – what now?