Last night I took my family to our little neighborhood theater where, with a few hundred other fans,
we watched, or more accurately were
transfixed by, the midnight premiere of the final Harry Potter film. My
12-year-old daughter, the biggest Potter fan in our brood, was in full
Ravenclaw regalia for the evening, after having spent the last two days
in a marathon re-reading of the book on which the film is based.
audience, mostly older teens who had grown up with Harry Potter,
cheered at the moments of triumph, laughed and applauded when Ron and
Hermione kissed, and were, for teens, uncharacteristically silent at the
moment when Harry meets his destiny. One young man, who'd been acting
the part of Mr. Cool for his date all evening, whispered worriedly, "He
doesn't really die, does he?"
The last decade has been
something of a golden age for family cinema. Pixar, with films like
"Finding Nemo" and "Up," set a gold standard for computer animation by
conjuring deeply felt and very human characters out of millions of tiny
pixels. Japanese director Hiyao Miyazaki elevated anime into an art form
with relentlessly imaginative works like "My Neighbor Totoro" and his
masterpiece, "Spirited Away."
But nothing has captured
the imagination of an entire generation like the Potter books and films,
which chronicled the trials of the orphaned boy wizard who must face
death, time and time again, at far too young an age.
has been written about the surprisingly dark, adult themes of the
Potter books, which confounded the received wisdom that said people,
especially young people, want escapist entertainment. True, the
Potterverse is a wondrous and magical alternate reality. But of course
the conflicts the characters must confront - good and evil, life and
death - are ones we all eventually face.
I asked my
daughter why she likes the Potter books and films so much, when so many
characters in them die. "That's reality, daddy," she replied, with the
tone of voice she uses when she discovers, yet again, what a dim
creature her father is. Then, after thinking about it for a moment, she
added, "Maybe, if we watch the movies now, later, when we really have to
deal with those things, they won't seem that bad."
knew what she meant, because I'd been there myself. Thirty-four summers
ago, on a hot July night in the Midwest, I saw "Star Wars" for the first
time. I was about the age my daughter is now, and from the moment the
massive Imperial star destroyer lumbered overhead in the opening scene I
sensed something that I would better understand on another night, years
later, when I watched as Luke Skywalker tried to save his dying father,
It's what I was reminded of again last
night as we watched Harry, Hermione and Ron: On a warm summer evening,
in a darkened movie theater, you can be transported to another world.
There, in the space of just a few hours, you can learn age-old lessons
about loyalty and friendship, courage and adversity and, most important
of all, love.
This column was originally published in About.com