In the last few weeks, I’ve heard tons of people my age talking about how their childhoods are now over with the end of the Harry Potter movies. On the surface, this is a joke, but it’s always said with an edge to it that indicates fear — we who grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione have truly sensed some kind of finality in our own lives. Obviously, this means that J.K. Rowling managed to connect with some deep part of us, and that’s awesome. But when I went to see a 1am showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in Brooklyn, and I struggled like an old lady to keep my eyes open, I couldn’t erase one thought: This movie is bad.
Once you think that about Harry Potter, you can never go back. The raw badness of the most recent HP movies has reached its apex with Deathly Hallows 2. This isn’t to say that the films don’t have redeeming qualities, and I do think that three or four of them are wildly entertaining. But this one … dude, this was basically Lord of the Rings as directed by a drugged Michael Bay.
Is there a need to go over the plot? We mostly know what happens by now. But SPOILER ALERT, anyway: HP7.2 is all about finding horcruxes and deathly hallows, and there are a number of extremely satisfying scenes in which one horcrux or another is destroyed, and everyone in the audience clapped and yelled things like “That’s right, Neville!” and stuff. Other exciting moments: Ron and Hermione’s first kiss! Harry and Ginny also kissing! Mrs. Weasley kills Bellatrix LeStrange while shouting “Not my daughter, you bitch!” Those all totally delivered.
But between spurts of bam-pow action, I just didn’t stay engaged. Maybe at 21, the magic has finally worn off. Or maybe I’m just better able to see how J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter industry turned a charming children’s story into something alarmingly cynical and money-obsessed. Here’s an example: Pottermore. Then there’s the Harry Potter theme park, where I’ve heard you can purchase a fake wand for $70. And did this movie really need to be in two parts, so we would spend twice as much money and drum up twice as much hype? At Slate, Dana Stevens writes, “The films don’t feel like cynical cash-cow milking sessions but like chapters in an unfolding story.” I have to say I totally disagree.
To be fair, it’s hard to overstate Harry Potter’s importance pop-culturally. People adore the stories because they’re perfect children’s lit: richly descriptive, wickedly strange, but still plausible enough to make you secretly hope for your own letter from Hogwarts. The Harry Potter books never condescended to their audience, except for that tragic last chapter of the last book when you find out that everyone stuck with their high school sweethearts for life, and Christ, how does that even happen? But the movies do condescend, especially Deathly Hallows 2.
So, yeah. The last movie is bad. It’s corny. Everyone should see it anyway. Not that you need my encouragement; but don’t pretend like it’s the end of your childhood. Ideally, the length of your childhood should not be demarcated by a multi-zillion dollar entertainment franchise.