Editor’s note: This review is pretty spoilery. If you haven’t read the book and don’t know how it ends, or if you haven’t seen the movie yet and want to wait to see what the director did, you might want to read this review with your fingers over your eyes.
Even before I went into the theater to watch the very last Harry Potter film, I’d spent weeks going back through the books and movies realizing the finality of what was about to happen. It’s just a movie, I told myself. But after a decade of investing in this story, I knew it was going to be hard to watch the series wrap up for good. In fact, I went through the famous five stages of grief that were identified by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
Stage One: Denial
Because this movie picked up exactly where the last one left off (on the island, shortly after Dobby’s death), there was no time to get nostalgic. The movie jumped right into the action without any context, knowing that most people in the audience would already have caught up on the story. With Pottermania in full swing, I saw souvenirs and memorabilia everywhere. How could it be ending when there were 700 golden snitch necklaces to choose from on Etsy?
Stage Two: Anger
Although the point of splitting the final film into two parts was so that they could cover more of the story, there were still omissions I got upset about. We saw dead Fred Weasley, but not his death scene. And while we did see the Weasley family mourning their son, we didn’t get Percy’s homecoming/redemption arc. Fred got more screentime as a corpse than as a living person. Ditto Tonks and Remus, possibly my favorite couple in the series. Where was the full backstory about Dumbledore’s sister? We saw her portrait and Aberforth made a reference to her death, but there was no more explanation. Basically no reference to Peter Pettigrew at all? I know that it is impossible to make a movie that will satisfy every single fan, but there were definitely some major omissions.
Stage Three: Bargaining
There are plenty of Harry Potter movie lovers who haven’t read the books, but already knowing what was going to happen didn’t reduce the amount of anxiety I had watching the movie. I already knew that Harry was going to be resurrected, but that didn’t keep me from almost having a spasm waiting for his big moment. If you just let Fred live, you can do whatever you want with some other character, I would say to myself, knowing full well that a) the movie had already been written and filmed so my own editorial contributions would be too late and b) JK Rowling didn’t write it that way.
Stage Four: Depression
When the “Nineteen Years Later” caption came up, many people in the crowd began to cheer. In a way, it was a reminder that the movie wasn’t actually over yet and we could still spend a few last minutes in Potterland. But it was also the unveiling of the final act of the final scene, and that’s when it hit me that Harry Potter was over, and it wasn’t going to come back. I basically bawled during the entire scene, especially when Harry said his son’s name – “Albus Severus Potter” out loud. I actually teared up just writing that. There were a few nice moments of levity – I knew Ron would have a gut! – but that only put the sadness in starker relief.
Stage Five: Acceptance
My senior class’ motto (yeah, I don’t know why our entire effing class needed its own motto, but whatever) was “Don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened.” And that’s the feeling of peace I’ve had since watching the movie on Tuesday – yes, I am sad that it’s over, but I am so, so glad that it all happened. There won’t be any more movies, but the existing eight ones will be treasures that I can keep rewatching whenever I want. The books will always retain their magic, even if JK Rowling never writes another word. There were some wonderful, uplifting moments in the last movie that I can think about whenever I start to tear up – Molly Weasley’s big applause line, Hermione and Ron finally kissing, Neville being a badass and chopping off the snake’s head.
And, at least for another few weeks, I can go back to the theater and watch it again.