I Rewatched All the Harry Potter Movies Yesterday

Re-living the stories about the boy who lived.

I Rewatched All the Harry Potter Movies Yesterday

I was working the other day. I work from home so I often have the television on for background noise.

Honestly, most days I just let Netflix run through Supernatural all day. But I was flipping through the channels and there was a Harry Potter marathon on.

I still remember the first time I read that book. I received Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for my ninth birthday. It was great timing too, as the best part of having one’s birthday usually near the last day of school is the ability to

A, spend the newfound freedom in any way an eight year old chooses (within reason of course), and B, the ability to stay up late.

I remember sitting in the top bunk of the stacked bunk beds I shared with my younger brother. I held the book in my small, but rapidly growing hands. At the time, it was most likely the largest book I held, except the World Book Encyclopedia on my shelf. (Those were often used as structural components in any number of games my brother and I played). I removed the paper dust cover, and I ran my finger over the gold lettering on the robust hardcover. The spine was stiff and I struggled to hold the book open. Not long after I tried to open the book, my mother informed me that it was time for the lights to go off. But, I couldn’t put them down. These books were working a magic spell of their very own.

I remember lying there, and waiting for the house to go quiet. It was summer now, and I was free, and I would not let the absence of light dissuade me from reading my new book. Luckily, one of my other gifts that year was a head lamp, that was supposed to be used for a camping trip later in the summer. (You’ll also notice that the Harry Potter books, when combined with the encyclopedias and head lamps, will tell exactly how cool I was a child).

I flipped on the light and I read the first page. To this day, I can still remember the feeling I had reading that first page. I had not been one for more fantastical books as a child, except for the few Goosebumps novels in my room, and I usually stayed up reading Gary Paulsen books about young boys and the wilderness. But, there was this new sensation in this book. In the first few pages, I witnessed Professor McGonagall transfigure from a cat to a person, and Hagrid’s flying motorcycle.

I had experienced cartoons, and movies, but I always remember this moment. It was the first time I truly appreciated what the imagination could do. It blew my small mind, and I read, and read, and read, until I woke up sitting slumped over in my bunk, wearing a dead head light. It was the days before the prevalences of LEDs and the batteries and the incandescent bulb had drained the batteries. I read clear through the next day, and I finished it a day or two after. After which, I immediately pleaded with my mother to take me to the bookstore.

A year or so later, the fourth installment of the books, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was being released. I was on vacation with my grandparents on the day the books were coming out. I begged my grandmother to let my buy one of the books I saw in stores as I watched the lines grow outside the bookstore in the small Michigan vacation town. She told me several times that the lines were too long, and that we couldn’t spend that much time waiting. I made peace with the decision, but in my heart I longed for that bright green hardcover. When I returned home, the first story I recounted to my parents of my vacation was missing my chance to get the new book. This produced a knowing look from both of them, and from behind her back, my mother produced said novel, which resulted in the exact amount of exuberance that they had hoped. Unbeknownst to me, my grandmother knew that my mother was going out on midnight that the books were released, and she did not want to spoil the surprise. This would be the first of many gift giving collusions between the two women, always for my benefit.

Soon, the Harry Potter movies would come out, and this would raise the level of fandom to an even higher level. The film version of the first book, The Sorcerer’s Stone was coming out. It was, and probably remains to this day, one of the most faithful adaptions from page to screen of any story.

Upon later viewings, I would realize the problems this would create, but I will always hold the first time I saw that movie with high regard. It was as if they had pulled the world directly from my imagination and gave the world life.

Even though the later movies might have been better at a technical level, they will never capture the way I felt about the first two movies. I believe that the best balance is captured in the third movie. The Prisoner of Azkaban is both my favorite book and movie, and I like the movies afterward but I always thought they peaked with just the right balance found in that film.

And then, something happened. I moved on to other fantasy and science fiction worlds. I left the world of Hogwarts, and Muggles behind. I spent several years divorced from the books I loved so much as a young boy. I remember the fifth book was coming out, and I never got it, and I had every intention of returning to the wizarding world. But, weeks turned to months, and those turned to decades, and I would pass through high school and most of college before finding what I’d lost. During one winter break, I was in the bookstore and I came upon the Harry Potter display. I thumbed through the fifth book, the one I never went back to the store for. I didn’t even get through the first paragraph before I had all three remaining books in my arms. I felt the same spark, though not nearly as spectacular, as the one I felt cracking open the hardcover in my bunk bed. Within the weekend, I had the books read. I saw my friends Harry, Ron, and Hermoine. They were still much the same, though I had grown considerably.

I learned two things that afternoon. One that you’re never too old to go back to something of your youth, and that you’re never too old to believe in magic.

Matthew Donnellon
Matthew Donnellon
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Matthew Donnellon

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