The end of an enchanted era

July 21, 2011, 3:02 a.m.
The end of an enchanted era
ERIC KOFMAN/The Stanford Daily

Somewhere between pulling open the tinted glass door of Century Redwood City 20 theaters and taking my first step inside, I crossed a powerful wormhole reminiscent of Platform 9 3/4, the magical connection between the ordinary world and the wizarding world in J.K. Rowling’s internationally renowned “Harry Potter” series.

With a bewildered glance around the room and one foot in the door already, I took my second step into the cinema complex to face dark wizards, dragons, goblins and worst of all, a farewell to a beloved fantasy world, on the night of the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” premiere.

On that night and that night only, it seemed that being a “Harry Potter” enthusiast–almost to the point of madness–was acceptable. More than acceptable, even, it was encouraged.

A flash of electric pink caught my eye, and I looked to my left at a friend dressed in Hufflepuff robes, a chain-link choker necklace and a bright pink, mohawk-style wig, playing the role of Nymphadora Tonks for the night. Her cedar wand, once a chopstick, poked out of the pocket in her robes, and she grinned just like the imaginary, playful character she was portraying might.

And to my right, I spotted dark, ratty hair and hollowed-out eyes–surely anyone at this theater on the night of the midnight premiere could tell that this is the dark witch Bellatrix Lestrange. A torrent of spells surged out of her mouth: “Crucio! Imperio! Avada Kedavra!” And I gasped along with the others–those spells are unforgivable curses, after all.

After entering the complex, we made our way toward our theater and waited in line until we could enter. At 8:00 p.m., an employee approached the momentarily dormant line of people and unclipped the red, velvet-covered chain that held us at bay. I waited patiently with the rest of the people in line to move through the red velvet gateway–another wormhole–and have my ticket checked.

But upon my approach to the ticket examiner, a rush of blood spurred my feet to move. As I was given the “okay” to pass, I ran through the portal and into a throng of ravenous fans, all sprinting to the doorway of the theater in pursuit of one thing: the “best” seats. In the last stretch of the race, we hurtled toward the door, shoving and elbowing one another aside as we fought for the perfect seats–not too far back, but not too far forward. The heaving and gasping after the competition was worth it, for this was the last time we would have the opportunity to race for seating at a “Harry Potter” movie premiere.

After the dash into the theater, we saved our seats with extra blankets and clothes and walked around the complex to take in the sights. It seemed that every character was cast in our premiere audience–the half-giant, the house-elf, the Gryffindor Quidditch team and even the beautiful new bride in the movie (although this particular portrayal of a sparkly faced, fake-eyelashed, leotard-wearing Fleur by a teenage girl roused more talk of a Lady Gaga imitation than a “Harry Potter” character).

But beyond this enthusiasm for role-playing, what was most flummoxing was the interactions between strangers at the theater. At around 11:00 p.m., one woman wearing a red wig and dumpy clothes ran up to a young girl who was obviously playing the character’s daughter.

“Ginny!” she gasped. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

Another teenage girl, wearing a white swim cap, flaunting penciled-on slits for nostrils, and her face encrusted with thick, white paint threatened and challenged all those playing Harry Potter throughout the night. The “actress,” obviously playing Harry’s nemesis Lord Voldemort, held up a sign that says “Down with Potter!”

A sort of ethereal spirit of community hung in the air. Every interaction between strangers was a testament to the power of creativity–both Rowling’s creativity and that of her costumed admirers in attendance that night–and how one series has brought so many together.

Once the movie commenced, the role-playing ceased, and the theater was remarkably silent aside from the cries of many audience members. Though the tears might have been due to the portrayal of death, the battles and Professor McGonagall’s classic, heart-wrenching lines, there seems to be more to it than that: the crowd is lamenting the end of an era.

Faced with the joy and excitement of the final film’s release paired with the imminent end of the series that has transfixed the world since the first novel’s release in 1997, perhaps one “Harry Potter” fan sums it up best.

“I guess I don’t know how to feel,” he said.

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