Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone turns 20, and the movies are still pure magic

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Fans of Harry Potter saw the characters – and the actors – grow up in eight films.

Warner Bros.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first film in one of the most beloved pop culture series, turns 20 today. However, my own obsession with the series did not start until quite a bit later. (This will not come as a surprise to anyone who has read about my very late expeditions into worlds Marvel and Lost.)

Despite my belated interest, the Harry Potter books and movies quickly became favorites. They have provided much-needed escapism and a sense of wonder, especially in recent months as the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a long shadow over our very non-magical lives.

My fixation on all things Harry Potter began early in the evening of July 14, 2009. My family and I drove through our small town in Illinois, past the local movie theater on our way to grab ice cream at the nearby Dairy Queen. I looked out the window and saw a row of about two dozen people outside the theater, dressed in long black robes, talking enthusiastically.

“Oh, the new Harry Potter movie must probably come out,” I said nonchalantly. I had seen the first movie that landed in the US on November 16, 2001, when I was 7. But I was not inspired enough to follow the series, let alone read any of the books. “Are they really up for the midnight premiere already?” I asked in amazement. The time was 20.00

But deep down, as we drove past the eager cinema-goers, I felt a surprising envy arise inside. I wanted to be a part of the excitement. I wish I had read the books so I too could enthusiastically line up hours early with my friends, dressed up in costume, for the premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. At that moment, I made a decision: I had read all the Harry Potter books before the seventh and final film came out the following year, so I could be a part of the excitement of film. (Warner Bros. eventually released the last film as two separate films, so I ended up having two more opportunities to participate.)

My brother had bought the first Harry Potter book for me when I was 8, but I had never gotten past the first chapter. Now, seven years later, before I even went back to read the first page again, I marched into a used bookstore, found all six remaining books, and brought them home.

I immediately fell in love, immersed in a world so magical and spectacular that I could not believe I had waited so long to jump in. The characters were lovable and well drawn (Ron quickly became a favorite). The plot twists moved in the best possible way (the sixth book became a top choice for that reason). I longed to walk through Hogsmeade and sip on butter beer or sit in the great hall and munch on corny cakes, syrup pies and kettle cakes.

Suddenly, all the Harry Potter hype made sense. In fact, even with all the attention the series got, it was still felt underestimated. It was so good.

In 2010, I lived out my dream. I attended the opening day’s screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, adorned with a red-and-gold scarf I had knitted for the occasion (which I wore again for Part 2 – see below). With my Harry Potter glasses and lightning scars (drawn on my forehead with eyeliner), I was finally part of the craze.

A welcome escape

Despite controversy surrounding author JK Rowling’s comments on trans issues, Harry Potter’s world has remained an integral part of many fans’ lives as we have essentially adopted these stories and characters and made them our own. I’ve revisited the movies sporadically over the years since I got hooked. These binges have been eased by streaming platforms like HBO Max and Peacock, which tend to take turns hosting the collection of eight films. But in the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the wizarding world took on a whole new meaning as a form of escapism from all the real world insecurities and fears.

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When you go to a Harry Potter show, dress up the part.

Abrar Al-Heeti / CNET

Last winter, I spent evenings after work revisiting the films from start to finish. As we all isolated ourselves and practiced social distancing, I transported myself to a realm filled with mythical creatures, dazzling spells, and characters that felt as familiar as old friends.

This week, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter movie, I’ve seen the movies again. Every time I do, I cling to some quote that resonates in a way that it had not done before. This time, I came across a reminder from Hogwarts principal Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: “There is no point in dwelling on dreams and forgetting to live.”

The last year and a half has been challenging and it can be easy to wish things had been different. That quote is for me a reminder that it is important to cherish every positive moment that today’s unprecedented challenges entail: the extra time spent with the family, the opportunity to be alone with my thoughts and reflect, the chance to find new ones. hobbies. You can find good in almost any situation, but you need to be fully present to do so.

A lot has happened in the world in the 20 years that have passed since the first Harry Potter movie debuted, including a global health crisis that has fundamentally changed every element of our lives. Activities we once took for granted – even the little things like Friday night in the cinema – was paused.

But through all the challenges and changes, what is left is the tangible sense of magic in the Harry Potter books and movies, and the ability to escape into a fantasy realm when life weighs on us. The series serves as a procrastination and an assurance that, as Dumbledore says in The Prisoner of Azkaban, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

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