Goodbye, Harry Potter. After 450 million books sold, $6 billion at the box office, and many, many debates about owls, the final piece of the franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow, Part 2 hits theaters Friday. The phenomenally successful book and movie series has infiltrated people's lives for 14 years now. Here, five ways the boy wizard left a lasting imprint:
1. Harry Potter changed the publishing industry
The wizard novels became a gateway to reading for hordes of people, says Charlie Jane Anders at io9. And not just children. The series got adults who "hadn't picked up a book in years" to read again. Anyone not on board with "Pottermania" would be "hopelessly out of the loop." J.K. Rowling's success triggered a wave of young adult novels (like The Hunger Games) mature enough to appeal to both parents and their offspring. And Rowling's new website Pottermore is a model for selling e-books without iTunes and Amazon — proof those channels are unnecessary for a "property with enough buzz."
2. And shaped a generation of children
A child whose parents began reading him Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when he was in first or second grade is now college-age. For that generation, Potter's been an indelible part of growing up, whether it meant waiting in line all night to nab a new book, attending midnight film screenings, or endlessly debating the series' hero. "From when I learned to read, to my first year of high school," says 18-year-old Laura Detwiler at The Boston Globe, "Harry Potter has been a constant in my life."
3. Potter proved that film adaptations can be done well
The Potter films "affirmed that the relationship between mass art and its consumers is at times incredibly rich," says Manohla Dargis at The New York Times. "Also: Blockbusters can be awfully good." Credit top-notch scripts and the "unexpectedly moving" experience of watching the franchise's young stars grow up. Every virtuosic special effect was "seamlessly integrated" into the emotional through-line of the story. The result is an "old-fashioned cinema experience," unique among blockbuster series.
4. And that fantasy franchises can be cash cows
It's rare and "remarkable" that a purely fantasy epic can translate into such broad, sustained, multimedia success, says Andrew O'Hehrir at Salon. Seven books, eight movies, and filmmakers "never screwed the whole thing up." Rival franchises such as The Chronicles of Narnia, His Dark Materials, and Lemony Snicket couldn't manage that. One downside: Beware the likely onslaught of fantasy narratives calculated to fill the void.
5. Look, Potter was a pop-culture phenomenon... but nothing more
The Harry Potter phenomenon was fun to get swept up in, says Tanya Gold at Britain's Guardian. Standing in lines at bookstores, racing friends to finish the latest novel first, attending screenings with costumed superfans. But it was just that, a "momentous cultural event." Now it's over. And soon, all of our frenzied overanalysis of the series and its meaning will end, too.