Potter Week+ In Review

Potter Week+: The Sorcerer’s Stone | The Chamber of Secrets | The Prisoner of Azkaban | The Goblet of Fire |
The Order of the Phoenix | The Half-Blood Prince | The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 | The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
"This boy will be famous. There won't be a child in our world who doesn't know his name."

“This boy will be famous. There won’t be a child in our world who doesn’t know his name.”

Putting the + in Potter Week +, I decided to forgo watching another movie today, and instead take a look at the Harry Potter film series as a whole.

As a cinematic body or work I’m not sure that there has ever been anything quite like the series. It is eight films made as a part of seven distinct productions and spanning over a decade in length. It featured two primary screenwriters, four directors, but a single primary producer, David Heyman, guiding the series. The series featured a group of young actors, cast as pre-teens who literally grew-up along with their characters, having reached their early twenties. By the time production wrapped for the final time, these young actors had spent a greater portion of their lives working on the production than they had not.

Of course, it’s not just the characters and their portrayers that grow up over the years, but the stories themselves. The early stories are childhood wish-fulfillment fantasies. Harry Potter, the mistreated orphan boy discovers he’s special and is wisked away to a magical world where he’s admired by the good people and defeats the bad. As the years go by the stories become more complex. Prisoner of Azkaban is essentially about the end of childhood innocence as Harry learns that the world is often more complicated than what we are told. Films four through six are a coming of age story as Harry and his friends deal with the larger world, face meaningful consequences, struggle against authority, and at the same time try to understand their emerging sex drives. Deathly Hallows is the epic conclusion where Harry’s personal journey reaches its culmination, largely removed from the safety of his childhood refuge he applies all that he has learned, and the friendships he has forged against a backdrop of a larger sociatial conflict.

It’s actually a fairly simple story, but it’s masterfully executed, this simplicity means its universally relatable, while the magic and fantasy elements make it stimulating to the imagination and appealing as escapism.

Of course, most of the credit for the story goes to J.K. Rowling and her novels, but the transition to moving pictures is no small order. I’m running out of time, but I’d like to throw out a few quick bullets on things that I haven’t had a chance to mention earlier in the series.

    • Chris Columbus’ contribution to the series are tremendous, but the decision to move on with a different director for the third movie is was as sage as it was successful. I can’t possibly see how Columbus’ style would work with the darker material in the later films.
    • The other side of that coin is that keeping David Yates around after an somewhat unsuccessful adaptation of Order of the Phoenix really did lead to a great sense of continuity through the back half of the series.
    • Helena Bonham Carter absolutely owned it as Bellatrix Lestrange. Although her part is pretty small in each of the four films in which she appeared, all of her screen time was memorable.
    • This whole themed week theme was a lot of fun for me. I’m probably going to do it again soon.