The LA Times recently published this article, and it got me thinking about the franchise as a whole, and what it’s meant for me.
I was ten when I began reading the books–one of my first memories is being so addicted to them that I’d go to Costco and pick up a sale copy and sit under the table reading until my parents were done. I didn’t think it was weird, I was in a completely different universe.
I can remember listening to my 6th grade history teacher read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to us after lunch. And ruining the whole book for the class because they were pissing me off one day. I had a thing for overreacting back then.
I can remember being in 7th grade and going to the Edwards 22 and seeing the first film in theater #11. I was the only one to sit with the handicapped girl who came on the field trip.
I can remember when the second film came out and it was one of the last ones I saw with my mom before I got too cool to see movies with her.
I burned through those first three books and then waited for the fourth one, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh, even though the final installment didn’t come out until I was in college.
The numbers that the LA Times mentions are staggering. 8 films in ten years, two on the way, and already “almost $1 billion profits…”
This is a saga that, for my generation, is as integral to our upbringing as the advent of social media. I can’t remember any other books being talked about so gleefully at school. It seemed like everybody was reading them. Or was pissed off that their parents wouldn’t let them read the books. When each successive novel hit throughout my adolescent years, there came with it a buzz–even in High School (even though I was in band, it still seemed like very few people [jocks, the popular kids, the ones who grew up too fast] were above reading them.)
But the movies. My God. It’s amazing that they were able to take such a mythologically thick world and translate them into 2 and a half hour films that, aside from the 5th book, do them justice.
The fifth film is an anomaly because the longest book got beset with the shortest film. Since Rowling was a pivotal player in the developments of the films, she was basically admitting that most of that book was not as important as one thinks.
As the films came out, more people were picking up the books and reading the newer installments. The drive to see these films never ebbed.
If they had waited until the series was completed to make the films, I wonder if the films would’ve been as profitable. Up until the final book got released in 2007, there was this feeling that no one knew where these stories were going, and maybe, just maybe, the films would offer up yet foreshadowing clue to the events at hand.
And, now, this is the curtain call. The final two. The Red Zone of a franchise that will never be duplicated in terms of both profit and quality.
One of the most interesting points made by the article comes at the end of a sentence, almost as a throwaway thought: “Producer David Heyman and his team were able to keep their cast intact — including the young lead stars who started as adolescents and grew into young adults with millions in the bank, and no scandals.”
Think about all the child actors who, as they turned from kids to adults, got into trouble. Drew Barrymore, Lindsay Lohan, Danny Bonaduce, Corey Feldman, half the cast of anything on VH1.
The only thing even close to a scandal caused by Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Daniel Radcliffe was when Radcliffe decided to show off his dick in a play called Equus. And even that was received with a collective “meh.”
There has been nothing stopping these folks from churning out these movies. They haven’t devolved into parodies of themselves from the first film. They’ve grown as actors and as people.
And, now, this is the end. Emma Watson’s already cut off her Hermione hair. Daniel Radcliffe is now poised to be a star on Broadway or in film. Rupert Grint… well… I have no idea. I really liked him, so I hope he’s not the one who gets stuck showing up at conferences while the other ones have all the success.
These films have switched from being whimsical children’s films about a brand new world to being about love and death. The maturation of the characters and the maturation of the themes is something that I’m surprised has been held true.
The first two films, and half of the third, had lower stakes than the back half of the franchise. They were more focused on being introduced into this world of Witchcraft and Wizardry than they were about Voldemort. He was an idle threat who was still trying to put the pieces back together so he could rule the world.
Then, all of a sudden, he became a real threat. And the films followed suit. They could’ve attempted to keep the same light, whimsical, tone of the first two, but, instead, brought on an indie heavyweight in Alfonso Cuaron for the third film to help usher in the darker days ahead.
This is a franchise that has been kept interesting because they haven’t shied away from the darker things in the novels.
Just as everything in the world has gone sour, so has Harry Potter. But, as in the novels, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And an epilogue for all.