Watching the end of Harry Potter in The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, I was struck by how it all coalesces wonderfully like a magical spell. I admit that I wasn’t totally hooked until The Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment, when Harry’s rite of passage finally seemed arduous and riveting.
But the narrative unfolds and climaxes nicely with operatic action, and stirring revelation, justifying the strategy to divide Deathly Hallows into two parts. There are plenty of surprises and delights, of course, beginning with the horcrux raid of Gringrots and the thrilling ride atop the poor dragon that has been enslaved. Or the Hogwarts statues that come to life in grand Harryhausen fashion (Isn’t it about time, incidentally, that the London VFX community, which has come of age with Harry, gets some Oscar love?)
Then there are the unlikely heroes that emerge to prove their strength and loyalty to Harry and Hogwarts. And those solemn moments of recognition and reversal that are the fundamental stuff of drama and help Harry fulfill his destiny as the Chosen One, including a sublime moment with Snape and surreal encounter with Dumbledore.
Ultimately, it becomes clear why J.K. Rowling captured lighting in a bottle with Harry Potter: She conjured just the right mixture of Christ parable, Greek tragedy, Shakespeare, King Arthur, Grimm, Dickens, Wagner, Oz, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, among others, along with a dash of Joseph Campbell for good measure.
But that wasn’t enough: Rowling and the filmmakers made Harry the Millennial sensation by tapping into the post 9/11 ethos of fear and terror. Director David Yates makes this most clear in the image of falling ashes during the destruction of Hogwarts.
Yet the most successful film franchise rests with the maturation of its three leads: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. No other franchise has taken its stars on a journey from adolescence to adulthood in real time as closely as this one. It’s amazing to look back at The Sorcerer’s Stone and see how far the actors and characters have come in a decade. And now that it’s over, we’re going to want to revisit the previous films and connect the dots and read between the lines. In that sense, our journey with Potter has just begun.