July 15, 2011. Almost nine years ago this weekend, the final instalment in the Harry Potter saga hit theatres around the world. I remember it like it was yesterday when my pal and I saw it at the cinemas. After the presentation, there was a smattering of applause around the auditorium. I also recall a chick gamely answering her friends’ questions while the credits rolled. This is not my first post based on Harry Potter. Three years ago, I likewise did a write-up about the boy who lived. For that item, I focused more on the books rather than the movies.
There are eight Potter movies, with the last adaptation split into two to maximise profits. All of them were well-received and were box office hits. I saw at least five of them in the cinema. The creator immerses the viewers in the wizarding world, with potions, spells, and quidditch. Non-wizarding folk are labelled muggles, and owls are the preferred couriers. There are four Houses in Hogwarts, the premier wizarding school in the world. The institution is also where Harry attends class. There are giants (Hagrid et al), werewolves (Professor Lupin), goblins, house elves (see also: Dobby), dragons, and trolls. As I mentioned three years ago, I admire the author for holding the reader’s attention for seven books. While there was some overlap, she mostly uses fresh ingredients for each volume. The disparate titles alone attest to this. Through eight pictures, they assembled a who’s who of British cinema, including Maggie Smith, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Gambon, Jason Isaacs, Robert Pattinson, and Bill Nighy.
Hermione and Ron Weasley are Harry’s best friends. They are part of Gryffindor House, together with an assortment of brave lads and lasses. Harry plays seeker for his House. As a freshman starter, he was the youngest player to suit up in over a century. Quidditch is like soccer on brooms. It has a World Cup that various wizarding nations contest. The always-astute eye of Professor McGonagall discovered Harry’s broom-flying talents. Harry makes a lot of chums in Gryffindor. As His house’s star seeker and the founder of Dumbledore’s Army, he extends his reach to other Houses as well. His spell of choice is the Disarming Chant. By shouting ‘Expelliarmus,’ Harry is able to release his victim’s weapon. This enables him to rid his opponent’s wand and likewise make their spell rebound to them. With constant practice, he masters this spell and uses it against more seasoned warlocks.
Harry has become the world’s most renowned wizard even as an infant. Though the evil Lord Voldemort made him an orphan, he was unable to annihilate the boy. Potter became known for being ‘the boy who lived.’ Harry and his lightning bolt-shaped scar were famous even as he lived with his difficult muggle relatives. Throughout Harry’s teenage years, the shadow of Voldemort lurks around him. The latter has wreaked such a reign of terror that wizards and other creatures are afraid to utter his name. They instead refer to him as ‘You-Know-Who’ or ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.’ For those who believe in the devil, he is Satan personified.
As a boy, he was known as Tom Riddle, born to a muggle father and a descendant of Salazar Slytherin. Despite living in an orphanage, he always believed that great things awaited him. He was said to have one of the brightest minds in wizarding history. Along the way, he enticed a cabal of groupies, code-named Death Eaters. These sadists each have a mark on them that prompts them to summon Tom. Riddle sees it as his duty to create a pureblood wizarding world free of muggles and muggle sympathisers. He is indeed the heir of Slytherin, who had the same goal. This is reminiscent of Hitler and Nazi Germany, committing genocide to reinforce their ideal of a supreme Aryan race.
In the last book, Harry and his mentor, Professor Dumbledore, conversed. Here we learn that You-Know-Who coveted the Defence Against the Dark Arts job. He even talked to Albus Dumbledore about it. Upon being turned down, he put a jinx on the job so that no one ever lasted more than a year. Voldemort was a cold-hearted murderer. He disposed of Harry’s parents, he silenced even his followers. As a young worker, he killed his own boss. His wrath made him terminate his own dad and grandparents. Apparently, the Killing Curse leaves no trace. To the untrained Muggle eye, we would think that these hypocrites just dropped dead.
Harry is the poster boy of angst. He lost his parents, then almost loses Arthur Weasley, who was more of a father than his Uncle Vernon would ever be. Then, Sirius is extinguished, his godfather who Gary Oldman portrays in the film version. Though Sirius was missing in action for most of his life, he does buy Harry the Firebolt, the greatest broomstick ever. Thanks to Sirius, he’s able to snatch the House Cup away from Draco, his nemesis. Sirius died trying to defend Harry. Next to go is Albus, his teacher and his last and greatest protector. Albus introduced Harry to the Horcruxes, which was explained in detail in the sixth book.
Horcruxes are the vilest of dark magic. A horcrux is part of one’s soul trapped in an inanimate object or living organism. In order to create one, the wizard must murder another. A young Riddle learned all he could about the horcrux after wheedling professor Slughorn. He then set out to create seven horcruxes since he is fond of the number. In order to do this, he ended up erasing seven earthlings. Tom Riddle’s diary is the first Horcrux to be destroyed. Different people eradicated all seven Horcruxes. The last Horcrux is the most puzzling of them all. I remember discussing the seventh book with an acquaintance. She had already read the tome. I tried to guess the final Horcrux but got it wrong twice. ‘It’s not Nagini,’ she said. Regardless, Harry’s early life bears a striking similarity to Riddle’s. Both are half-bloods, can speak Parseltongue, and were practically orphaned at an early age. However, in the second instalment, Harry is able to show that he is a true son of Gryffindor. Dumbledore avows that, ‘It’s our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.’
I recall viewing the last Potter film in 3D. It used to be the craze back then. These days 3D has pretty much gone out of vogue. Just this week, cinemas have begun to reopen in New South Wales. I’m fairly certain that they remain closed in the States. Some people have seen the brighter side, given that it’s school holidays and that we need a little cheer. The cinemas in turn have grovelled in their bid to lure some patrons. Personally, I can’t understand this rush to open cinemas. Like gyms, they are not exactly necessities. Almost a decade since the film series finished, the extent of Harry’s influence is huge. Words like quidditch have entered the dictionary. Others such as galleons have been redefined. Any attraction related to the Potterverse is sure to draw crowds.
Poise and promise
Harry Potter has seen kids become grown-ups. Rarely has it occurred that a film franchise works with a whole cast for a decade. When Richard Harris (Albus) met his Maker, they quickly signed up his replacement. They even got Ron’s height right, as the redhead was taller than Harry. The transformation of Emma Watson from curly-haired bookworm was also riveting. While the movies got darker, the imagery remained delicious. The films were also spaced quite wisely. The character that I empathised with was Cedric Diggory. Quick aside: valiant Neville Longbottom is a close second. Cedric was the rightful Hogwarts champion and gave Hufflepuff much-needed good PR. He showed poise beyond his years and so much promise. He competed for glory right till the end, only to be vaporised by the baddies. Due to his moral compass, his death was not in vain. As someone I knew once said, ‘There are many people who want to know the way he died, I want to remember the way he lived.’