Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? Harry Potter or Narnia? Harry Potter or Twilight? These are the questions that have been asked over the last decade at home, in playgrounds, workplaces and anywhere else you can think of. All three films were evidently novels, turned into film, but J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter was the first to be converted to the big screen. Finally ending its 10 year run in July, with part two of The Deathly Hallows, (which is supposed to be extremely fun in 3D and virtually kill anything that’s in the cinema at that time) it’s quite a huge goal how it was able to fight off every single competitor it’s come against over the years. How and why? That is the question. How and why has a film that has a bunch of teenage wizards running around, using weirdly named spells, saving things, trying to destroy what looks to be a man that barely has a nose, interest us so much? The answer is very much in the question.
‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, directed by Chris Columbus, was first released in November of 2001 by Warner Bros studio. Eight films later, it’s coming to an end. 2001 also saw the release of ‘Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ directed by Peter Jackson. Although ‘Lord of The Rings’ was only a trilogy, it’s only recently ‘The Hobbit’ (the extension from LOTR) has been mentioned and is going ahead with plans to bring it to the big screen. Harry Potter on the other hand has successfully been consistent with their releases, keeping the momentum up and keeping their audiences in the loop.
This is one thing that gave Potter the upper hand. Because of its yearly releases, the age of the main characters who attended Hogwarts and the fact that the same actors reprised their roles, it was able to grow with audiences. You could see this in the content of each film. They became darker as they went along and relationships began to grow more with Harry gaining his first kiss in ‘Order of the Phoenix’. It’s not just a fantasy; it’s a coming of age film. Harry goes through life changing decisions as we all do in reality, it’s just more exaggerated to make us feel better that we don’t have to deal with Dementors appearing out of the blue.
One recent example is ‘Breaking Dawn’. Twilight’s ‘Breaking Dawn’ part one is to be released in November this year, but there’s now the dilemma of whether to keep the birth of Renesmee (Bella and Edward’s daughter) and the scenes of Bella after the birth as it was in the book. As it is quite gruesome, they would have to up the rating. They’re audience is growing up and everyone who has read the book will be waiting for these scenes. So it’s a very important issue, to keep audiences, the film should grow up otherwise, they risk losing audiences with fans losing interest.
Our society today seems to have this obsession with fantasy, believing and wanting to be the unreal. Jedi’s are a perfect example. Everyone has wanted a lightsaber at one stage in their life, and we’ve all said “let the force be with”, with that confident deep voice, just to sound that bit more powerful.
Take Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga for example, the most recent competitor against the Potter series. Ever since Robert Pattinson had strut his stuff as the mysterious, yet charming “vamp” Edward Cullen in Twilight, merchandise and fans would be screaming out “bite me!”, simply because the fantasy of either Pattinson or Cullen devouring their necks would be their fetish pleasurably solved. Although he had played the role of Cedric Digorry in ‘The Goblet of Fire’ first, it can be said he’s universally more desirable as Edward Cullen.
The high usage of props in the Potter series has made merchandise much more favourable with fans. Watching Hermione Granger’s intelligent spells, getting Harry and mostly Ron out of trouble, holding a replica wand is just magical for those interested. Going into Hamley’s toy shop is like a museum for Harry Potter replicas. From Harry’s glasses to the Horcrux, to a wall full of wands of every character you could think of.
What is quite interesting is that the type of fantasy seems to have an effect on how much impact the film gives off. With Lord of the Rings and Narnia, it’s really mythical in the aspect that, you’re dealing with talking lions, a wardrobe that brings you to another world and elves. Harry Potter and Twilight are dealing with wizards, witches, vampires and werewolves, the more regular type fantasy, something the audience is more able to use more successfully as an escapist route when wanting to get away from the real world. They are more human. There’s also that thought of being special, not like everyone else. Harry Potter is a special individual and watching his life story is believed to make us feel special. It’s a bit like watching Glee. For some, watching a bunch of “misfits” sing and dance, going through the highs and lows of school, gives them hope.
Harry Potter isn’t just a phase. It’s a story that will be passed down to each generation. Currently, it stands as the highest grossing film series ever with James Bond right behind it, but with ‘Deathly Hallows’ being converted to 3D, it’s bound to break box office records. J.K Rowling didn’t just create the wizard boy with the lightening bolt on his forehead, she created a legacy.