With the all conquering Harry Potter franchise drawing to a close after a decade of record breaking box office figures and immeasurable sales of merchandise and DVDs, reams are being written attempting to sum up the reasons for the worldwide phenomenon. Recipes for success are being compiled and suggested as Warner Brothers and other studios look for the “next Potter” to lure audiences consistently to cinemas on a huge scale. Children’s authors are being assessed and targeted as execs wonder where to find the next J.K. Rowling. Meanwhile the super rich writer has launched a new website to continue the Potter brand, “Pottermore”, and has revealed that she has waited, perhaps wisely, until after the last film to publish several projects she’s been working on for some time since finishing The Deathly Hallows.
Some say that Rowling’s immense imagination and wonderful writing accounts for the success of the films. The sheer detail of the books helped create a wizarding universe that went beyond the plots. However up and down the country it’s easy to find English teachers, experts and ordinary readers that will think little of Rowling’s talent. Of course she clearly has an ability to create worlds and engaging plots but she is also reliant on influences and is far from a genius writer. Whilst I was sucked in by the books after reading them, unlike my school friends I only embraced The Philosopher’s Stone after seeing the film version, which convinced me Harry Potter wasn’t as childish as it sounded.
Perhaps the fact that Warner Brothers conceded artistic control to British based Heyman Productions ensured the appealing flavour of the series? There are no doubt many different reasons for the spellbinding effect Hogwarts has had on box offices internationally, but as someone who has grown up in the eye of a decade long magical storm, the Harry Potter films transcend the usual critical criteria. As rankings of the films appear all over the web, I have found myself reflecting on the franchise as a whole.
If I had to pick out one key reason for its success it would be the way the films have matured with their audience. Those behind the films deserve some credit for this but if anything they haven’t lived up to the darker depths of the books, until the final film if you believe the early reports from critics. It was Rowling’s masterstroke to pen seven stories that evolved in tone as well as plot. However watching the films has delivered the genuinely unique experience of seeing three child actors grow into young and talented adults, which mirrors the maturing mood of the stories.
Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson tend to hog the headlines. He has become a leading man and she has gone from prissy bookworm to stunning, sexy and intelligent model, capable of juggling a demanding degree from a top university with filming and an increasingly diverse career. Recently though, as Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 premiered in Trafalgar Square, the newspapers reserved special mention for the huge cheer that greeted Rupert Grint.
Grint has always been more than the long suffering ginger one. In the early films, when Radcliffe was excruciatingly awful at times in the lead role, Grint provided much needed comic relief and more, with a skill beyond his years. Respected film veteran John Hurt dubbed him a “born actor” and allegedly directors beyond Potter, such as Martin Scorsese, have predicted a bright future for him. In this early screen test, Grint is the clearly the most expressive of the famous trio, inhabiting his role even when he doesn’t have lines to read, unlike the blank faced Radcliffe and two dimensional Watson:
But then a combination of the stresses of the lifestyle change and scripts that let his character down reduced Grint to a predictable and subdued comic presence during the films in the middle of the series. Radcliffe and Watson both grew in confidence to take on more integral and convincing roles in the drama. The final film ought to have plenty of opportunities for Grint to go out with a bang big enough to showcase his true talent though, with the will-they-won’t-they romantic chemistry between Ron and Hermione finally coming to a head and several dramatic moments to sink his acting chops into. Grint has certainly demonstrated his promise elsewhere with performances in Driving Lessons alongside Julie Walters and wild teen drama Cherrybomb.
We’ve been through a lot with Harry, Hermione and Ron and got to know not only them, but a little of the actors that portray them, on the way to their final showdown with Lord Voldemort. Harry Potter will always be a great deal more than just a shadow hanging over the careers of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint. They will all try to shake it off and it will be remarkable if any of them completely succeed. I for one though have a feeling that out of all of them it is Rupert Grint we are still yet to see the best of. He was a lovable Ron but as someone else we haven’t heard of yet he is going to blow us away.
Liam Trim (follow me on Twitter)