After 10 years, the cameras finally stopped rolling on the set of “Harry Potter” this past weekend. Actor Warwick Davis tweeted about how emotional it was to hear director David Yates yell “Cut!” for the last time. While there have been some aspects of the series that have been botched, they are far outweighed by just how many things the films got right.
What follows is a “greatest hits” of the series, a look back on the best-adapted elements in the film series and some hopeful speculation on what will stand out in the coming two-part telling of the chapter, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” — Harry, Ron and Hermione
What would the “Harry Potter” franchise be without its three main stars? It is almost eerie how accurately Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are cast into the roles of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, respectively, for (and since) “Sorcerer’s Stone.” The three have not only grown into their characters but have become great actors to boot. Sure, Radcliffe ended up being a bit shorter than Harry was supposed to be, but the three actors have truly given their characters new life in a way few have before in other adapted roles.
“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” — Casting Kenneth Branagh
I’m under the firm belief that adding Kenneth Branagh to a cast can only make a film better. The man probably could have made “Bratz” worth watching. Casting him as the flamboyant and flagrantly negligent Defense Against Dark Arts professor Gilderoy Lockhart added much hilarity to one of the darker installments of the “Harry Potter” film series.
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” — Dementors
There were many things director Alfonso Cuaron did right with “Prisoner of Azkaban” (which this blogger will argue is the best of the franchise), but his portrayal of the Dementors was one of its highest high points. The guards of Azkaban wizard’s prison and soon-to-be-turned supporters of Voldemort are as terrifying in the movie as they are in the books, and Yates only improved on them in the series’ later installments.
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” — Voldemort
Voldemort had made several appearances in a variety of forms in “Harry Potter” in the first three films, but it wasn’t until “Goblet of Fire” that he actually regained a corporeal form (and killed off Robert Pattinson as Cedric Diggory, in the process!). The perfect casting of Ralph Fiennes, the intimidating character design and the actor’s chill-inducing use of the Avada Kedavra curse made Voldemort a villain worth hating.
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” — Harry’s relationship with Sirius
Yates’ botched handling of Sirius Black’s death excluded, “Order of the Phoenix” truly got its heart from the relationship Harry developed with his godfather, the closest thing to a loving parent The Boy Who Lived had ever known. Gary Oldman and Radcliffe nail their performances as Sirius and Harry, respectively, and even though Sirius’ time in the story is fairly short-lived, he became as much of a beloved character in the films as he did in the books.
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” — Tom Riddle
The character Tom Riddle, the boy who becomes Voldemort, is initially introduced at the end of “Chamber of Secrets.” It wasn’t until “Half-Blood Prince” that both Harry and the audience get to know who he was. Hero Fiennes-Tiffin (who, appropriately, is the nephew of Ralph Fiennes) was perfect as the 11-year-old version of Riddle, and Frank Dillane adds much nuance to his 16-year-old version.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1″ — Hedwig and Dobby’s deaths
“Deathly Hallows” houses the end of the many, many beloved (and hated) “Harry Potter” characters, but none carry quite the emotional impact of Hedwig and Dobby. Both deaths happen early on in the seventh book, and thus will be in “Deathly Hallows: Part 1.” The characters — Harry’s pet owl and a rebellious house elf — weren’t as developed in the films as they were in the novels, but both still deserve moving death scenes.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ — Harry’s walk to his death
SPOILER ALERT: Harry Potter doesn’t die in the saga that bears his name. He lives happily ever after, at least through age 36 when he sends his younger son Albus off to Hogwarts for the first time. However, Harry does sacrifice his life to stop Voldemort from attacking Hogwarts and save his friends towards the end of the novel. How does that make sense, you say? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see. J.K. Rowling has admitted to weeping throughout writing the scene where Harry walks to his impending doom, resurrecting the ghosts of his parents, Remus Lupin and Sirius Black (whose role Oldman will reprise) to garner the courage to face Voldemort. It is without a doubt one of the most emotional scenes in the whole of the “Harry Potter” franchise, and should project itself beautifully on the big screen.
What are some of the moments that you think the “Harry Potter” films got right from the books?