Sounds of Cinema

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Final Thoughts on Harry Potter

An addendum to Episode 349.

On today's show I reviewed all the Harry Potter films, from The Sorcerer's Stone to The Deathly Hallows. Although individual films have their flaws, this series is impressive enough and (perhaps more importantly) beloved by so many, that it has earned a place next to Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and Star Trek among the most enduring film series' of all time. It is safe to say that years from now these films and the books that inspired them will be shared by parents with their children, who are likely to be just as enthusiastic about this series as those who first read them, and that multi-generational appeal speaks to the effectiveness of the stories and the characters of Harry Potter.

Even though we live in a time when the American film market is flooded with science fiction and fantasy films, the Harry Potter films are unique because of their commitment to story. Re-screening and reviewing all the films in anticipation of the final installment was a surprisingly emotional experience in the same way that watching a student graduate from high school or college tugs at the heart strings. Yes, these stories feature characters who fly on broomsticks and use wands to cast magical spells, but those who dismiss the stories on those grounds are being facile. The story of Harry Potter and his friends is really a story about growing up, losing innocence, and facing fears and the films dealt with that (especially in The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix) much better than a lot of supposedly serious, Oscar baiting issue pictures.

Ultimately, the most important lesson to take from the series is this: the Harry Potter films were big Hollywood blockbusters that made lots of money. And yet, these were movies about stories, characters, and ideas. The Harry Potter films had something to say and mostly said it intelligently and with great artistry. In the end, this series is one of the best examples of why fantasy is a legitimate film making and storytelling form and it proves that big budget mainstream films can do more than just sell toys.

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