Thursday, 29 December 2011

Harry Potter and the Dearthly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 in perspective

Millions of young people around the world now aged in their early twenties have grown up with three fictitious characters and their cinematic portrayers, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Wesley and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger the creations of J K Rowing in the multi billion dollar seven book eight film fantasy series Harry Potter.

Because of my devotion to the Lord of Rings and the Hobbitt in book and film and for other reasons I decided against reading the books when published or seeing most of the films in theatre where there were released.

The books are all titled Harry Potter and: - the Philosopher’s Stone, -the Chamber of Secrets, -the Prisoner of Azkaban, -the Goblet of Fire, -the Order of the Pheonix, -the Half Blood Prince and the Deathly Hallows which was then made into a film in two parts. A total of 450 million copies of the books have been sold and translated into 67 languages. The films have made over $8 billion with merchandising bringing the total to $15 billion. While the series was given a special award at the last Academy Ceremony none have been awarded an Oscar although there have been a number of nominations.

While each book and film can be viewed as a self contained adventure there is an overall grand design and story which begins to unfold and then gathers momentum into the finale when many questions are answered including whether Harry Potter lives or dies. The final book is depressingly dark throughout with none of the humour and simple adventuring of the beginnings.

The world according to J K Rowling is divided between Muggles, that is you and me, and the witches and wizards and their world which including Goblins, Elves and miscellaneous creatures. The central location throughout every book is Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Scotland which children of magical parents are sent to be trained in the arts of spells and potions each with a wand and super natural abilities.

We are introduced to Harry Potter as an orphan being raised by his uncle and aunt. Harry finds himself on his way to Hogwarts on a train which leaves from Kings Cross London on secret platform which can be entered through a pillar between platforms nine and ten. For the last film we are shown the completed St Pancras International station as King’s Cross is undergoing a major transformation in time for the Olympic Games.

At the school he encounters a gentle half giant Reubus Hagrid played by Robbie Coltrane who tells Harry that he is a wizard in the making and that his parents were murdered by an evil wizard called Lord Voldemort. Lord Voldemort is played by Ralph Fiennes. A feature of the films is that a number of actors play the same role throughout. Harry also finds that he is regarded as special by the Principal and other staff because when he was one year of age Lord Voldemort tried to kill the child but his killing curse had the effect of changing him into an effective weakling. This is a major clue to understanding the overall story and the ending.

The school is divided into four Houses with Harry making friends with two other pupils of the same House Griffindorf, the brilliant rational Hermione and the loyal Ron. From the outset a fellow pupil in another House Slytherin- Draco Malfoy, is a rival and plots Harry’s downfall at every opportunity. He appears to be supported by Severus Snape played by Alan Rickman who is one of the Professors responsible for spells and incantations. The School’s Principal was played by Richard Harris until his death before the filming of the third film and after that by Michael Gabon.

Maggie Smith is Minvea McGongall as a Harry Protector and school champion also appears in very film. Some who have roles in certain films but also appear in the final episode as staff members are Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney, Miriam Margolyes, Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent. Zoe Wannamaker, Kenneth Branagh also feature in the early films.

In addition to some 30 school pupils who have speaking parts of substance there are other groups of participants who include some of the best British actors of recent times. The Order of the Pheonix founded by Dumbledore to fight Voldemort has Julie Walters as Ron’s mother and Gary Oldman as Sirus Black with Adrian Rawlins playing Harry’s father and Geraldine Somerville as his mother, David Thewlis as Remus Lupin appears in several films together with Brendon Gleeson and Jim McManus.

Lord Voldemort when he returns to claim his destiny has his crew of Death Eaters with Draco’s father Lucius played by Jason Isaacs and Timothy Small as Peter Pettigrew. Helena Bonham Carter has a key role in the final films as Bellatrix Lestrange while David Tennant appears in one film.

There are a host of characters at the Ministry of Magic with Robert Hardy, Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton having key roles and where Percy Weasley, played by Chris Rankin has several appearances. Richard Griffiths plays Harry’s foster father and Pam Ferris has a role as his wife. Among the foreign wizards and witches is Francis de la Tour playing Olympe Maxime and Dawn French is a Fat Lady Muggle with John Cleese in a couple of early films along with Rik Mayall and Leslie Phillips. John Hurt has an important role at the end and is also there at the beginning while Miranda Richardson and Julie Christie make appearance. Lenny Henry plays a creature but the final accolade goes to Toby Jones as the Elf Dobby.
In the second film Harry has to prove himself the heir to Salazar Slytherin the founder of the Chamber of Secrets in which in finds himself imprisoned for a time. In the third episode Sirius Black escapes from prison and Harry learns something of the role the man had in his life with the help of Professor Lupon in his staff role as Defence against the Dark Arts teacher. These three films form the introduction with the main action commencing in the Goblets of Fire with the re-emergence of Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters.

From the outset Harry and then Ron play roles in school game of Quiddich which is a competition played above ground using broom sticks to catch a flying object (A Snitch) and score goals. Harry and friends attend the World Championship at which the Death Eaters make their unwelcome appearance.

Three European Wizard schools then arrive at Hogwarts with their Champions chosen by the Goblet of Fire in a TriWizard Tournament with Harry chosen to represent Hogwarts. The tasks required in the competition can involve the loss of life and this brings Harry into his first encounter with the Dark Lord.

It is with the fifth book/film that we learn of the Order of Pheonix, a secret Order for the protection of Hogwarts and Harry and against the return of Voldemort. The Ministry of Magic is in Chaos because they cannot accept that Lord Voldemort has returned with his Death Eaters and Dementors. Their power and attacks on the worlds of magic and muggles intensifies and the Principal accompanied by Harry persuades his old friend and colleague Horace Slughorn to return. As the various forces line up Draco Malfoy is persuaded to attempt to poison the principal and Harry learns more of his past and relationships when he discovers the textbook inscribed as the Property of the Half Blood Prince.
The Principal and the old friend devote their attention to way to destroy Lord Voldemort.

As the series has progresses Harry finds several ways to learn about his past and the future. The most disturbing is that he appears to have direct contact with the Voldemort and therefore learns something of what he is planning and vice versus but the sessions, depending on their length also appear to drain Harry and place him under the control of his adversary. The principal characters are no longer children so there is romance but surprisingly not between Harry and Hermione despite their close and common purpose and endeavours with at times Rom something of a hanger on. However it is Ron who falls for Heroine and she appears to have a love hate relationship with him while Harry‘s interests are elsewhere.

This is all by way of introduction to the final books made into two films which I viewed as a Christmas new release on Sky Premier yesterday recorded while I was away and then Part 2 on the Sky Box office this morning on payment of £3.49.

In the sixth book professor Dumbledoor was killed by Severus Snape who then becomes head of the school. Harry entered Hogwarts aged 11 and this should be his seventh year but he has been told that the protection from the Dark Lord when staying at his Uncle and Aunt will end on his forthcoming birthday and that he must move to another location where he can be protected. A potion is used which can turn people into the character of choice for a short period so that all his friends who are members of the Order of the Pheonix now including Ron and Hermione partake and then go off by diverse means in pairs with one appearing to be Harry. They are soon attacked because of an unknown spy in the camp and George Weasley is wounded but they reach the refuge and Harry is safe.
Unable to return to the school the trio decide to concentrate on the task which Dumbledore and his old friend had commenced: to find the way to destroy Voldemort. They know that he has hidden parts of his soul in objects called Horcruxes, which contribute to his purpose of becoming immortal. They isolate themselves to ensure their friends and families' safety. They have little knowledge about the remaining Horcruxes except the possibility that two are objects once belonging to Hogwarts founders Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff and a third may be Nagini, Voldemort's snake familiar. The whereabouts of the two founders' objects is unknown, and Nagini is presumed to be with Voldemort.

As they search for the Horcruxes, the trio learn more about Dumbledore's past and the existence of a brother. Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour are married, but the wedding is disrupted by the news that Voldemort has taken over the Ministry of Magic.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione flee into London and to 12 Grimmauld Place, where they learn from Kreacher the whereabouts of Salazar Slytherin's locket. They successfully recover this Horcrux by infiltrating the Ministry of Magic and stealing it from Dolores Umbridge. This is a great adventure.

They are unable to destroy the locket which exerts an evil influence over the carrier reminding of the power of the Ring in the Lord of the Rings. During one spell of carrying Ron becomes concerned about what he sees as a growing intimacy between Harry and Hermione. She has with her a small bag which contains a depth of objects including the ability create a protective tent for nightly stopovers while they try to work out the location of the second Horcrux and the means to destroy the locket. Ron goes off in a huff calling on Hermione to give up the quest and follow him. She is tempted but her loyalty is not just to Harry but to the purpose of the quest.

Harry and Hermione travel to Godric's Hollow, Harry's birthplace and the place where his parents died. They meet the elderly magical historian Bathilda Bagshot, who turns out to be Nagini in disguise and attacks them. They escape into the Forest of Dean, where a mysterious silver doe leads Harry to the Sword of Godric Gryffindor, one of the few objects able to destroy Horcruxes, lying at the bottom of an icy lake. When Harry attempts to recover the sword from the pool, the horcrux attempts to kill him. Ron reappears, saving Harry and using the sword to destroy the locket.

Hermione is angry with him for leaving and for the casual manner of his return although he explains he was led to them by the Deluminator, a gift left to him by Dumbledore in his Will so he comments that the Professor must have known there would be need. Dumbledore has given Hermione a book whose value is to be determined and to Harry the original Golden Snitch which he caught in his first game at Hogwarts which has an inscription which is yet to be understood. He has also bequeathed the sword which was lost and which technically was not his to give.

Resuming their search, the trio repeatedly encounter a strange symbol that an eccentric wizard named Xenophilius Lovegood tells them represents the mythical Deathly Hallows. The Hallows are three sacred objects: the Resurrection Stone, with the power to summon the dead to the living world; the Elder Wand, an unbeatable wand; and an infallible Invisibility Cloak. Harry learns that Voldemort is seeking the Elder Wand, but is unaware of the other Hallows and their significance. (Harry used an invisibility Cloak in an earlier episode).

The trio are captured and taken to Malfoy Manor, where Bellatrix Lestrange tortures Hermione. Harry and Ron are thrown in the cellar, where they find Luna Lovegood, Ollivander, Dean Thomas, and Griphook. They escape to Shell Cottage (Bill and Fleur's house) with Dobby's help, the Elf but at the cost of his life. The Elf is buried in the sand dunes surrounding the refuge. The first part ends with that Voldemort breaking into Dumbledore’s tomb and taking the Elder Wand which he uses on the sky signalling that he is now in command

The second film opens with the same sequence and then Harry determines that the must break into the vault of Bellatrix where the second foundation Horcrux is thought to be held. Hermione uses the shape shifting potion to appear as Bellatrix and they taken along the Goblin Griphook. The vault is in the bowels of earth involving a dangerous helter-skelter ride and although they enter the vault they encounter a problem as everything they touch multiplies exponentially. Griphook tries to turn the tables when exchanging the Horcrux for the sword but the trio manage to escape on the back of a dragon similar to a prehistoric flying creature

They return to Hogwarts and oust Severus Snape. Ron and Hermione go to the Chamber of Secrets and destroy what had been hoped was the remaining Horcrux. However they have worked out there is another Horcrux after Harry has confronted the spirit Rowena Ravenclaw and this is a diadem in the Room of Requirement. Malfoy and two others attempt to foil Harry who is rescued by Ron and Hermione but then find themselves engulfed in the flames of a fiend. They only escape using broomsticks, with Harry deciding to rescue Malfoy. Ron makes one of the few jokes that he will kill Harry if they rescuing their adversary. The remaining Horcrux is destroyed leaving just the snake familiar.

The Death Eaters and Voldemort besiege Hogwarts, while Harry, Ron, Hermione, their allies, and various magical creatures defend the school. Several major characters are killed in the first wave of the battle, including Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, and Fred Weasley. Voldemort has pleased with the school to give up Harry or be killed.

Voldemort then kills Severus Snape because he believes doing so will make him the Elder Wand's true master. Harry finds him dying a uses a utensil to capture the tears of Severus who urges Harry to use them to discover the truth about the overall story and its outcome by consulting one of he devices which has enabled Harry to see back as well as to the future.

There are two revelations which astound Harry and turn everything on its head. The first is while Harry’s father was not the hero that been assumed it was Severus who had adored Harry’s mother and attempted to save and then Harry. He had been a double agent throughout pretending to be on the side of the Dark Lord as a means of guarding Harry and had done this with the full knowledge of Dumbledore.

It was Dumbledore with only a year to live who had asked Snape top kill him as a means of saving the soul of Draco who throughout had acted under the influence of his parents who were servants of Voldemort.

However the main and most challenging revelation is that when Voldemort had attacked the one year old Harry he had made the boy into a Horcrux which means that Harry had first kill the snake and then let Voldemort kill him so the dark Lord would be destroyed by his own hands. This presents Harry with his greatest test.

After using the Resurrection Stone to bring back his deceased loved ones for a short while and to ask them about the moment of death and to be with him as he surrenders himself to death at Voldemort's hand. Voldemort casts the Killing Curse at him, sending Harry to a limbo-like state between life and death. There, Dumbledore explains that when Voldemort used Harry's blood to regain his full strength, it protected Harry from Voldemort harming him; the Horcrux inside Harry has been destroyed, and Harry can return to his body despite being hit by the Killing Curse. Dumbledore also explains that Harry became the true master of the Deathly Hallows by facing Death, not by seeking to avoid or conquer it.

Harry returns to his body, feigning death, and Voldemort marches victorious into the castle with his body. However, he shows that he is still alive while Neville Longbottom kills Nagini, the last horcrux, with the Sword of Gryffindor. The battle resumes, and Bellatrix Lestrange is killed by Molly Weasley.

Harry and Voldemort engage in a final climactic duel. Harry reveals that because he willingly sacrificed himself to death by Voldemort's hand, his act of love would protect the Wizarding community from Voldemort in the same way the sacrifice Harry's mother made protected Harry. Harry also reveals that Snape was never loyal to Voldemort and did not murder Dumbledore Voldemort, who murdered Snape, was never the master of the Elder Wand. Draco was the master of the Elder Wand after disarming Dumbledore, but Harry disarmed Draco at Malfoy Manor, making Harry the true master of the Elder Wand.

The wand refused to kill the one to whom it had allegiance, further protecting Harry. During the duel, Harry refuses to use the killing curse and even encourages Voldemort to feel remorse, one known way to restore Voldemort's shattered soul. Voldemort dies when his own killing curse backfires; he and his Death Eaters are finally defeated. The wizarding world is able to live in peace once more. Harry breaks the wand and throws it into thee deep.

There is a splendid epilogue some nineteen years later and once again the train departs from platform nine and three quarters for Hogwarts. But this time Harry is there as a parent to see a son off to school for the first time. There he meets Ron and Hermione who are married and are also there to see one of their children off to the school. For a moment the trio stand together as the train moves out. Also present at the departure is Draco Malfoy and his family seeing off their son Scorpius

Harry and Ginny Weasley have named their three children: James Sirius, Albus Severus, and Lily Luna Harry's godson, Teddy Lupin, is found kissing Bill and Fleur Weasley's daughter Victoire in a train carriage. Harry tells his son Albus, who is worried he will be sorted into Slytherin, that one of his namesakes, Severus Snape, was a Slytherin and the bravest man he had ever met. He adds that the Sorting Hat takes one's choice into account, like it did for Harry.

I am told the book ends with these final words: "The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well."

But is it really the end?

I enjoyed the two films seen in close proximity more than any of the other films which were disappointments after the originality and novelty of the first. My attention did not waiver. However they do not compare with the Lord of the Rings or the adult George Martin Game of Thrones series which returns for the second book dramatization in April.

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