Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Impact of Potter

If you have any sense of pop culture awareness, it should come as no surprise that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is finally upon us. It's been ten years of ups and downs as we not only watched our childhood favorites translated from page to screen, but also shared in the memories and experiences as Harry, Ron, and Hermione grew through the years. Different hairstyles, fashion styles. We notice. To celebrate the epic conclusion to the motion picture event of the decade, we're featuring a new Potter-themed blog from now through Friday, ending with our review of the IMAX 3D presentation.

We'll have plenty of lists and opinions on bests and worsts of the series, what they did well and wrong, and so on. To get it out of the way: my favorite remains the first, Sorcerer's Stone, but I very much want Part 2 to dethrone it. I'd like to start things off by talking about what the Potter series has done for the film industry and the impact it will hold for years to come. From a logistical aspect, the eight movie franchise has generated over $6.5 billion already and I very much expect Part 2 to become another billion dollar movie. Once you add merchandising, video games, not to mention all of the books that sold to markets who otherwise wouldn't have known Potter and the figures are mind-boggling.

Eight movies is a lot. Well, seven at the time of Stone production, but that's still a lot. 2001 was the year Fellowship of the Ring released. Shrek, Monster's Ink, Ocean's Eleven. X-Men the year before and Spiderman the year after. The turn of the century brought with it a surge in a completely different kind of movie: trilogies, franchises, superheroes, sci-fi and fantasy. Yes, these things existed before 2000, but not like they do now. Now, when actors sign to a movie, their contract automatically lists a trilogy, just in case. Sam Jackson signed a nine-picture deal with Marvel to play Nick Fury. He might not use all of them, but the deal itself was unprecedented.

Adapting epics for the big screen is risky because it means you make a movie now under the hopes you'll get to make more later. It's succeeded and failed as trilogies died (Eragon, Series of Unfortunate Events) and sometimes dragged too long (Shrek). When Warner Bros. signed on to Potter, they weren't signing on to a movie; they were signing on to a franchise. The series of novels was already popular, which meant a huge fan base that would, and has, remain critical all the way. But you don't start something like Potter without plans to finish it. When the first film went into production, only four novels had been written. This meant they were not only banking on being able to make all of the movies but also on a story that wasn't even finished yet.

The risk paid off, and maybe it wasn't as risky as something like Star Wars, but Potter may well be one of the few fitting comparisons. Star Trek is all over the place, but it doesn't pull $800 million a movie. Few series with so many titles do, which shows how rare and powerful its success is. Potter has inspired multitudes of young adult novels, fantasy series, and more. Sure, a lot of it are obvious ripoffs and pieces of crap, but there are gems that make it worth while. Personally, I think the majority of people who see the Potter films haven't read the novels, which increases viewer base and, for at least some, increases those who then go out and read them.

Potter can be a tough thing with fans because it often ends up in "OMG they cut out Dumbledore's funeral!" and "the Firebolt at the END of the film!?! WTF!?!" Try looking at it from the perspective of someone who isn't a diehard of the novels, though. They don't know about the things left out. They're left to judge what they saw and make an opinion on that. Different debate. More importantly, these people know the Potter tale at all. I know several in my family who only get references because they've seen the trailers. Like it or not, more people are willing to watch a movie then read a novel, making the messages all the more impacting.

Regardless of whether you like Goblet of Fire or approve of all the scenes they had to cut for time or budgetary reasons (still, no excuse for Dumbledore's funeral), Harry Potter is a film franchise that will be recorded in textbooks. It will be remembered for its advances in computer animation, storytelling, the huge impact it's had on the UK film industry since, at heart, these are English, not American, films. And above all else, it will be remembered for successfully telling the eight-part story of the boy who lived. It is, after all, always cool to see a picture of Radcliffe when 10 and when 21 next to each other. My, where have the years gone?

Oh, one last thing: If Yates screws up this last movie........RAAAAMPAAAAGEEE!!!

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