Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Page and Screen: What is the real legacy of Slytherin from Harry Potter?


Warning: This article contains spoilers that may induce suicide

When I finally saw Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part2, just a few days after its release, I was ecstatic to find that the franchise bowed out by reclaiming its magical mojo. For me it was the best film of the series by a long way. Debating my enjoyment with friends I conceded it may just be that I have forgotten the omissions from the books that used to irritate me or that I simply no longer care as long as the film is good. And this was definitely good, so good I’m tempted to use the word “sublime”.

The tone was perfectly judged. The film starts with a tense and atmospheric scene of dialogue, still drenched in the grief of Dobby’s death and the impending doom. From then on the contrast is expertly maintained, with unique action sequences following moodily shot moments of explanation and reflection. There are clichés and cheesy emotional dramas aplenty but the successful history of the series earns its self indulgent payoff. Well for someone of the Potter generation like me at least.

I simply cannot cram in everything I liked about The Deathly Hallows: Part 2. As a film experience it seems to have everything, from a dark and beautiful style, to gags and heartbreak. I rarely feel completely and utterly amazed and transported in the cinema, but I did watching this. I don’t want to diminish my enjoyment by writing a proper review, which would be biased by my personal Potter journey as well as inadequately conveying its many, yes magical, moments.

Besides there were only two moments I can remember that irritated me. One of these was when Harry grabs Voldemort and they fly about for a bit pointlessly (Voldemort is too powerful to grab!). The other was more puzzling than annoying. It wasn’t the epilogue, in which the actors play their older selves on the platform at King’s Cross. I simply laughed for the entirety of that.

It was a throwaway moment in the Great Hall, when Harry reveals himself to Snape and the Death Eaters now in charge of Hogwarts. Voldemort quickly knows Harry is there and uses some wonderfully sinister and psychological scares on the students. He speaks to them from inside their heads, assuring them that they’ll live if they give him Harry Potter but if they fight they will die. At this point some girls from Slytherin house demand Harry is seized. Maggie Smith’s Professor McGonagall, head of the courageous and good Gryffindor house, then orders the whole of Slytherin to be confined in the dungeons until the battle is over.

Now the Harry Potter series is well known for its moral messages and Voldemort’s hatred of half bloods. There are some far from subtle Nazi parallels as the bad guys constantly insist that Muggles (non magical folk like us) and half bloods (children with only one magical parent) are inferior to pure bloods of true magical families. J.K. Rowling appears to be sending the typical “don’t judge a book by its cover” and “everyone deserves a chance” messages. But these common goods have always been at odds with the Hogwarts tradition of the Sorting Hat.

For the uninitiated, when first year students join Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry they are “sorted” into houses by a magical hat placed on their head. Every house is associated with different attributes. A quick (and simplified) summary would read as: Gryffindor = brave, Hufflepuff = kind, Ravenclaw = clever and Slytherin = evil. Yup essentially if you’re in Slytherin you turn out to be bad.

And yet there is the ending to this conclusion to the series, which reveals the true intentions of slippery Severus Snape. If you ignored the spoiler warning at the top and you haven’t either seen the last film or read the last book, now is the time to abort. Snape basically loved Harry’s mother Lily. He has been looking out for Harry all along. But wait…he killed Dumbledore! Yes technically, but Dumbledore was already dying from a wound he sustained destroying a part of Voldemort’s soul called a Horcrux. Confused? Very sorry if you are, I’ll get back to my point about inconsistency.

In the epilogue Harry’s son worries about getting put in Slytherin, before he sets off to Hogwarts for the first time. Harry reassures “Albus Severus Potter” that one of his stupid names belonged to a former head of Slytherin, who was the bravest man he ever knew. Both Rowling’s books and the film series end by hailing nasty Snape’s undying unrequited love as the true, silent hero of the whole thing.

In a recent interview for Empire Magazine, Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves admits his favourite character is not Harry, but Hermione. If your favourite character is Harry you’re a bit weird and boring. My favourite character was always Snape, first for his vile putdowns and mystery and finally for his valiant but unrecognised and unrewarded selfless sacrifice in the name of love, a love that was never realised. He is a bitter dreamer so easy to sympathise with.

We are left with two very different legacies for the house of Slytherin. On the one hand the people that appear to be the villains on the outside can sometimes be the greatest heroes of all. On the other, never trust a rotten apple, even if it has the potential to taste great with a bit of work.

I’m sure some of you are probably thinking that it’s a bit stupid to be ruining a great film and phenomenally successful series with such picky analysis. I do not intend to spoil the enjoyment of the last film, which is a fantastic and fitting ending as I have said, or the creative achievement of the whole Harry Potter universe. Rowling’s muddled messages over genetics and the morals of condemning someone over something other than their actions, does illustrate that Harry Potter’s magical world is far from perfect though. Her imagination is superb and she is capable of powerful poignancy and elegance, as illustrated in the largely unaltered scene in the final film when Dumbledore praises the magical power of words. But perhaps Slytherin was her Achilles heel.

Or maybe she was also capable of realism as well as fantasy. Maybe she meant that some people are always more likely to turn out “bad”. But that makes the achievement of those who come good in the end all the more admirable. Slytherin’s ultimate legacy doesn’t matter. It will be dwarfed by the ongoing impact of the whole world of Hogwarts, Hagrid and Harry. I’m just reluctant, like everyone else, to stop talking about it.

Page and Screen: In Praise of Rupert Grint


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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDMm4NQPEgs&feature=player_detailpage#t=477s

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.