Of course I had to do this one eventually. JK Rowling once wrote that not a child in this world would not know his name, and I don’t think even she knew that was going to come true. Even the mere mention of his name, say on a wordpress blog, brings unprecedented amounts of viewership. Today, I really want to think about how he changed cinema.
To begin, let us look at the boy-who-lived’s first achievements. When Harry Potter and the Sorcerers (Philosophers) Stane came out in 1998,it changed the literary world forever. It is most acclaimed for popularizing children fiction and modernizing it, as well as creating the sub-genre of young adult fiction. The ongoing series of books would make strides for children books by offering dark themes, complex story, and truly interesting character. The emerging genre, as I already mentioned, has become known as Young Adult fiction and has taken the world by storm. The books also helped to repopularize the fantasy genre by bringing it back into the limelight. Essentially, the films did the same things for cinema. Children movies pre-2001 were not very complex and usually animated. Disney was making strides by putting in adult jokes, but Harry took it to a whole new level. Starting in the second movie, it was clear that the Potter franchise would be gripping for children and parents alike. The films presented interesting imagery (including a decapitated ghost and a giant snake monster,) a sharp wit, and gripping characters. This point is especially driven home by the marketing for The Prisoner of Azkaban, which in hindsight is the only film without an antagonist, which boasted the tagline “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” The story was presented as a ghost from Harry’s past returning to seek vengeance on him and finish the job he had failed to do in the past. This might as well be the synopsis of a Jason Bourne film. From that point on the series got progressively darker, notably with the first true death in the fourth book and the endless deaths that succeeded it, and it became a series of enjoyable films, not children films. Obviously, its success in both forms led to copycats, which gave us the amazing stories of Percy Jackson, Katniss Everdeen, Tris, and the Mazerunners. In fact, the Sorcerers Stone coupled with Fellowship of the Ring, can be credited with a short revival in fantasy films that came to a close more-or-less after The Deathly Hallows Pt.2.
All this being said, Potter himself isn’t that important of a character. He is the unlikely hero in a typical hero’s journey. I would love to say that he led to an increase in moody and angsty leading roles, which it may have, but I think his true influence comes across through how he, and the world he inhabited, impacted cinema. Obviously, there are a ton of fan-favorite side characters throughout the story, many of which are more popular than Harry himself. This helped cinema remember that when it came to fantasy, the world was just as important as the man. If you have ever watched another teen movie and thought a side character was strangely more enjoyable and fleshed out than the lead, thank Harry and his friends. Even if they weren’t more enjoyable, at least hollywood recognized the importance.
However, none of this is the most important part of Harry Potter. What is? The series is the single greatest testament to children actors in the history of cinema. If you go back and watch Sorcerers Stone, you see real eleven year olds playing themselves. Sure their acting isn’t always perfect, but it is better than what child actors were thought to be able to do. It still holds up remarkably well and the teenage actors continued to balk the traditional “20’s is a teen” mentality of Hollywood throughout the series. Sure, there are children shows with child stars, but nothing on the scale of Potter. Throughout the first four installments of the series, the action mainly takes place at Hogwarts, where there are relatively few adult characters. The teenagers carried every film while not sacrificing any part of the story. The big three didn’t even break the teen-years until the release of the Half Blood Prince. The series is renowned for its amazing casting, with each actor perfectly embedding the role. (I mean, who else could play Harry, or Hermione, or Ron, or the Twins, or Hagrid, or…)
In coclusion, Harry Potter is an icon. He is most influential for the world he inhabits, the friends he keeps, and the men that play him. The special effects were top-notched and without him there would be no YA Fiction. What’s more to say than thanks Potter.