Everlasting magic: What the future holds for the Harry Potter movie franchise

Just when the mourning over the end of Harry Potter seemed to be coming to an end, the world was gripped with another bout of nostalgia with the opening of the Warner Bros. Studio Tours in Leavesden. This highly publicized event featured a glittering array of all the names and faces any self-respecting Harry Potter fan would instantly recognize, each just as memorable as the sets and costumes themselves. But although the main focus of the event seemed to be the movies, everyone present knew that the fans were hoping for something greater; they wanted a taste of the original wizarding world as it was expressed through J.K Rowling’s books, the thrill that they experienced when they first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  That they do this through visiting a set is testament to how closely the movies and books are associated; in the eyes of many, the point of the films is to come as close as possible to a pure visual embodiment of the books. Nothing yet has contradicted this assumption; instead it has stood, with problematic consequences.

One such consequence is that the movies are closed off to anyone who hasn’t read the books. For the unfortunate person previously unexposed to the complications of the wizarding world, the pseudo-Latin gibberish of spell, place and character names that the main characters rattle off is enough to induce feelings of dizziness and nausea. Not to mention the near impossibility of following numerous characters who pop up for a brief cameo and hastily relate their family ties and connections; with no text to shed light on all the details and facts, the movies become near unwatchable.  And so the audience is narrowed to those committed fans who’ve both read the books and watched the movies. Yet even they quickly become dissatisfied with the movie’s brief, truncated style, the way events are shortened or left out. Even with the recognition that no film could ever hope to completely encapsulate Rowling’s volumes, there remains a nagging sense that the films aren’t doing them justice, that books have been cheapened in their journey from page to screen. This suspicion of Potter’s commercial aspect was at its strongest when it was announced the seventh book would be split in two; the initial enthusiasm of many at the series’ extension was tempered by the realization it would enable Warner Bros. to extract twice the money. Even the studios have the taint of commercialization; in their report on the grand opening, the BBC hinted at some minor controversy over the exorbitant price of tours, before praising of the beauty of the sets.

But for all the complaints over accuracy and commercialization, the fact remains that Harry Potter fans have sustained the movie series and ensured its financial success. Even if the director’s vision didn’t match their own, a sense of loyalty kept them watching; after reading all seven increasingly voluminous books, a two hour movie didn’t seem like too great a sacrifice to complete their Harry Potter education. The future of the films is thus directly correlated with that of the books; if the next generation inherits this one’s obsession, their ongoing success is guaranteed. If teenagers of the future instead quail before the sheer length of the books, then the films that that embody them will be forgotten.

Rachael Goddard-Rebstein