One of the biggest wide screen serials ever – the Harry Potter saga – is coming to end, or, rather, a half of an end this week, when “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” premieres worldwide. It’s been nine years since the very first film, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was released, and since then the saga has starred an array of celebrated British actors, gave a kick start to a number of acting careers and changed four directors. And of course, the characters of the story has been through a lot. The story have seemingly been growing with the characters – from magical fairy-tale in the first and second chapter, it has been gradually gaining darker colors, until turning into a proper thriller in the last couple of films. Now that we’re preparing to view the two-parter final movie, it’s time to recall where it all began and how Harry & Co got to where we find them in “The Deathly Hallows.”
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (Directed by Chris Columbus)
We first meet Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe – alternatively looking surprised and happy, but not really acting) – an sweet wide-eyed orphan child, who lives in the basement and plays cinderella to his mean auntie, uncle and spoilt fat cousin. Originally a wizard family offspring, he lost parents as a baby – both of them were killed by horrible dark wizard Voldemort, but Harry survived all because the magic protection his mother gave him backfired the murder curse back at Voldemort and reduced him to something of a spirit. Harry since lived (with a thunderbolt-shaped scar on his forehead), unaware of his origins, in the family of his mother’s sister until the day he turned 10. An invitation arrived for him to enter Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry is all excited, but his relatives, who try to stay from all things witchy, run off to a remote cabin. And that’s where Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) – a half-giant keeper of grounds at Hogwarts – picks up Harry, takes him school shopping and sends him off to the train station. On the school train Harry meets his future BFFs – confident brainiac Hermione (Emma Watson) and hapless ginger Ron (Rupert Grint), and an enemy – blond and vicious Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton).
At school, Harry and his two pals are welcomed by headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris), get sorted in one of four school houses – Gryffindor, and begin their wizard studies. Harry also lands a spot as a “seeker” in the Gryffindor’s Quidditch (wizard sport) team, for being a master broom-flier. The three friends learn about the all-powerful Philosopher’s Stone, that’s being kept in the school and guarded with a three-headed dog. Harry suspects that Snape – potions teacher and a very ambiguous figure, of trying to steal it to restore Voldemort to its former power. Trying to get to the stone before Snape, the three find a way to get past the dog, and solve several complex tasks. But in the end Harry discovers it’s not Snape (Alan Rickman), but Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Prof. Quirrell who’s after the Stone – Voldemort has been “living” on the back of his head under his turban all along. As the stone magically turns up in Harry’s pocket (Dumbledore’s trick), Voldemort tries to persuade the boy to give it away, and attempts to kill him, but in vain – Harry’s touch kills Quirrel, and Voldemort’s spirit escapes.
“Harry Potter and the Secret Chamber” (Directed by Chris Columbus)
This is one is just a little bit darker. Harry’s second year at school is haunted by the rumor that the Chamber of Secrets was reopened and the “heir of Slytherin” (one of school’s houses, known to release many future dark wizards) will kill all muggle-born (“muggles” are regular humans in wizard slang) kids, one of which is Hermione. Soon several school residents – including one cat – are found petrified. Harry meets Moaning Myrtle – a ghost-girl, who was killed the last time the Chamber was opened, and now lives in girls bathroom – where she died. Myrtle gives Harry a magical diary of some Tom Marvolo Riddle, which shows Harry the way Hogwarts was 50 years ago.
After a while, diary gets stolen, and Hermione gets petrified, but leaves a clue – it was caused by basilisk – a huge serpent, which kills anyone looking into its eyes with its gaze alone, but only petrifies those who see him as a reflection. Because of the mayhem going on, headmaster Dumbledore is suspended from his position. When Ron’s younger sister, Ginny disappears into the Chamber, everyone looks to the current Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh) for help. But as with all teachers of this subject in all of Harry’s years at the school – there is a catch. Lockhart, though a celebrity, is a fraud and tries to flee. The boys still force him into accompanying them to the bathroom and the passage to the Chamber discovered by Harry. Separated from the others in the tunnel after a cave-in, Harry reaches the Chamber and finds unconscious Ginny and Tom Riddle. Riddle is actually a ghost of young Voldemort, who had Ginny possessed by the diary and had her open the chamber. Harry manages to kill Basilisk (again assisted by Dumbledore) and destroy the diary.
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (Directed by Alfonso Cuaron)
Released two years after the third movie, this one shows the main characters considerably grown – no longer kids, they are proper teenagers, and are modernized by wearing lots of “muggle” clothes, such as jeans, when not in class. Also for the first time Harry sets out to school on his own – after a fight with his housemates, he leaves and gets picked up by a magic bus, that helps wizards in trouble. On the train to Hogwarts Harry also has a most unpleasant encounter with a Dementor – one of the sinister creatures who suck happiness out of everyone around them and guard Azkaban prison. The reason they are on the loose is that that famous murderer and Voldemort follower Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped. Harry also soon learns that Black is the one who betrayed his parents to Voldemort and apparently is now trying to kill Harry himself. On the good side, there is a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher – Remus Lupin (David Thewlis)– a smart, learned and friendly man (unfortunately, also a werewolf), and Hagrid is appointed Care of Magical Creatures teacher. However the latter’s career ends with first lesson, when a Hippogriff attacks Malfoy.
The amazing flying creature is sentenced to death. In the meantime Harry comes into possession of a Marauder’s Map that shows everyone’s location in Hogwarts at a given moment in time, and that’s where Harry sees the name of Peter Pettigrew – who was supposedly killed by Black many years ago. Harry and friends finally face Black (accompanied by old friend Lupin) in the Shrieking Shack somewhere under the Whomping Willow – a violent tree. Here they learn several things: a) Black is Harry’s godfather and never meant to kill him; b)Peter Pettigrew is an animagus, can turn into a rat, and has been living this way as Ron’s pet for years; c) He’s the one who betrayed Harry’s parents to Voldemort, and Sirius was going after him.
Finally it’s decided to turn Pettigrew over to justice and clear Sirius’s name, but at a really bad time Lupin turns into a monster wolf. Black tries to fight him to protect the kids, but gets hurt, almost killed by a Dementor army (they do it by sucking out a soul), and ends up locked up at the school just to be sent back to prison and executed. But here again Dumbledore intervenes: he suggests to Hermione that the Time-Turner he gave her earlier, can be used to go back and save to “innocent lives.” And so she and Harry travel back in time, freeing Hippogriff and Sirius, who then escapes on Hippogriff’s back.
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (Directed by Mike Newel)
In the center of this one is the Triwizard Tournament – a difficult and dangerous contest between three “champions” of three prominent schools. Hogwarts is hosting two schools arriving to participate – French all-girl school and an all-boy school “from the North.” The participants are selected by the Goblet of Fire, in which names are placed. The lucky chosen are Hogwarts’ Cedric Diggory (pre-Twilight Robert Pattinson), Fleur Delacour and Viktor Krum. Harry turns up as an unexpected fourth champion who is also underage to participate, but is allowed to do so, though is generally believed a cheater. The new Defense Against Dark Arts teacher Mad “Eye” Moody (Brendon Gleeson, actually impersonated by Death Eater Barty Crouch, using polyjuice potion) scares some students, but also boldly teaches them some of the most horrible curses, including Crusiatus – that tortures and Avada Cedavra – that kills.
Going through with two first tasks of the tournament with some difficulty: first they have to retrieve a golden egg from a dragon, second they each need to rescue a person from a bottom of the lake, Harry faces the most complex task yet – the ball given in honor of the guests – where he and Ron are supposed to come with girls. It also first reveals the romantic tension between Ron and Hermione, when Ron tries to invite her at last moment, while Hermione shows up at the ball with Quidditch champion Krum. As the final task of the tournament the four champions have to go through a creepy maze. Cedric and Harry finally manage it together, but as they touch the cup, they discover it’s a portkey, which transfers them to a mysterious cemetery.
There they are met by Pettigrew, who kills Diggory, disarms Harry and uses his blood to finally bring Voldemort back to life. Restored to his full magnificent self, Voldemort (unrecognizable Ralph Fiennes) then tries to kill Harry. However as both attack at same time, their wands lock, and spirits of people killed by the Dark Lord emerge. Using the confusion, Harry grabs Cedric, summons the portkey-cup and returns to the tournament field, where he announces that Voldemort is back. But before the end of the story he’s almost killed by impostor-Moody, who is discovered at last moment.
“Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix” (Directed by David Yates)
This is the one where things start badly and keep getting worse till the very end. Dumbledore’s and Harry’s announcement that Voldemort’s back didn’t please anyone – least of all the Ministry of magic, which since worked to create the image of them both being crazy. While the wizard world remains in denial, Dumbledore reinstates the secret Order of the Phoenix (originally founded to fight Voldemort) made up of Remus Lupin, “Mad Eye” Moody, Ron’s dad Arthur Weasely and others, with headquarters at Sirius Black’s family house. At school things are no better. Ministry of Magic is interfering with school by placing one Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton, looking like a middle-aged makeup saleswoman with a high-pitch voice and nasty little laugh) in the annually vacant spot of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. She, however, refuses to teaching practical defense magic, since she believes it “useless” to kids. Harry, who mentions Voldemort in class, is subjected to torture in detention.
Despite first calling him liar and loony, a group of kids turn to Harry to teach them defensive magic in the secret room of the school. They call themselves “Dumbledore’s Army.” Umbridge keeps on growing in power, instating new rules and turning school in her own totalitarian kingdom. In the meantime Harry has some romantic encounters with co-student Cho Chang, and has a nightmare in which he sees Arthur Weasley attacked – and it turns out to be true. Dumbledore orders Harry to take Occlumency lessons from Snape – to learn to guard his mind from Voldemort’s intrusions (it doesn’t help). In the meantime, the news arrive that Sirius’s mad cousin Bellatrix (Helena Bohnam Carter) and other Death Eaters escape from Azkaban. After Umbridge uncovers “Dumbledore’s Army,” Dumbledore takes all the blame and escapes – Umbridge becomes headmistress. Unwilling to live under her despotic rule any longer, Ron’s two mischievous twin brothers stage a fireworks mayhem during an exam in Great Hall before leaving the school for good. Finally Harry has a vision of Sirius being tortured in Ministry’s Department of Mystery and rushes to his rescue with Ron and Hermione.
When caught by Umbridge, the three lure her into Forbidden Forest, and leave her to the mercy of a gang of centaurs. Then the three friends and a few other members of “Dumbledore’s Army” fly to the Ministry on the backs of Thestrals – creepy skeleton flying horses. In the department they uncover a prophecy involving Harry and Voldemort, but are then attacked by Death Eaters, who reveal that Sirius vision was Voldemort’s trick on Harry’s mind. The two parties fight, until the kids are joined by Dumbledore and other members of the Order of the Phoenix. In course of the battle Sirius is killed by Bellatrix (an emotional blow to Harry), and Dumbledore engages in a duel with Voldemort. At long last Ministry officials arrive seeing Voldemort dissaparate, and no longer deny his return. Dumbledore replaces Umbridge at school, while Harry learns the contents of the prophecy – either he kills Voldemort or Voldemort will kill him (something we all kind of suspected all along).
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (Directed by David Yates)
With dark times for the whole wizard world officially here, the film opens with Bellatrix and Draco Malfoy’s mother Narcissa paying a visit to Snape, who gives an Unbreakable Vow to aide Draco in a certain task that Voldemort had entrusted him with. Next Harry and Dumbledore visit Horace Slughorn, former potions teacher, whom the headmaster wants to bring back to school with a secret agenda. When in school at Slughorn’s class, Harry is forced to borrow one of old potion textbooks – this one is signed by a mysterious Half-Blood Prince and full of his notes on how to excel at potions. Ron becomes a keeper of Gryffindor’s Quidditch team and suddenly gets a girlfriend, much to the despair of Hermione, though she herself has an admirer. Harry, in turn, has a crush on Ginny. As he spends Christmas at Weasley’s, Death Eaters stage an attack, trying to capture Harry, but in the end just burn down the house. Suspecting Draco – who’s unusually moody and serious this year – of trying to kill Dumbledore, Harry attacks him with a curse from the book that almost kills him. Dumbledore than instructs Harry to try and get crucial information out of Slughorn – formerly Tom Riddle’s teacher. Turns out the latter told future Dark Lord about Horcruxes – the method of hiding a part of a person’s soul in an object. Voldemort can’t be killed until all his Horcruxes are destroyed and there are seven of them.
Two have already been taken care of. Dumbledore brings Harry on a mission to get a third one. They dissaparate to a far-off cave under the sea and headmaster almost dies drinking a potion hiding the Horcrux. Back at school, Dumbledore sends Harry for Snape, but at same time several Death Eaters arrive with Draco’s help. From his hiding place, Harry learns that it was indeed Draco trying to kill Dumbledore – but he doesn’t seem to have courage to finish the job. Snape, who suddenly appears, does it for him. Fatally hit, Dumbledore falls from Astronomy tower. Before fleeing, Snape reveals that Half-Blood Prince is himself. Dumbledore’s death plunges Harry and rest of school into a state of grief, despair and horror. Moreover, Harry discovers the Horcrux locket they found together is empty – there is a message inside from a certain “R.A.B.” who already took the Horcrux to destroy it.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” (Directed by David Yates)
Having read the book, I know how everything goes and ends in the final chapter – though I don’t yet know how much of it David Yates kept in the story. But considering that the film is a two-parter, we can expect a rather detailed, thrilling and scary final journey. As Voldemort, now risen to full power and with no Dumbledore to keep him at bay, gains control of the Ministry of Magic, Harry, Ron and Hermione give up school, and go on a trip to find a destroy the remaining Horcruxes, with only a few clues at their possession. In their travels, the trio learn about the Deathly Hallows – the powerful mystical objects, that include a Resurrection Stone, an Elder Wand and an infallible Invisibility Cloak. They have to go through a lot trials, split up at some point, and of course, face the finally decisive battle with the Dark Lord.