By Tom Kapr
It took me a long time to become a fan of the Harry Potter films (until around this time last year, I had only seen two of the films, Sorcerer’s Stone and Order of the Phoenix, and had only minimal admiration for both). A cram session of sorts (watching Chamber of Secrets through Half-Blood Prince in relatively quick succession) before viewing Deathly Hallows: Part 1 for that film’s Buried Cinema podcast made me realize that this film series is a towering achievement in fantasy cinema on par with Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy. Rare is this level of consistency of content, story, and characters and actors in a film series; it is unheard of through eight films over the course of a decade. Rarer still is this level of consistency of quality. Sure, not every film in the series is a great film, but every one of them is at least a fairly well-made, enjoyable movie.
But let’s take a quick look at this film series’ most central and consistent quality. It is astounding to me, uncanny even, that the casting for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was so good that, over the course of ten years (which is an eon in the life of a child), every major child role would still be performed by same young actor who originated it, and that every one of those children would turn out to be a charismatic actor who could carry a scene, and carry it well. And none, of course, is more impressive than Daniel Radcliffe in the central role of Harry Potter. (Major props to Stone director Chris Columbus and his casting team Susie Figgis, Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins, and Karen Lindsay-Stewart for scoring the pivotal triumvirate chemistry of Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, especially.)
From the opening scenes of Sorcerer’s Stone to those final moments on the bridge in Deathly Hallows: Part 2, we get the distinct pleasure of watching a talented child actor become an instant star and then slowly mature into an even finer actor, all of 21 years of age, with an eternal cinematic legacy already behind him. It wasn’t until that final scene in Part 2, however, when I realized how distinct Radcliffe the actor was from Harry Potter, his character, and that, indeed, there may be a wealth of talent there heretofore unseen.
(Warning: Here be spoilers!)
The final scene of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 depicts Harry and his best friends Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Ginny Weasley (now his wife) as adults with children of their own, sending them off to a new school year at Hogwarts. In Harry’s case, he’s sending his son off to his first year, a reflection of Harry’s own moments stepping into the frontier from the first film. (And I don’t care what the guys said on the podcast for Part 2: the age makeup in this scene is perfect–it’s understated, just enough to show that time has passed and their childlike features are gone.)
When I first saw this scene in the theater, and Daniel Radcliffe walked into frame as a man in view of his middle-age years, I was astonished. He walked differently. He talked differently. He moved his face differently. Even just standing, he held himself differently. No sign of an awkward teenager remained. He had the physical confidence of a man who had been through life. And yet, he was without a doubt still Harry Potter. I can’t even do it justice by describing it. It has to be seen. But it has to be seen in the context of a decade’s worth of work. Before this scene, my thoughts were, “Wow, this kid has become a good actor.” As the credits rolled, I was thinking, “I genuinely believe Daniel Radcliffe deserves an Oscar nomination.”
And I do. He won’t get it, but he deserves it, for the final film alone and more importantly as a token of honor for the seven films before it. If not for that scene, I might be in doubt of Radcliffe’s future movie-star career. There have been so many one-trick ponies, especially when it comes to child stars. But in that one closing scene, Radcliffe showed he has more to him than Harry Potter. (Understand also, this is coming from someone who hasn’t seen his one or two other non-Harry Potter films, nor his work on the stage.)
That final scene is the reason I am excited to watch Daniel Radcliffe’s career from this point on, and why I am looking forward to seeing The Woman in Black next month. It will be Radcliffe’s first post-Potter film role, a starring role in what looks to be a classic-style slow-boil horror film. He plays a young lawyer (a naive one?) on a seemingly routine job who gets caught up in the unfortunate history of the house in which he is staying and the, shall we say, unhappy ghost who still resides there.
You can watch the trailer here. Not only is it genuinely creepy (what with all those bizarre toys–what child wants those things?), but it looks genuinely artistic in its framing and production value. Thankfully, it also forgoes the usual horror-trailer jump-at-the-end cliché.
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