Marmite and Magic

It all ends. It all ended for me last Friday in fact. I’ve seen – and marvelled at – the final Harry Potter film. But I know that when I go on about the boy wizard I’m dividing my audience; people who can take or leave Potter are few and far between. People who love or loathe him are two a penny. So in the spirit of balance, as this enormous franchise disapparates, let’s take a look at some pros and cons.


Rupert Grint, as Ron Weasley, is one of the wonders of the series. It was a great bit of casting from the off, but he’s also come a long way since spending the first couple of films doing that ‘erk!’ sideways grin and saying ‘bloody ‘ell ‘arry!’ In the Deathly Hallows, parts one and two, he’s all hero. Go Grint.

But was he really the only red-headed actor they could find? Anywhere? Hundreds of millions spent on CGI and they couldn’t work up a convincing bunch of (hard ‘g’, no negative intended) gingers? Julie Walters and Mark Williams? Should have been Julia Mackenzie and Chris Evans.

Voldemort’s features

Snakey non-existent nose: perfect, just like the books. But in the books he also has glowing red eyes with pupils like slits: in the films these are absent. On paper, which of those two sounds scarier? That’s right. In terms of scary-ing Ralph Fiennes up, I think they backed the wrong facial horse. Snake. Whatever. When you’re playing a baddie, a good set of crazy contact lenses can take you all the way to Oscar glory – just ask Natalie Portman.

Harry, Hermione and hair

As the series ends, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson playing Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. It’s hard to imagine the gorgeous and talented Nicholas Hoult and Carey Mulligan in the roles for example – oh… wait a minute… Anyway – and we’re back on hair here – I think the film makers bottled on two key details. Harry should have untameable, sticky-uppy hair. The books are very clear on this. And, of course, Hermione’s should be totally bushy, like Cameron Diaz’s in Being John Malkovich. By denying Watson this early on, they deny her her ‘but-Miss-Perkins-you’re-beautiful’ moment when she tames it for the Yule Ball in the Goblet Of Fire. When they first cast the kids they were very strict about them being British, but apparently they didn’t mind giving them a Hollywood hairdresser. Even in Deathly Hallows Part Two, when Harry returns to Hogwarts to face his destiny, he seems to have found a few minutes to smarten up before assembly.


The only character to have been recast during the series – due, in no small part, to Richard Harris’ lack of aliveness after the second film – Albus Dumbledore has, in Michael Gambon’s portrayal, got more and more interesting. Funnily enough Dumbledore’s lack of aliveness at the end of film six – Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince – doesn’t stop Gambon turning up in the Deathly Hallows, particularly part two.

But there’s a certain twinkly ridiculousness the Hogwarts Headmaster has in the books that they’ve never bothered with in the films; he’s always conjuring up a twirling plate of tea and biscuits or a squashy armchair out of nowhere, and saying things like ‘I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you.’

Perhaps they should have cast Rowan Atkinson in the role.

British Actors

It’s been great to see the cream of British thespian talent picking up the acting slack in the films; wonderful to see Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith, there from the start, doing thrilling new things eight films in. And the casting department have kept the curve, bringing in the likes of Brendan Gleeson, Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, Rhys Ifans, Ciaran Hinds and Kelly McDonald right to the end; compare this with the no-mark New Zealanders they cobbled together for Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King, assaying roles that would have gone to, like, Laurence Olivier when they were making the Fellowship of the Ring.

But, as I say, they should have had more people from Blackadder.

Finally, let’s look at the…

Overarching structure

JK Rowling clearly had an epiphany, sitting on that train not so many years ago when she thought of Harry; she didn’t just think ‘I know – I’ll do a boy wizard book’, she really did her homework, Hermione Granger style. Only now, seven books, eight films in, can everyone really see that she had the whole story down, right from the start. What’s more, here’s where the uniqueness of the series lies; not in wizards or boarding schools, not even in teen adventures with action and romance, you can find all that stuff elsewhere. Harry Potter’s USP is the passage of time – books, films and actors that grow up before your eyes. Even the most hardened Harry hater – and let’s face it, they’re everywhere – would be hard pushed to come up with another story that works that magic.

But… that means we’re done. Fans mourn, as do Warner Brothers accountants; no more Potter. Forever. Accepting death as a final, irreversible end is one of the morals of the story, but I’ve got one word for the film makers involved: reboot.

As the Average White Band once sang, let’s go round again.