Last night I watched Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the final film in the much publicised series. I have to admit, sad as it is, that I got a bit emotional. The character of Harry Potter has been in my life for well over a decade, first in book form and then at the cinema, and as the credits rolled on the final film, it hit me – this is the end of an era. Having watched Daniel Radcliffe and the rest of the young cast grow over the years, the end of the 8-film series reminded me how much I had changed since the first film (I was 16 when it was released – so that’s quite a lot of change!)
In the next issue of Guru Magazine (available for free from 1st August), I’ll be writing about why Harry Potter has been so successful. But with HP firmly in mind, it’s got me thinking today about other movie franchises that, like Harry Potter, have seen characters grow and change drastically, and have taken the audience on a journey at the same time.
Here’s my top 5 – leave a comment and let me know of any others…
From 1976 to 2006, Sylvester Stallone’s inspirational character of Rocky Balboa captivated audiences, as we watched the ultimate underdog fight against the odds to achieve his dream. Over six films, Balboa grows from down on his luck amateur boxer to unlikely heavyweight champion, before falling prey to the pitfalls of fame and almost losing everything he worked so hard for. Along the way, special performances from Mr T, Dolph Lungren and, of course, Hulk Hogan as ‘Thunderlips’ only added to the mainstream appeal.
It’s a tremendous tale of achieving against the odds that eveyone can relate to, even if boxing isn’t your bag. The final film, Rocky Balboa, defied critics by actually being surprisingly good. Which was a relief, after the depressingly disastrous Rocky V. Say it with me now – “Yo Adrian, we did it!”
2. American Pie
Glossing over the numerous remakes that have fallen under the American Pie moniker, the first three films were a surprising affair. At first glance, they may appear to be gross-out, brainless comedies (and all three certainly have their crass moments), but delve deeper and what you find is a film which explores relationship, love, and the difficulties of growing up and coming to terms with your place in the world. With Jason Biggs’ Jim as the central character, the original trilogy spanned the period from high school graduation, from college, all the way to marriage. The series certainly resonated with an entire generation – so much so that the entire cast are coming back next year for a fourth film. But you never forget that first slice…
3. Star Wars
I will freely admit that I’m not a huge Star Wars fan (sorry – I just don’t like sci-fi), but I have a huge amount of respect for the (original) trilogy, and the impact that they had on the cinematic landscape, and continue to have to this day. George Lucas’ tale of galactic warfare features Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker as the central protagonist, looking to avenge the evil Darth Vader for the murder of his father … but we all know how that turns out. Yes, the special effects may have been the draw of Star Wars initially, but it has stood the test of time because of the strong relationships that grow develop between characters Luke, Princess Leia, Hans Solo and Vader … oh, and comic gold from C3PO and R2D2 don’t do any harm!
4. The Godfather
Do not disrespect the family, and do not mess with The Godfather. The definitive gangster series which so many have tried to emulate, Francis Ford Coppola’s superb trilogy is perhaps the ultimate example of a film that lasts a lifetime (or, in fact several lifetimes). Telling the story of the Italian American Corleone crime family between 1945 to 1955, the second in the trilogy, The Godfather: Part II goes all the way back to 1901 for Vito Corleone’s childhood in Sicily and eventual founding of the family in New York City. It’s a tale that continues to appeal almost three decades later, focusing on betrayal, corruption, greed and – of course – the family.
5. Toy Story
To round off the top 5 on a lighter note comes a trilogy that helped Pixar change the face of animation, and proved that it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy a children’s film as an adult! The adventures of toys Woody the cowboy and Buzz Lightyear and their relationship with owner Andy is both heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time, as the films convey the pain of growing up and leaving behind your childhood innocence. Much like HP7, Toy Story 3 had me close to tears, as Andy grows up and leaves home for college, leaving behind his childhood toys in his wake. We’ve all got to grow up sometime!
Ben Veal is Guru Magazine’s ‘Media Guru’. He’s a communications professional based in Wiltshire, UK. You can follow him on Twitter @BenVealPR (of course) and read more of his thoughts on his blog, benvealpr.com
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