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Thursday, 21 July 2011

To Infinity and Beyond: The end of the end of Harry Potter

No-one would begrudge an eight-movie series the right to slap on a coda or two after finally wrapping up the story proper. The Lord of the Rings series had roughly half-a-dozen "endings" one after the other before the credits finally ran. But the final scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt 2 is a different kettle of fish from the conclusions to LotR or, say, The Matrix trilogy.

In case you haven't seen it yet, or read the books, or figured it out for yourself, after Voldemort is killed and his forces defeated... actually, ever wondered why villains are constantly killing off their underlings? It's because if they don't, the good guys will have to do the job (if Hitler had killed off his henchmen for failing him, we wouldn't have needed the Nuremberg Trials) and no-one wants to see Harry Potter shoveling bodies into a mass grave. So anyway, Voldemort is dead, the day is saved, and then suddenly it's 19 years later and we get to see the all-grown-up-and-married-off heroes somewhat glumly escorting their own offspring on their way to Hogwarts. Life goes on, the cycle continues, parents are boring, and so on.

The dodgy make-up and uncertain temporal location aside (are they 19 years in the future? was the whole series set 19 years in the past? will they ever get mobile phones?), this ending seems a bit... off. Sagas that have a firm ending either have a short coda that basically says "it's all over - or is it?" (The Matrix model) or trail off trying to tie up each and every loose end (The Lord of the Rings).

This one does neither, and while "happily ever after" pretty much sums it up, why be so specific as to everyone's future? Surely just having the characters hold hands and stare off into the dawn of a new day would get the job done just as well, especially considering many Potter fans would have widely diverging ideas of what an "happily ever after" ending would be. Some people might want to image Harry settling down, others might want him to continue battling evil, still more might want to think of him as a pathetic drunk living in the past; why nail his future down so firmly?

This ending (and yes, it is greatly reduced from the book, which details their careers as well as their relationships) seems largely designed to shut down any speculation by readers /viewers as to What Happens Next. The story itself is over, but the characters aren't free: their futures have to be firmly mapped out by the rights-holders to keep them under control. After seven novels and eight films, Warner Brothers and J.K. Rowling aren't letting them go that easily.

It may not stick, of course. Literature and film is full of "endings" that didn't quite take - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle brought Sherlock Holmes back from the dead in the face of popular demand, while being staked at the end of Dracula hasn't stopped the vampire from returning over and over again. But they were created in the days before corporations realised copyright over successful characters was the gift that keeps on giving.

Even as the internet provides a massive boost to unauthorized fanfic and slash fiction (so very, very much of it set in the Potterverse), the official version refuses to let a second of its' characters' lives go uncharted. Rather than letting Potter live on wild and free in the minds of fans, the series lurches forward after it's clearly all said and done, staggering onwards into a totally unnecessary and uninspired future simply to make sure no-one else comes along with a better idea.

Anthony Morris