Academy voters showered “The Lord of the Rings” with love when it ended, but “Harry Potter” isn’t getting the same treatment
Shouldn’t "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" be at least part of the Oscar Best Picture conversation?
The Academy members I have canvassed remain as skeptical about the film's chances now as they did when it first came out. And in an another ominous sign, the final installment in the wildly successful franchise has gotten little traction with critics and guild award voters.
The “Harry Potter” franchise, launched in 2001, shares many similarities with “The Lord of the Rings” franchise: Both turned enormously popular works of fantasy literature into big commercial and critical hits. But it doesn’t appear that the final “Harry Potter” will get anywhere near the same Oscar reception as the last “Lord of the Rings” did in 2004.
In a way that's understandable, since "Potter" always grappled with the stigma of being a kids' movie. It never quite felt as formidable a cinematic achievement as Peter Jackson's "Rings" trilogy, which received 11 nominations and won all 11 for its final installment, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," tying that film for the most ever with "Ben-Hur" and "Titanic."
But despite widespread speculation that Academy voters would salute the accomplishment of the entire series by rewarding the final installment, "Deathly Hallows" film failed to be nominated by the Directors Guild, Writers Guild, Producers Guild or Screen Actors Guild.
It was also shut out by the Golden Globes, while the Critics Choice Movie Awards gave it nominations in the categories of Art Direction, Makeup, Sound and Visual Effects.
No Best Picture nods to salute eight films and $7 billion in box-office grosses. No acting recognition to Alan Rickman for his tortured Professor Snape, or for any of the kids who grew up in front of our eyes without any of the usual and unfortunate child-star episodes.
In short, no "Return of the King"-style reception.
The Academy could still change that when it announces its nominations on Jan. 24. But from the start, the "Potter" series has never been the awards juggernaut that the "Rings" movies were.
Even before "The Return of the King" went 11-for-11, the first two "LOTR" films had won multiple Oscars, and both had been nominated for Best picture.
"The Fellowship of the Ring" received 13 nominations, the most in the series, and won four. "The Two Towers" got six more nods, and two more wins. Both were nominated for Best Picture.
By contrast, no "Harry Potter" movie has ever been nominated for Best Picture. None has received more than the three Oscar nominations that went to the first installment, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." And no "Potter" film has ever won an Oscar; the series' scorecard now stands at 0-for-9.
Warner Bros. has been determined to change that for months, with the most aggressive Oscar campaign of the series – including billboards around Los Angeles topped by the typical language of an awards ad: "CONSIDER."
And the 96 percent positive rating enjoyed by "Deathly Hallows Part 2" at Rotten Tomatoes is not only the best of the series, it's better than current Oscar contenders (in descending order) "Midnight in Paris," "Hugo," "The Descendants," "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," "War Horse" and "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," and only one percentage point below the frontrunner, "The Artist."
Regardless what happens with Oscar nominations, this could also be a case that defines the cliché "laughing all the way to the bank."
And for David Yates, who directed the final four movies in the series, the "Potter" legacy will likely linger long past the Oscars.
"Offers have been arriving en masse for the last few months, and it’s a bit daunting," said Yates, who was best known for British television before he took the reins of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" seven years ago.
"What's wonderful about 'Potter,' even though it's a fantasy film, it has elements of drama and comedy," Yates told TheWrap. "It's got a bit of everything, so I'm being sent a bit of everything: comedies, thrillers, gangster pictures, sci-fi epics, you name it, it’s all flooded in."
Not that he was immediately ready to take advantage of the opportunities. "It's been interesting leaving it behind," he said. "I need about six months to unravel and let everything settle down again, and then I'll be ready to come back."
During the final stretch of working on "Deathly Hallows Part 2," he said, he and editor Mark Day often talked about the end of the series. "I used to say, 'God, Mark, in three months time we don't be coming to work on this. There will be this big hole in our lives – what is that going to feel like?'"
At the same time, though, he admitted that he was ready for the exhausting stretch of four enormous movies in six-and-a-half years to be over.
"It was a bit of a relief, quite frankly, just to cross that finish line," he said. "The idea of completing was actually quite intoxicating – although there was enormous pressure that you couldn't really think about or it would drive you insane. We all knew that it just had to be special, because this was it."
For Yates, though, the fact that the saga was coming to an end brought with it something he'd been denied for three movies: a proper finale.
"The middle 'Potters' that I did were very tricky," he said. "They were transitional stories that took you through the stages we needed to get to the finale. I never had a proper third act or a proper finale in five, six, or seven part one. They were all commas. It was, 'Here we go, now come back next year and see what happens next.'
"You know, movies are often defined by that third act, that last 20 minutes in the theater. That was worth sticking with the series for that opportunity alone, because I got to make a film with a proper end."
And what comes after the end? It'll no doubt involve a trip to the Oscars for some of those involved with "Potter," though the Hogwarts contingent will almost certainly be far smaller than the Middle-earth contingent was eight years ago.
And then Yates and his "Potter" colleagues will finally get to settle in for life after Harry.
"I saw [producer] David Heyman and [actress] Helena Bonham Carter the other night," he said. "We're all struggling a little bit. We think we might form the Harry Potter Anonymous Society, so we can go to meetings every few months and have some group therapy together to deal with the loss of it."