In our previous Face-Off, I put 2015 boxing films SOUTHPAW and CREED into the ring. Most of you agreed with my decision to give it to the tale of Adonis Creed and Rocky Balboa, but there was plenty of love for SOUTHPAW as well, which was nice to see, as Antoine Fuqua breathed some much needed life into an otherwise stale genre.
This week, with FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM hitting theaters this weekend and ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY landing next month, the HARRY POTTER and STAR WARS franchises continue to stand tall as two of the biggest intellectual properties around. What's interesting about both stories adhering so closely to Joseph Campbell's mythic hero is that you kind of end up with leads who are among the least interesting things in their respective stories. Don't get me wrong, we all love Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter, but neither of them tends to be very complicated, and we spend a lot of time feeling like they're just along for the ride- until they eventually learn how to be badasses and triumph over evil, that is. Anyway, enough exposition, let's make these whiny white kids fight.
Mark Hamill comes across as a whiny child in A NEW HOPE, which, while it's the intention of the character, still feels a bit over he top. That said, by RETURN OF THE JEDI, we see a fully transformed performance, in which we completely buy Hamill as a meditative badass.
Ah, the Potter kids. When the HARRY POTTER franchise started, we loved it in spite of the child performances. Granted, Daniel Radcliffe shows a considerable amount of growth by the final film, but he never quite reaches the point of a really impressive performance.
In just three films, Luke has had several iconic outfits. He starts in pure farm boy whites and ends in jet black, Imperial-adjacent garb, with the classic rebel pilot suit, Dagobah training gear, and Endor recon uniform along the way.
Yes, there's also the old hermit on a hill getup, but his brief appearance in Episode VII barely counts as anything just yet.
Outfit-wise, Harry usually wears a school uniform and Gryffindor scarf, which is a good look but muted a bit by the fact everyone else wears it. Other than dressing up for the occasional ball or Quidditch match, we generally just see him in his uniform or street clothes. Where Harry does stand out, though, is the iconic look of his glasses and scar. The fact that you can draw a pair of glasses under a lightning bolt and have an instantly recognizable character is pretty impressive and worth a point here.
The lightsaber- maybe the most iconic weapon to ever originate in a film. Move along.
The films go into the importance of wands and Harry's own holly with phoenix feather core accessory, but wands are just too small to look impressive or show up well on the screen.
Jedi mind trick, telekinesis, telepathy, focus, and communication with the Force- impressive, to be sure, and Luke certainly has access to more abilities that we see in the film, but especially in his refusal to use Dark Side powers, we only see these displayed.
Similarly, Harry Potter has access to every spell known to the wizarding world. Most of the spells we see him cast involve telekinesis and other manipulation of solid matter, though we also get things like casting a patronus and the creation of fire and light.
After losing his aunt and uncle, Luke Skywalker joins the rebellion against the evil Empire, destroys their super weapon, the Death Star. After discovering the menacing Darth Vader is his father and Princess Leia his sister, Luke must face Vader and the Emperor in an effort to eliminate the Dark Side.
Orphaned in his infancy, Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, learns he is a wizard at the age of eleven and is accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. When the dark Lord Voldemort returns from obscurity, Harry must survive his attacks, destroy pieces of his soul, and face him in a final battle.
Neither of these stories is groundbreaking, but the family connection between Luke and Vader (and to a lesser extent, Leia) is a huge part of what makes STAR WARS so special.
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda- two of the most recognizable mentors in cinematic history. Obi-Wan only teaches Luke the basics, but Yoda takes him as far through Jedi training as possible before becoming one with the Force himself, providing some universal philosophies along the way.
Albus Dumbledore, Sirius Black, and several other teachers and guides, including Remus Lupin and Rubeus Hagrid. You might argue for Yoda and Obi-wan on this one, but I'll call it a tie based on how heavily the HARRY POTTER franchise focuses on Harry's continuing development and search for guidance.
"But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!"
"If there's a bright center to the universe, you're on the planet that it's farthest from."
"There's nothing for me here now. I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father."
"I'm Luke Skywalker. I'm here to rescue you!"
"I have a very bad feeling about this."
"I won't fail you. I'm not afraid."
"There's something not right here... I feel cold. Death."
"I can help them! I feel the Force!"
"You'll find I'm full of surprises."
"No. No! That's not true. That's impossible!"
"May the force be with you."
"You will take me to Jabba now."
"I'm taking Captain Solo and his friends. You can either profit by this or be destroyed. It's your choice. But I warn you not to underestimate my powers."
"There is good in him. I've felt it. He won't turn me over to the Emperor. I can save him. I can turn him back to the good side. I have to try."
"The Force runs strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. And... my sister has it. Yes. It's you, Leia."
"Never. I'll never turn to the Dark Side. You've failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me."
"I will not fight you, father."
"Your thoughts betray you, Father. I feel the good in you, the conflict."
"Father... I won't leave you."
"I'm a what? I can't be a-a-a wizard. I mean, I'm just Harry, just Harry."
"Please, please. Anything but Slytherin, anything but Slytherin."
"I'll be in my bedroom, making no noise and pretending that I don't exist."
"Promise me something. Never try to save my life again."
"Why would I go looking for someone who wants to kill me?"
"He was their friend, and he betrayed them. He was their friend! I hope he finds me! Cause when he does, I'm gonna be ready. When he does, I'm gonna kill him!"
"I love magic."
"Hey, my eyes aren't glistening with the ghosts of my past!"
"Sorry, Professor, but I must not tell lies."
"You're the weak one. And you'll never know love or friendship. And I feel sorry for you."
"The prophecy said neither one can live while the other one survives. It means one of us is going to have to kill the other, in the end."
"Be brave, Professor. Be brave like my mother... Otherwise, you disgrace her. Otherwise, she died for nothing. Otherwise, the bowl will remain empty... forever."
"When have any of our plans ever actually worked? We plan, we get there, all hell breaks loose!"
"No one else is going to die. Not for me."
"The longer we stay here, the stronger he gets."
"I suppose I'll have to kill him before he finds me."
"I never wanted any of you to die for me."
STAR WARS has become something much bigger than the main saga, with books, games, and television series taking place over multiple locations and time periods. That said, with the main saga focusing on the Skywalker family and Luke returning to the screen in Episodes VII - IX, there's no doubt the character is still extremely integral to the franchise.
Harry Potter kinda has it easy with the whole franchise bearing his name. While the upcoming FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM series takes place before Harry's time, the young wizard is still present in video games, a new play- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child- currently running on the West End, and other scattered media.
Well, there you have it. That's more ties than I usually like, but that also just shows how two vastly different worlds can be fronted by the same fairly simple archetype. That's not a negative, by the way; an everyman protagonist is exactly how we as an audience are ushered into these incredible new worlds, and Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter are two of the best vessels we could ask for. It'll be interesting to see what the state of these franchises is twenty years from now. While Luke and Harry will likely be ancient history by then, both characters will forever be remembered and celebrated as the eyes through which the world first discovered these two colossal franchises. Let me know your choice down below, and in the meantime, I'll leave you with this little gem:
Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!
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