As of Friday morning, the eight movies in the now completed Harry Potter series have grossed a total of $2.23 billion in the United States, surpassing the $2.22 billion earned by the Star Wars saga to date. Globally, Potter has pulled over $7 billion at the box office. Pedantic types are quick to note the rising cost of ticket prices due to inflation and 3D, but it’s impossible to deny the Potter series as the premier franchise of the Aughts and the highest grossing series in movie history. To celebrate this milestone, I thought we’d take a look at some of the eerie and often obvious parallels between two of the most imaginative sagas in cinema. (Includes spoilers. Where have you been?)
The Chosen One
Orphaned at a young age, Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker are raised by their strict aunts and uncles and isolated from a fantastic world beyond that they are destined to join (and ultimately save). Each is unaware that they are the “Chosen One,” foretold by an ancient prophecy to bring balance and peace to their extraordinarily powerful kind. Their mundane lives are upended by a mysterious message delivered by an unlikely carrier (an owl and a droid) that later become a warbling sidekick of sorts on their various adventures (Hedwig and R2D2). Protected by an enigmatic teacher with special abilities, the humble heroes are introduced to a bizarre world different from their own (Diagon Alley and Mos Eisley).
In their travels, Harry and Luke are accompanied by a platonic female of the same age (Hermione and Leia), a loyal friend (Ron and Han), and an unsung hirsute hero (Hagrid and Chewbacca). Together they thwart the nefarious plots of evil to rescue the innocent, but a face-to-face encounter with the enemy leaves them both permanently scarred (forehead and severed hand) but determined to train themselves and finish what was started. Another fateful showdown pits the hero against their powerful nemesis once again, where they singularly prevail over the dark side as factions of good and evil collide in an epic battle.
Replete with sage advice, always robed, and similarly bearded, Albus Dumbledore and Obi-Wan Kenobi serve as the mentors and early protectors of The Chosen One. Unable to raise the boy of legend on his own, each entrusts his care to the boy’s biological Aunt and Uncle. But Kenobi and Dumbledore could only take the hero so far. Struck down by choice in defense of honorable ideals, each returns “more powerful than you can imagine” to impart more age-old wisdom when the hero needs it the most.
Each also played a pivotal role in raising and training the troubled children who become the primary antagonists. Tom Riddle (a.k.a. Voldemort) brooded under the watchful eye of Dumbledore, just as Kenobi sought to protect Anakin Skywalker from his rising angst.
The Dark Lord
With only cursory knowledge of either series, one might assume Lord Voldemort is the Darth Vader of Harry Potter’s universe, an iconic villain quick to dispense cruelty on the disobedient and in constant conflict with the sympathetic protagonist. But the more hardcore Potterites know Tom Marvolo Riddle II (a.k.a. Voldemort) is a dark, troubled figure from the beginning, similar to Senator Palpatine, and only after rising to power do they assume a new, more intimidating persona (Lord Voldemort and The Emperor), facially deformed from battle and (physically) bent on infinite power. By the bitter end, both are skeletal, pale, and twisted, often shrouded in black robes and flanked by their trusted allies.
As leader of these corrupt forces of malicious intent, both men employ an army of minions to do their bidding as they pull the strings from afar, stepping in only when their soldiers fall and hierarchy fails. Voldemort’s obsession with maintaining his race’s pure blood status and malevolent plot to cleanse the “mudbloods” is often compared to Adolf Hitler’s vile crusade to create an Aryan race. Similarly, Palpatine bends the government (the Senate, akin to the malleable Ministry of Magic) to his will, wiping out all Jedi who oppose him.
The Malicious Master
If Lord Voldemort isn’t the magical facsimile of Lord Vader, that makes Professor Severus Snape his wizarding world equivalent. Unlike Voldemort and The Emperor, who only become a formidable presence towards the end of their respective sagas, Vader and Snape are particularly prevalent throughout and, prequels aside, they’re both menacing authority figures over our young hero. Often draped in black clothing and intimidating simply by entering a room, these hot-tempered antagonists are quick to enact punishment on their unsatisfactory subjects.
Both harbored a deep affection for our hero’s mother, though Snape never got the girl (Harry’s eventual mother Lily Evans) and each, in their final throes with death, revealed themselves to be inherently good.
During a post-reading interview, Rowling said the saga was always built around the seemingly strained relationship between Dumbledore and Snape, as well as the obvious trio of maturing wizards. “In many ways, they’re the two most important characters in the seventh book,” she said after the release of “Deathly Hallows.” Similarly, Lucas’ series was ultimately about the struggle between the shifting forces of good and evil, represented by the mentor (Dumbledore/Obi-Wan) and the malicious master.
The Pint-Sized Ally
Okay, so their character traits couldn’t be further from one another, but you can’t deny the physical similarities between Dobby and Yoda. Shorten Dobby’s nose and you’d have an almost identical match.