Jarrod Emerson’s Tribute to Alan Rickman
Part 4: The Harry Potter Film Series (2001-2011)
Based on the phenomenally successful novels by JK Rowling, the series chronicles the life of orphaned wizard “Harry Potter”, as he learns of his magical heritage and attends the legendary Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. During his years at Hogwarts Harry, along with friends “Ron Weasly” and “Hermione Granger”, fights against dark forces. Throughout the series friends, allies, and enemies are made, and the stakes become higher, as Harry not only deals with all of the typical teenage ordeals, but also seeks to save the world from the destructive, power hungry hands of Lord Voldemort, who had murdered his parents.
With the enormous popularity of the first Harry Potter novels in the late 1990s, it was only a matter of time before the character hit the silver screen. Between 2001 and 2011, eight film adaptations (the concluding novel was split into two films) appeared. With directors including Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Rent), Alfonso Cuaron (Children Of Men, Gravity), Mike Newell (Four Weddings and A Funeral) and David Yates (The Girl In The Café), the films were met with overall positive reception from fans and critics alike. Relative newcomers Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson portrayed Harry, Ron and Hermione respectively, surrounded by an epic roster of veteran actors.
*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD*
Easily one of the most memorable of these choices was Alan Rickman. I can still remember my teenage self, leaning forward with anticipation when the first full trailer premiered, excited the instant I recognized Rickman’s voice. Upon learning he’d been cast as the legendary potions master “Severus Snape”, I knew the right choice had been made. Of the Hogwarts teachers, Snape in both literary and film form is easily one of Rowling’s most complex, enigmatic characters. A dour, humorless wizard, Snape’s demeanor, combined with Rickman’s tendency toward unsympathetic roles may lead new viewers into easily labeling him a villain. But as the series progresses, it is revealed that Snape shares a deeply personal connection to our young hero. It is revealed that he had previously been in love with Harry’s late mother Lily, only to become bitter, as she did not reciprocate his feelings, and chose James Potter instead. We also come to learn that after having a past affiliation with Voldemort (played by an unrecognizable Ralph Feinnes), Snape caused the death of Harry’s parents. Harry Potter was the subject of a prophecy, which Voldemort sought to prevent. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to assassinate baby Harry, killing both James and Lily instead. Selfishly motivated by his love for Lily, Snape aligned himself with Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts headmaster wishing to protect the Harry. In a powerful part of the climax to Deathly Hallows Part II, a dying Snape reveals these memories to Harry through a vision, in which we see Snape’s progression from smitten Hogwarts student, to his Death Eater affiliation to a heartbroken state in which he holds the slain Lily Potter in his arms.
Severus Snape gave Rickman the chance to showcase virtually all sides of himself to a whole new generation of viewers. We see the best of Rickman’s humorless stone-faced side, his comedic abilities and his intimate dramatic chops in the concluding chapters. Thanks to Rowling’s creation and the brilliant casting, an entirely new generation had the opportunity to become acquainted with this exceptional performer.