7. Deeper Moral Complexity
J.K Rowling once said herself that one of the most captivating and defining qualities of her series is the fact that despite one obvious exception, no character is wholly good or evil. There is a much deeper moral complexity regarding her characters and her plot, which is not present in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Even Harry Potter, the leading male protagonist, has many issues with his character and morals. As seen in The Order Of The Phoenix, Harry is constantly questioning himself, whether he is a good person or not and he often feels that he is turning evil inside. Conversely, there are characters that appear morally questionable on the surface, characters that immerse themselves with evil acts, yet transpire to be wholly good and on the side of Dumbledore. (Severus Snape is a good example of this).
With the possible exception of Gollum, characters that reside in Middle Earth are either good guys or bad guys. Gandalf good guy. Aragorn good guy. Saruman bad guy. Sauron bad guy. This is simply not the case in the Potterverse. To take Dumbledore for an example, he is unmistakably on the good side yet as the series develops, darker aspects of his character begin to surface, such as his questionable relationship with Gellert Grindelwald and his desire for the supreme of the pure bloods. Also unlike in The Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter morals play a major part in the plot and they help to further develop the characters. The battle against evil is both internal and external as we see characters’ constant struggles to do what is right. This is most explored through the motif of teenage angst, which appears later on in the series. So I’d argue that Harry Potter is an emotionally and morally deeper film than Lord Of The Rings.
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