With six movies down and two more to go, the "Harry Potter" film series has already taken the crown for the highest-grossing movie franchise worldwide. And fans are just as passionate about the flicks now as they ever have been. The last movie, 2009's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," was the biggest money-maker of the series since "Sorcerer's Stone" back in 2001.
So what is he secret to the franchise's staying power? It might be in the way the filmmakers take strides to keep the movies from repeating each other. Yes, they're all based on J.K. Rowling's books, they have the same core cast, and most of the big sets are the same. And the stories tend to follow a pattern: Harry gets to Hogwarts, there's a mysterious threat, and it ends with a big confrontation between Harry and Voldemort's forces.
But outside of that, each movie -- especially starting with "Prisoner of Azkaban" -- differs from the previous one in style, tone and focus. "Goblet of Fire" had both big action pieces and burgeoning romance. "Order of the Phoenix" focused more on teen angst and rebellion. And "Half-Blood Prince" was the darkest and most emotional installment to date.
The seventh film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1," promises to be the biggest departure yet from the earlier movies. Watch this exclusive first look at an action scene from the movie, then keep reading to see the main ways this "Potter" stands out from the others.
So how is "Deathly Hallows" different? Here are three main ways:
1. It's Bigger.
All of the other "Harry Potter" movies had to be fairly ruthless about editing down the story from the books in order to fit it all into one movie. By splitting "Deathly Hallows" into two parts, more of the details will make it to the screen. It also means the movie will have the biggest cast of the series. Nearly every major character from the past returns, including Emma Thompson, Miranda Richardson, and John Hurt (who hasn't appeared since the first film). Even Dobby the elf is back.
2. It's Out of School.
Unlike the other installments, where the bulk of the story happens within the confines of Hogwarts, "Deathly Hallows" finds Harry, Ron and Hermione out on their own. As the three of them go searching for the Horcruxes, the magical items that are the key to Lord Voldemort's immortality, they spend more time outside the world of magic. Director David Yates tells Entertainment Weekly that in this movie, "You put these characters in the big, wide world and have them pursued by people who want to kill them. Suddenly, they seem very fragile."
3. It's the End.
Naturally, with the series headed towards a final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort, the stakes are higher for the characters than ever before. And audiences -- especially those who haven't read the book -- should be prepared for that. While previous films have seen the passing of beloved characters Sirius Black and Professor Dumbledore, the final two movies have the highest death toll of any of them. And it's not just nameless extras; some key figures who have been with the series since the beginning will make the ultimate sacrifice in the final battle.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1" opens everywhere on November 19.
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