Harry Potter and Star Wars are two of the biggest media franchises in history, each spawning numerous books, blockbuster movies, and countless pieces of merchandise. Do we know how Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling feels about Star Wars?
It isn’t clear how J.K. Rowling feels about Star Wars, as she hasn’t commented on the franchise. She did reference Yoda in a 2015 tweet, but he is an iconic character who many people are familiar with, even without being engaged with the movies. There are a number of parallels between Harry Potter and Star Wars, which might have been a conscious or subconscious inspiration for Rowling.
For more on the parallels between Harry Potter and Star Wars, creatively and commercially, read on.
A Tale of Two Franchises
In many ways, the unprecedented success of Star Wars paved the way for other huge franchises such as Harry Potter and the current Hollywood superhero craze.
When the original “Star Wars” released in 1977, the concept of the summer blockbuster was still a relatively recent thing, only truly established by “Jaws” in 1975. “Star Wars” was a different kind of blockbuster.
While there had been merchandise for movies for years, such as action figures or imitation props, the success of “Star Wars” was something else entirely. The film was a huge hit and led to every kind of merchandise imaginable.
There were Star Wars action figures, lunch boxes, T-shirts, toy lightsabers, and a catalog that only continued to grow as the movie and its sequels gained momentum.
The growth and success of the Star Wars trilogy and its merchandise transformed the way movies made money. Box office, while key to a film’s success, was now only one aspect of whether or not a film was profitable for the studio.
By the time the first of the Harry Potter movies made its way to the big screen, the novels were already incredibly successful around the world and it seemed like the adaptation was destined for success.
The release of the first movie in November 2001 was part of a huge publicity and merchandise blitz, following in the footsteps of the first of George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, “The Phantom Menace” in July 1999.
In the two decades since, there can be little doubt that Harry Potter and Star Wars, alongside the more recent Marvel Cinematic Universe, are two of the biggest media franchises.
For Harry Potter, which started life as a series of novels, both the books and movies enjoyed incredible success. Without the marketing breakthrough of the original Star Wars trilogy, the modern movie business model might look very different.
Harry and Luke
There are also plenty of comparisons to be made within the stories themselves, starting with the series’ protagonists.
Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker are both orphans, raised by their aunt and uncle in unassuming surroundings. They are taken away from their mundane lives and imparted with new wisdom and abilities by the guidance of elderly mentors, Albus Dumbledore and Obi-wan Kenobi.
They work with their allies, a dry and sarcastic friend, Ron Weasley and Han Solo, and a headstrong, confident female friend, Hermione Granger and Leia Organa. Both heroes must confront a nemesis who is a corrupted member of their new order, Voldemort and Darth Vader.
There are numerous parallels but it seems unlikely that “Star Wars” was a primary influence on Rowling. The film is so ingrained in pop culture that it might be a subconscious influence.
In addition, Lucas intentionally conformed to traditional storytelling conventions while writing the first “Star Wars” movie, frequently referring to the “Hero’s Journey” structure coined by academic Joseph Campbell in 1949.
Campbell described the various events that often happen in stories with a heroic protagonist and it’s unsurprising that both George Lucas and J.K. Rowling largely conformed to this classic story structure.