Rogue of the Week: Neville Longbottom

Friday, 15 July 2011 13:36 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Rogue of the Week: Neville Longbottom

There's no confusion about who the star of the Harry Potter series is, since the Boy Who Lived has his name right in the title of all eight films adapted and all seven of the novels by JK Rowling from which they were adapted.  Over the last decade, we've watched as Harry went from a neglected orphan living a thoroughly un-magical life to the central figure in a full-on wizarding war, and we've seen Daniel Radcliffe go from an adorable moppet of a kid to a leading man carrying one of the biggest franchises of all time.  While Harry's heroic destiny was never terribly in doubt, in the final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, a far less likely character completes his journey from the butt of every joke to a hero of Hogwarts: Neville Longbottom, played in all eight films by Matthew Lewis.

When Neville appears in the film, it's enough to elicit a round of cheers from seemingly any audience.  He arrives bruised and resolute.  While Harry, Hermione, and Ron where camping and looking for horcruxes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Neville appeared only very briefly, and was offscreen at the School for Witchcraft and Wizardry for most of the film.  With Snape in the headmaster's office and Death Eating disciplinarians the Carrows turning Hogwarts into a gulag, Mr. Longbottom had to step up and essentially take Harry's place, leading Dumbledore's Army and sticking it to the man at every opportunity.

To understand just how great an arc Neville has through the series, we have to go all the way back to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  The chipmunk-cheeked Neville was the sort of student who you'd expect to be in Hufflepuff House, not Gryffindor – an insecure, ineffectual, and oblivious bumbler never taken seriously.  He is consistently an object of mockery from his classmates and, in many ways, the film itself. 

Take, for example, the scene in which the Gryffyndor first years learn to zip around on broomsticks.  Poor Neville can't even manage the simple task of hovering in place, but instead goes careening around the campus until he breaks a bone.  Harry, meanwhile, is a natural who is instantly recruited to be a seeker for the Quidditch team.

Matthew Lewis was made to look the part, too, with a set of ridiculous false teeth and makeup appliances to make his ears stick out cartoonishly. 

The character's big heroic moment in that first film comes when he stands up to the central trio as the sneak out of Gryffindor Tower on their first Scooby-style adventure.  It's a brave move by Neville, but becomes a punchline when he is magically petrified and left humiliatingly on the floor.  Still, Professor Dumbledore sees how laudable little Longbottom's stand was, and rewards Gryffindor accordingly, presaging Neville's eventual one-man-wrecking-machine status.

As the series progressed, though, Neville slowly but surely began to develop unique skills and gained a modicum of confidence, discovering a knack for the underappreciated science of herbology.  His encyclopedic knowledge of the subject ended up saving Harry's ass during the Triwizard Tournament of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, providing Potter with Gillyweed and enabling him to breath underwater. 

The details of Neville's lineage emerged in the next entry, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, adding depth to what could have previously been considered a comic-relief character.  His parents were respected Aurors, hunters of Dark Wizards, but they were tortured and driven to insanity by Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) when Neville was a wee lad, leaving him to be raised by his intimidating grandmother. 

While this revelation certainly added layers to Mr. Longbottom, his significance to the entire tale was brought more fully into focus by the end of Phoenix, with Neville not only participating in the climactic action at the Ministry of Magic.  When Harry learns of the prophecy that inextricably binds him to Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), he learns as well that it could very well have been Neville who was the "The Chosen One" of the prophecy.

Which brings us just about back to Deathly Hallows: Part 2, in which Neville finally gets to not only live up to his potential as a heroic and inspiring figure, but also goes all-out in some spectacular action beats during the Battle of Hogwarts.  That it is Matthew Lewis credibly inhabiting the role of a courageous and capable wizard just as credibly as the younger Lewis created an endearing, bumbling first year student a decade ago is nothing short of remarkable.

"Neville" by mc chris:

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