Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.
About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)
Is there such a thing as an "ordinary world" in the Potterverse? Not really.
But we suppose you could make the argument that things are pretty status quo (considering) when the film begins: the summer is about to end, and most Hogwarts students are thinking about returning to school.
Well, er, Harry's not, but he does have to leave his aunt and uncle's house for good.
Call To Adventure
Harry has to get out of the Dursleys' house before his 17th birthday. The Order of the Phoenix has put out false information about when he's going to be moved to avoid Death Eater interference, but Snape has gotten the real scoop—and he tells Voldemort.
So, when Harry and a whole slew of traveling buddies/decoys take off from the Dursleys' casa, Voldemort and friends are waiting for them. Mad-Eye and Hedwig die in the process, and those who survive have a rough time of it. George (Ron's brother) even loses his ear.
However, the survivors all eventually make it to Harry's destination/new safe spot (the Burrow a.k.a. Ron's house).
Refusal Of The Call
As you might imagine, Harry's pretty traumatized after that whole ordeal and has some trouble sleeping. So, he gets up in the middle of the night and seems to be ready to walk right out of the Burrow (and off on his own).
Ron catches him, though, and puts a stop to all that. And rightfully so—after all that trouble to get him there safely, he's just going to leave?
Harry says he doesn't want any more people dying for him, and Ron has to remind him that this whole battle against Voldemort is definitely bigger than Harry Potter. Everyone knew this was going to be tough and dangerous.
Meeting The Mentor
Sadly, Harry's mentor Dumbledore is long gone, and he didn't really leave Harry with much insight or any instructions about how to find and destroy all the Horcruxes that Voldemort has made.
So Harry spends a lot of the movie trying to guess what Dumbledore would have wanted. Good fun for him and his friends, right? Yeah, not so much.
Harry and his friends think they're going to get some clues into Dumbledore's plans when Scrimgeour (the Minister of Magic) shows up with Dumbledore's will. However, the kids just end up baffled by the stuff Dumbledore has left them: a magic lighter that turns lights off and on for Ron, a book of children's tales for Hermione, and the sword of Gryffindor for Harry.
That last one is the only item that makes sense to any of them—since it destroys Horcruxes—but it's of no use because it's missing.
So, the mentor isn't much help, at least early on.
Crossing The Threshold
The kids do manage to make some progress on the Horcrux front, even without Dumbledore's help. When the kids have to flee the Burrow to the Order of the Phoenix headquarters after the Ministry falls to the Death Eaters, they figure out the identity of RAB, the man who stole Voldemort's Horcrux and replaced it with a fake (remember that from the last film?).
And then they find out that their old friend Dolores Umbridge has the real one.
Tests, Allies, Enemies
So, Harry, Hermione, and Ron concoct a disguise and manage to break into the Ministry of Magic, get close to Umbridge, and steal the locket back. It's pretty stressful, but they get it done.
Bad news, though: Thanks to a snafu during their escape from the Ministry of Magic, they can't return to the Order headquarters. So now they have to travel around constantly to avoid detection/capture.
Approach To The Inmost Cave
Once they've got the Horcrux, Harry and the gang think they are finally close to making some progress in the whole "Defeating Voldemort" thing. They just need to start destroying these things, right?
Well, yes…but that's easier said than done.
You need something pretty special to defeat the nasty magic that Voldemort has packed into that locket—you know, something like the sword of Gryffindor. But as we already mentioned, that's missing, and the kids have no idea what else could be used to do the deed.
Unfortunately, having the locket around is horrible. Wearing the locket (which they feel like they have to do in order to protect it) makes them all super grouchy and sad, and has a bad, bad effect on their friendships. Ron gets so gloomy about it all that he leaves the group for a little while, which is pretty awful for everyone.
Oh, and then Harry and Hermione go to Godric's Hollow to try to meet an old friend of Dumbledore's named Bathilda Bagshot, but then "Bathilda" turns out to be Voldemort's snake wearing Bathilda's body. Harry and Hermione barely escape, and Harry's wand breaks in the process.
Reward (Seizing The Sword)
Luckily, though, things take a more positive turn one night while Harry is keeping watch outside the kids' tent. He sees a silver doe in the distance—a Patronus-type vision—and decides to follow it.
Now, we know—that seems like a really risky thing to do. Following Patronuses without knowing who cast them? Following anything out of the range of the charms/enchantments that have been protecting you? We have to admit, we think Harry's a little crazy at first.
His risk-taking pays off, though: It turns out that the doe came from a friend (even if we don't yet know who), and it leads him right to the sword of Gryffindor sitting beneath the surface of an icy pond.
Harry has some difficulty getting the sword up from the pond (the Horcrux tries to strangle him as he dives into the pond), but luckily Ron reappears at exactly the right moment to save Harry and get the sword.
Then, Ron destroys it and returns back to camp with Harry. One more Horcrux down (that makes three total so far, if you haven't been keeping score).
The Road Back
Hermione may finally have gotten something interesting out of the book Dumbledore left her: a symbol. It's a weird triangle with an eye that keeps showing up in their adventures.
First, Xenophilius Lovegood (that's Luna's dad) was wearing it at Bill and Fleur's wedding early in the film, and then Hermione and Harry saw it on a grave in Godric's Hollow. And now, Hermione's seen it in her book.
The kids decide the best course of action is to go see Xenophilius and find out more about it.
Lovegood is acting super weird when they arrive, but he gives them the scoop about the symbol. It seems it stands for three items known as the Deathly Hallows, and they consist of a powerful wand, an invisibility cloak, and a "resurrection" stone. Apparently, if you have all three, you can become the master of death.
The kids aren't sure about how much to believe of what is essentially a children's tale, but before they have time to give it much thought, they realize that Lovegood has called the Death Eaters on them.
You see, Team Voldemort had taken Luna some weeks back, and Lovegood was hoping that if he gave them Harry Potter, they might return the favor by releasing Luna.
Harry and the gang manage to escape, but they end up running into snatchers that, long story short, take them directly to Voldemort's folks at Malfoy Manor.
Return With The Elixir
Things are looking bleak for Harry and his friends at first, but Harry manages to ask for help through this magic shard of mirror he's been carrying around, and suddenly Dobby appears in the Malfoy Manor cellar. Dobby manages to Disapparate out with Luna and Ollivander (who have both been imprisoned there), and then he eventually gets Harry, Hermione, and Ron out, too.
The downside? Dobby catches a flying knife from Bellatrix as they disapparate out of the Manor, and so he dies. Harry and the kids give him a proper burial on the beach where they have landed.