Wednesday, July 20, 2011


It has been brought to my attention that I should be giving my final opinion on the conclusion of the Harry Potter Empire. I’m not sure how much my opinion really matters one way or another, but I guess maybe I could attempt to explain to you why I am in mourning for The Boy Who Lived.



Back in 2000…I happened to mention that I wondered what all this Harry Potter hype was about. I thought Mr. Potter was the author; his name was so prominently displayed on all the book jackets.

I received the first three books for my birthday, finished them within nano-seconds and promptly went and bought Goblet of Fire the day it was released. Then spent the next THREE years reading fan fiction to tide me over until The Order of the Phoenix was published. (My early days of Ernst & Young left me with a LOT of time on my hands.)

I reserved tickets for the opening day of The Sorcerer’s Stone. I had t-shirts. I was “sorted” into Ravenclaw. I stalked the Oberlin book store for a maroon and gold scarf. I drove to Border’s to get my pre-ordered Half-Blood Prince hours before leaving on vacation and I read Deathly Hallows by flashlight when our power went out. I named my dog Potter for Christsakes!

This might seem odd for a grown person to do. I can’t disagree with you.

Why I Love the Books

Would I classify the books as literary works of staggering genius?

Style – No. There is some cringe-worthy dialogue, a few over-used plot devices, and many more pages than necessary for the sake of the story (with the exception of the first three books).

Substance – Yes. There is no denying that she spawned a renewed interest in reading to a generation of kids that may have never seen the inside of a library otherwise. Her books are so rich with characters and her world is so vividly set in front of you, that you have to be dead inside to not want more of it. It’s not Charles Dickens, people. It’s fairy tale.

Is it original?

No – The hero myth has been used since the beginning of time in storytelling and she has one of the most faithful adaptations to it with the thankful exception that she refrained from killing off our hero.

Yes – The depth that she gave to each character keeps it from being just a hero myth. It’s about friendship and loyalty as much as it is about good versus evil as much as it is about choosing your own path. Harry Potter can be a “brave little toaster” (Chamber of Secrets), whiny little bitch (Order of the Phoenix), and a selfless savior (Deathly Hallows). He grows…and sometimes regresses…the whole way. Those heroes are few and far between.

What I like best…

…is what they opened me up to. As a child, I loved fantasy…Roald Dahl (of Willie Wonka fame, but James and the Giant Peach was the best), E. B. White (Charolette’s Web) and Robert O’Brian (The Rats of Nihm) were huge favorites. Guess what? As an adult…I still love them. And I had almost forgotten how much.

It made me go back and read things I missed as a kid…Baum’s Wonderful World of Oz and Lewis’s Narnia.

And it made me pick up new things I would have otherwise ignored…Pullman’s Dark Materials and Collin’s Hunger Games (both of which are stylistically written a thousand times better than HP).

Why I Love the Movies

I thought I would hate the movies. They couldn’t possibly come close the Hogwarts in my head. But they actually managed it brilliantly whether they planned on it or not. The supporting cast alone had us all drooling (Hello! ALAN F-ING RICKMAN!) despite the unknown nature of the three central characters.

Having Columbus direct the first two made the focus on the characters of Harry, Ron and Hermione. Their faithfulness to the book made you become comfortable with the actors. Being comfortable with the actors makes you a little more agreeable to artistic license with the material.

Cuaron got the “coming of age” story, which was right up his alley. Prisoner of Azkaban was my favorite book and my favorite movie, despite the fact that it was the first to start the traumatic separation of church and state (read: book and movie). If Columbus had made that movie it would have been too light (and too long), if Yates had done it – way too dark. And Gary F-ing Oldman!

Newell had the odds against him. Kloves and Rowling had to cut the Goblet of Fire screenplay drastically from the original manuscript. The effects had to be better. The mood had to be darker and take a serious turn away from a “kids” movie (up to PG-13). And this guy’s resume is all over the place. I know there’s controversy over this one, but I thought it was seemless. And I think the trick is to NOT re-read the book right before the movie. I took the movie for what it was and didn’t compare. End of story.

Which brings us to Yates and the last three books.

My second favorite movie was Order of the Phoenix - which is odd, because I was so annoyed by Harry in the book. But it finally left Hogwarts. So, visually, it was the most appealing to me. (Although, it also marked the moment I had to accept that Sirius was really and truly dead, so I had no hope of him returning in the yet-unpublished Hallows). This was Helena Bonham-Carter at her craziest and she rocked it.

The Half-Blood Prince was more about a love story to me, so this is the only film that left me wanting more. Everyone hop aboard the good ship Harry and Ginny. Who cares that the Death Eaters are on a rampage and the Ministry has taken over the school. Harry is finally in love with Ginny and all will be right with the world…That message did not get delivered.

I thought The Deathly Hallows was much too long of a book. Maybe Rowling had gotten Stephenie Meyer (Twilight) Syndrome. So when I heard Yates was cutting it into two movies, I sensed a little money-making scheme underway. But it was completely the right thing to do. As a non-fan reviewer put it…Part 1 got to be moody and full of despair, while Part 2 got to be all out Voldemort Ass-Kicking War. It would have been strange to mash those together.

Am I Done Yet?

If you’ve made it this far, you either:

A. Really like to read my blog
B. Really like Harry Potter
C. Have nothing better to do

So I will wrap it up.

Don’t underestimate the camaraderie to be formed while waiting to find out if Snape is good or evil. I had a completely bizarre and in-depth conversation with a Border’s employee while pre-ordering my Hallows.

I continue to be amazed when a seemingly non-suspect individual shows up with a Gryffindor mug. Harry Potter is for everybody. Unless you don’t like a good fairy tale. Then it’s not for you. So go back to your CNN and stop reading my blog.

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