Category: harry potter

Reading Harry Potter

TRC is reading Harry Potter. I’d been curious to see what his response to the books would be. No hype. No huge wait and anticipation between each book. No news stories all about how important they are or how many copies they’ve sold. TRC didn’t even really know anything about Harry Potter before he picked the first book up. Maybe he’d heard some things in passing at school–but I asked him ahead of time, and it wasn’t like he was very enthusiastic about the character or anything.

So how’s it going?

He’s devouring those pages faster than anything he’s read before. When faced with the choice of video games or reading, he’s chosen reading the past week. He reads at breakfast. He reads on the way to church. The kid just can’t put them down.

So there you have it. To me, that’s one of the biggest signs that Harry Potter is much more than just hype. I remember when the books were being published how some people would claim they were poorly written, or that they were overblown–that they’d blow over after a decade or so. I wondered that myself, even though I looked forward to each one and read through them like wildfire.

I don’t wonder that anymore.

For the record, TRC has three series that he’s read on this level: first came the Animorph Chronicles, then the Ranger’s Apprentice, and now Harry Potter. Potter is by far the fastest read for him thus far, although some of that could be because he’s gotten so much more practice reading.

Anyway, I don’t have time for much else–I have to dash off to Bangor for a Cataloging Standards meeting. Librarian stuff. I know–you’re jealous. Just thought I’d share this with you before I left today.

Happy weekend, all!

Harry Potter 7:2–Cutting through the Hype (Or, It wasn’t that Good)

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 2: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack [+video] [+Digital Booklet]First off, I’m a Harry Potter fan. The first books came out while I was on my mission in Germany. I came home, heard about them, and read the first three in a day or two. I thoroughly enjoyed them. They were fast, fun, and imaginative. Since then, I’ve followed the franchise closely. I’ve attended midnight releases of the books and movies. I love how many new readers they’ve brought to YA fantasy–that’s wonderful.

That said, do you want my honest opinion? (Of course you do.) Well, here goes:

The Harry Potter series is essentially two different series. One is Middle Grade (the first 4 books), and the other is YA (the last 3 books). The Middle Grade series is absolutely fantastic. Great fun, imaginative, exciting. Love it. The YA series is just good. There. I said it. The last three Harry Potters are over-hyped. Overrated. The series turned into a cultural phenomenon, but it wouldn’t have done that if it had started with Order of the Phoenix. The books excel when Rowling plays to her strengths: imagination and whimsy. Once they grow darker and more serious, those strengths get shoved more and more to the side, and it’s to the detriment of the series. We still enjoy them, because we have so much invested in the characters, but that’s due to the books that came before. Contrast Deathly Hallows with The Hunger Games (the first one, at least), and maybe you’ll see what I mean. Deathly Hallows is an OK YA book (once you take away the hype). Hunger Games is a smash.

Still, we all want to Find Out How It Ends.

The final movie has been garnering its share of praise. I even heard some wondering if it might score a best picture nomination. It’s got a 96% fresh rating on Rottentomatoes, an 87 on Metacritic, and is making money hand over fist, to the adulation of throngs of fans. I went and saw it last night, expectations set to Full Speed Ahead. It was just okay. Yes, we found out how the series ends, and lots of fighting was involved, with a suitably epic LOTR feel at the end, but I couldn’t help walking away feeling like this adaptation was set up for failure from the beginning.

Why?

There’s just too much in the book, and fans are too tied to the original. So the movie is reduced to a pinball-like approach, with the main characters doing action after action, some of which are explained and justified in the movie, some of which rely on you being familiar with the book. That’s not the formula for a successful adaptation. For example, if you haven’t read the book, then you don’t have a clue why the Resurrection Stone is important or even mentioned. You probably only have a vague idea of what exactly happened with Snape. Where the heck did the Grey Lady come from? Stuff like this works if you’re familiar with the source material, but it comes across as confusing and contrived if you’re not.

Plus, the adaptation continued to highlight structural flaws of the book itself (something I noted in my review of 7:1). Problems are solved by convenience and stupidity on the part of evil. SPOILER ALERT: So you’re Voldemort. You’ve been waiting for well over a decade to kill Harry Potter. You’ve finally done it, with a big triumphant death spell. And . . . you have a minor minion go check him to make sure he’s dead? And you have his best friend Hagrid carry the body back? Haven’t you ever heard of the double tap? I mean, even Zombieland highlighted the importance of this. You’re the lord of evil, dude. Act like it. Decapitate the little brat. Burn his body to ash. It’s hard to fake being ash, you know. And when you do come back to gloat, what’s up with letting Neville Longbottom monologue for that long? Kill him, too. The fact is, if Voldemort acted like half the evil lord he’s supposed to be, the ending of the book wouldn’t work. At all. And even getting to the ending is nothing more than a series of hoops to jump through. The conflict in the story is driven by coincidence, chance and blind fumbling in the dark. That ain’t the way to write a blockbuster novel.

That said, did I enjoy myself in the movie? Mostly, yes. It was lots of fun to see some characters have their moment, and to see the End at last. I just grow wistful thinking about what might have been.

This is no Best Picture. This isn’t deserving of the scores and praises being heaped upon it. It ain’t The Dark Knight. It’s a well-produced adaptation with slick special effects, okay acting, and a large amount of cultural good will.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

I’d love to entertain other opinions, though. Thoughts?

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I saw Harry Potter 6 last night, and I really enjoyed it. 3.5 stars from me. I mean, it was still a Harry Potter movie, meaning that it wasn’t exactly High Cinema, but I was really impressed that it felt more like a movie to me than a Harry Potter movie. Does that make sense? I mean, the movie was good enough to stand on its own feet instead of having to rely on people having read the book or seen the others. The Quidditch scene, for example, was about character first and Quidditch third or fourth, and because of that, I thought it was one of the coolest depictions of Quidditch I’ve seen. (Imagine the difference between a basketball scene that’s just about how cool it is to play basketball. Now contrast that with Hoosiers, and hopefully you see what I mean.) Add to this the fact that the movie brought in quite a bit of humor to balance out the dread, and you have one very happy Me.

But what about you? Will you like it? I suppose that depends. I haven’t read the book since it came out, so I didn’t have much to compare it to–just my fuzzy memories. If you’re the sort of person who has reread the series multiple times–perhaps in anticipation of seeing this film in the theater–then you might be disappointed. It’s not the book, folks, and I don’t mean that in a good or bad way. (If you haven’t read my blog long enough, I’ll just tell you now–I really dislike it when people say something along the lines of “the book was better than the movie.” Would you say that the apple was better than the orange because the orange didn’t taste enough like an apple? Grumble.) I strongly discourage people from going into a Harry Potter movie with an expectation of 100% fidelity. Even 75% fidelity. The books are way too massive to be able to portray everything or even most everything. The director’s job is to capture what he or she felt the book was “about”, then transfer that to the screen. I felt like that happened in this movie. Yes, they made changes. But as far as Harry Potter films go, this was one of the best for me. The characters came across as characters, the threats were real, the acting was very well done, and the movie fit together well. Actually, my only quibbles with it were when the book intruded too much on the movie. (SPOILER! For example, when Snape says “I am the Half Blood Prince”–I was sort of like “Who cares?” That just wasn’t that big of a part of the story that the film was telling, but I felt like they felt like they had to keep it in, mainly because that’s what the book was titled. And the last little bit to the film felt like it was trying too hard to tie up a few last loose ends. But these are nitpicks–nothing major. END SPOILER!)

At any rate, there’s a reason this film’s getting such good reviews. FYI, here’s a breakdown of the Rotten Tomato (and IMDB) ratings for each film.

Sorceror’s Stone 78% (7.2 out of 114,000 votes)
Chamber of Secrets 82% (7.2 out of 104,000 votes)
Prisoner of Azkaban 89% (7.6 out of 94,000 votes)
Goblet of Fire 88% (7.7 out of 92,000 votes)
Order of the Phoenix 77% (7.4 out of 87,000 votes)
Half Blood Prince 85%(8.2 out of 12,000 votes–still needs a lot of input to be a solid number)

If I were to rank the Potter films, this would be my breakdown, from best to worst:

1. Half Blood Prince/Prisoner of Azkaban (tie)
3. Goblet of Fire
4. Order of the Phoenix/Chamber of Secrets (tie)
6. Sorceror’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Okay–I know this is rather late in coming, but I finally saw the latest Harry Potter last night, and I wanted to talk about some of the things I noticed in it. First off, some elements were handled much more deftly than the book. I’m talking about the never-ending Umbridge scenes. In the book, it felt like those were going to last forever. Just when you finished one, you’d have another which was pretty much just like the last one. It’s like that old “second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse.” Blech. In the film, the Umbridge scenes were handled with montages. Fantastic. You got the exact message you were supposed to get–what Umbridge was doing and how she was so horrible–without having to be shown every little horrible scene. Bravo.

The ending of the movie, on the other hand, had some difficulties. Difficulties which I wrote at length about, and then Livejournal decided to get rid of my draft. Grr. Suffice it to say that my biggest complaint was that the main villain of the movie was set up to be Umbridge. She’s the one most of the conflict focused on. Voldemort was more of a sideline until the end. The problem with this approach is that I didn’t feel invested in that conflict as a viewer, so when that was all that was left, I lost some interest. Plus, Voldemort was pretty weak in this film. He didn’t get a chance to really take control. I know that happens in books 6 and 7, but I think perhaps Rowling brought Voldemort out too soon in the series. It relegated him to a fairly unimportant role this time around, and necessitated all the filler about the ministry, which–while interesting–wasn’t all that and a bag of chips.

I had some other interesting observations, but I’m too lazy to repost them. 🙂

House Update and Harry Potter

Got back the home inspection report today, and for the most part it was good news. There were some minor problems (electrical, chimney), but nothing that really looked like a deal breaker, though I’ve asked a few people for their opinions on it, and I suppose there might have been something I missed. In any case, it certainly seems all systems are go for the house. One interesting thing that the inspection turned up was that the middle portion of the house probably dates back to about 1830, if you can believe it. It’s still in good shape, though, so that probably tells you how well the house has been holding up.

In other news, I went ahead and got Harry Potter on Saturday, then finished it Sunday. (Total time about 7 hours–it’s a fast read.) I really enjoyed it. As with Rowling’s other books, I thought there were some pacing issues and some clunky prose, but the plot and characters were spot on. A great ending to the series, and highly recommended. (Though I wish some people were less insistent on forcing others to believe Harry Potter is Great Literature . . . It’s fun, it’s entertaining, but it just ain’t Dickens, IMHO.)

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