Harry Potter Comes To An End
|FEATURES - MOVIES|
Harry Potter's magical journey from page to screen has suffered the odd Hex, thinks Caleb...
The new trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has hit the internet, and it looks amazing. This being said, I said that same thing with the trailers for the last three installments of the Harry Potter saga, and felt let down by the films. My issues with them come merely from the fact that I’m a reader, and loved each and every one of the books. They contain a wonderful, fantastic world of wizards and magic, dragons and trolls, giants and house elves, and, unfortunately, giant spiders (try having arachnophobia and reading Chamber of Secrets). And in my mind, there was a lot of story that was left out of the movies, or just plain changed for the film version.
Now, many of my fellow movie buffs like to remind me that films and books are two different mediums, and what works on the page might not work on film, or may slow the pace of a film and bore audiences. But that doesn’t explain why directors have changed plot points or situations for their films. The reason they usually give is that the excised material simply didn’t fit their “vision” of the film. To me, this seems a little presumptuous, as they didn’t actually take the time to create these characters or flesh out these stories.
That job went to JK Rowling. Reading her autobiography is like reading one of her characters: A single mom with no money takes her child to a local coffee shop during the day to stay warm, and eventually starts writing down ideas on napkins that would eventually lead to one of the best loved children’s book series of all time. Her lead character, Harry Potter, a boy of eleven who just doesn’t fit in. His parents died when he was an infant, trying to protect him from a powerful dark wizard, Lord Voldemort (or, as he’s referred to by the rest of the wizarding world, “He-who-must-not-be-named”). He was sent to live with his aunt and uncle, who lied to him about how his parents died, and treat Harry like a slave. He is bullied by his portly cousin Dudley, and given hand-me-downs to wear and play with, and his room is the cupboard under the stairs.
Life is dismal and nearly unbearable for young Harry, until he gets a mysterious letter one day, informing him that he’s been enrolled at Hogwarts, the most prestigious school for wizards. He soon learns that while in the Muggle (the word Rowling uses to describe non-wizards) world, he’s just some nobody, in the Wizard world, he’s a legend. His first trip to the magical side of London has him mobbed by those who have heard the stories of his defeating the dark lord, all the while trying to keep his head in the game. He soon befriends two kids his own age; Ron Weasley, a boy from an old wizarding family, and Hermione Granger, a Muggle-born girl who is a walking encyclopedia. Harry also soon finds an adversary in Draco Malfoy, a boy from a wealthy wizard family, with ties to the dark lord. Harry’s first year is a wondrous adventure, living in a castle, talking to ghosts, befriending a giant, learning magic, becoming a Quidditch champion, and avoiding the wrath of Professor Snape. And all the while, he learns more about who his parents were, what they did for him, and how and why he survived his meeting with Voldy.
Each book represents a new year of school, and with such, new challenges, adventures, friends and enemies. He is closely watched by the headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, who was very good friends and one time teacher of his parents. But even Dumbledore can’t protect Harry every second - and it’s a good thing, or these would be pretty boring books. Over the years, he has had to deal with rival students who hate him for his celebrity, people who are out merely to exploit him, magical monsters of every type, and numerous attempts by the resurrected Voldemort to kill him. And he has picked up many new alliances consisting of old friends of his parents and new friends who wish to fight the rising darkness. And on top of it all, he still has to spend his summers with his relatives, who do their best to make life hell for our favorite wizard.
"There were moments when I was reading these books with tears rolling down my face, because you feel Harry pain at times, and his frustrations. You are in that book with him."
What has made the books compelling isn’t just the age old “good versus evil” story; there is the camaraderie between the core group of friends, which grows from three gangly youths to a small army of associates, a family almost. You also have the rich and encompassing world that Rowling creates, which almost seems like a modern day version of Tolkien’s own Middle-Earth, with magical creatures of every sort. There’s the writing, which is written not so much for children, but in an adult way that kids can understand, but adults can also enjoy. We feel empathy for the characters, who are fleshed out, three-dimensional people, and we can relate to Harry and his friends as they grow up, because we have been there ourselves. Even if you weren’t the outsider, you were once a kid trying to get through your teenage years in one piece, even if our biggest obstacle was getting past a couple of boneheaded linebackers on our way to class (although, there were days I’d have rather encountered a troll in the restroom). There were moments when I was reading these books with tears rolling down my face, because you feel Harry pain at times, and his frustrations. You are in that book with him.
Of course, the books have also come with quite a bit of controversy. Religious groups across the world have called for bans and boycotts of the books and movies, claiming that the stories teach witchcraft to children and will cause them to worship Satan. While this is all, well, really stupid, these groups are loud, and will go to great lengths to prove their point. I have myself on occasion gotten into arguments with some of those pious bible thumpers, and have been amused, astonished, bewildered, and downright frightened by their thoughts of the books. Especially when most of these people haven’t bothered to read them. Rowling, a Christian herself, has repeatedly gone on record to say that she doesn’t even believe in the power of witchcraft, and has no intention of leading the youth of the world down a dark path of demon worship. But, alas, these people are undeterred in their fear and hatred of the books, and will go to the grave believing that they were right. But we all know, they’re not.
This isn’t to say that the movies don’t have their own merits. They are visually stunning, very well cast, and much of Rowling’s brilliant dialogue does end up in the finished product, and works beautifully. But to say I’m completely satisfied with them would be a lie. Maybe there just wasn’t room in Goblet of Fire for the S.P.E.W. subplot, or for Dobby and Winky. But I thought there was more that could have been added to the film (although, it is great to see a pre-Doctor Who David Tennant as the Death Eater Barty Crouch, Jr., and to see that prat from Twilight die). Perhaps I’m being too picky, or too much of a purist, but every film, I seem to have expectations left unmet. Repeated viewings of the films have made me take a new look at them, and there are things I have liked about them, but my wife and I still find ourselves sitting there pointing out the differences and issues we have with them. I can, however, enjoy the cast, and the beautiful imagery.
So as I watch the new trailer, it all comes back – that feeling of excitement that comes when a book you love finally gets transferred to the big screen. And being split into two films, I can only hope more of the book makes it into the movie. I also know that even if I catch it at midnight, I’ll be taking sunglasses with me, because I will be in tears by the end (and we just can’t have folks seeing me like that – appearances, you know). And, of course, there’s the impatience of having to wait until next summer to see it finished. But on the bright side, it will give me plenty of time to re-read the book.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE HELP SUPPORT OUR SITE, AT NO COST WITH ONE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK 'LIKE' BUTTON BELOW:
If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.