Thursday, July 21, 2011

Harry Potter All Grown Up

Today, a couple of the gals from one of my writing groups and I went to see the last installment of the Harry Potter series.  *spoiler alert*  I went to the theater with a feeling of trepidation.  Each film seemed to get better and better as the series went on, and I was worried that the finale wouldn't live up to the franchise. 

Now, the only Harry Potter book I've read in its entirety was the first one.  I think I might have read part of the second one (Chamber of Secrets), but I'm not sure.  I remember reading about Dobby and I don't think that was in the first, was it?  I only remember reading Dobby because I was reading the book out loud to my son way back when, back when he enjoyed it when I read to him.  I read the book, complete with different voices for the different characters, and me affecting a British accent (hah!).  But my son loved it.

I didn't read the rest, because by the time I read part of the second one, I decided that I wanted to see the films first.  I hate that phenomenon where you read a book, and you go see it in the theater, and then you hate the film because it doesn't do the book justice.  Since I'm a filmmaker, I wanted to enjoy the films as they progressed, without interference of my expectations from the books.

The first couple of movies were okay.  In part because the cast was so young and inexperienced, the acting wasn't all that convincing to me.  The story was enjoyable and the effects were enjoyable, so I let it slide.  And I had read the first two books, so I was doing that comparison thing and I told myself to knock it off.  I wanted to see how it ended.

The first two or three movies seemed like stories all by themselves.  They could have ended there, and that would have been fine.  They didn't seem to build on each other very much.  But the further in to the series we went, the more things seemed intertwined and the more I wanted to see the next one and the next one to see what would happen next, because the adventure I just witnessed wasn't the whole story, but only an episode in the part of the whole.

My kids have grown up with Potter.  I have grown up with Potter.  The actors have grown with Potter.  I wonder how they feel, knowing now that it is all over?

And the funny thing is, certain events that happened in the stories I expected to happen.  To me, they made perfect sense.  I remember when the book Dumbledore died in came out.  My sister, who is a complete Potter-holic, called me crying.  "Dumbledore is dead!  Snape killed him!  I was hoping Snape would be a good guy, but he isn't!  Dumbledore died."

My response didn't help.  "Of course he did.  This is essentially a rite of passage for Harry.  Dumbledore had to die in order for Harry to find his destiny.  Look at the Lord of the Rings.  Gandalf died.  Look at any epic story where you have a hero--at some point his mentor usually has to die in order for him to complete his quest."

It also didn't surprise me that Snape killed him.  I knew that Snape was probably ordered to by Dumbledore himself in order to gain the trust of Voldemort.  These things just made sense to me as a writer, just looking at the structure of the story.

It was exciting to see the end.  I got to see my belief about Snape be validated.  I wasn't surprised that Harry had to die, either.  Or that he was resurrected.  This is an epic story of good vs. evil.  Look at C.S. Lewis and the Narnia series.  Watch the film, Legion.  Hell, look at the Bible.  It's the source of a lot of these ideas.

It was fun to see Harry, Hermione and Ron all grown up.  The actors have really come into their own.  Their performances were marvelous.  The special effects were wonderful.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the end was a suitable end to the Potter franchise.

My only quibble was with the epilogue at the end of the film--"19 Years Later."  It was smarmy and completely unnecessary.  The Return of the King had the same problem with Bilbo, Gandalf and the elves heading off out to sea to the land of the elves.  The end was rife with the sappy music and tears.  Blech.  Both LotR and the last Potter film could have done without the sap.

At any rate, Rowling is an excellent storyteller (even if it is the film version).  It is unusual to find a series where each one gets better than the last.  I'm looking forward to actually, finally, reading the rest of her books.  Anybody have any copies they can loan me?

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