Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why I Like Harry Potter

Since I know you've been dying to hear my review of the Phoenix movie: It was really, really well done. As with the other movies, much of the story needed to be cut, but the essentials remained.

The sets and costumes were amazing and the Ministry of Magic is almost exactly how I had it pictured in my mind's eye. Of course, the sets are always amazing and I'm glad they changed Professor Trelawney's classroom to the way I had originally imagined it.

I thought the acting was quite good, although Emma Watson's Serious Hermione voice was a bit heavy-handed. She seemed to get better toward the end, or maybe I just got used to it. I still don't like the new Dumbledore all that much. He lacks the underlying sense of humor that Richard Harris brilliantly conveyed in the first two movies and is so essential to Dumbledore's character. (But alas, even wizards can't stop the inevitable, so I really can't blame poor Richard Harris for dying.) Imelda Staunton was BRILLIANT as Dolores Umbridge. I mean, just brilliant. She deserves an Oscar for that performance.

A good friend of mine asked me in an email today about why I like the Harry Potter books so much. It seems he's seen the movies which he thought were okay, but doesn't quite understand just what all the fuss is about. I wrote back:
Here's why I like Harry Potter--may even post this on the blog. Is it great literature? I don't *think* so. But it's really really GOOD literature. The characters are compelling, the world she [Rowling] creates (magic) is whimsical and funny, the characters who are good have a great sense of life, there are clear lines between good and evil, and while Harry Potter has to struggle with his destiny, his "destiny" is not determined--he uses his own free will to make a conscious decision to fight Evil. Oh frickin yeah.

The movies really don't do the books justice--SO much is left out. You'd LOVE the 5th book--which is the new movie out--because one of the evil characters is a government official and the magical government (Ministry of Magic) overstretches its own authority to bring a heavy-handed rule to the school. In the book, and in the movie, it's comical how the ministry creates new law after new law to handle problems and challenges to the government, and the students and staff fight back. It's kind of like when Princess Leia told Darth Vader or the Grand Moff Tarkin that the harder you grip, the more star systems slip through your fingers. Wow, I AM a geek, huh? I LOVE LOVE LOVE that my kids will read this book and see so clearly and dramatically the evils of [out-of-control] government in action.

The Big Thing with Book 7 coming out is that there will be a final showdown between Harry and Voldemort and also there was a lot of ambiguity about where one of the main character's loyalties really lie.

J.K. Rowling really did something wonderful. I highly recommend them as a fun, light read, and I would also recommend sharing them with your kids when they're older. Brendan has read the first book to Ryan already. As he gets older, we'll read him/he'll read the next ones. Really, the books are SO much better--the movies are good and well done for what they are--but the whole story can't even be touched on-screen.
That, plus, of course, all the blatant Satanism.

I haven't tired of re-reading them yet and don't expect I will. Like all good literature, these books deal with big themes like Good versus Evil, Free Will versus Determinism, love, friendship, loyalty. Many of the usual literary archetypes are present, too.

I still haven't decided if it's GREAT literature yet, but I will say that these books are ones that will live with me forever. Just as other life-changing books still hang out around in my brain, the Harry Potter books are part of me now, their dialogue and characters and imagery gently poking me as I go about my regular life, saying things like "Hey--that's just like when the Ministry of Magic interfered at Hogwarts!"

So, that's why I like Harry Potter! Hope that clarifies things a bit. :o)

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