Friday, July 15, 2011

Farewell, Harry Potter

It has been nearly a decade and a half since a scrawny, bespectacled, 11-year old wizard really first entered our lives, first on the printed page and then on the big screen.  Who knew at the time that Harry Potter would become the most famous literary character of our time, or any other, for that matter?  I considered calling the Harry Potter series this generation’s Stars Wars, but that simply isn’t enough.  George Lucas’ space sage was legendary in the theaters and the toy section of our stores but it never gained the same status on the bookstore shelves.

Not true with Harry Potter.  It is first and foremost a literary phenomenon.  The last two books alone sold 20 million copies combined in the first 24 hours they were released.  They have ruled the best sellers’ list for over a decade.  Harry Potter will forever be an iconic literary figure, if not the biggest. 

Many have argued if these were children’s books or adult book.  Many have lauded and criticized the literary value or the lack thereof.  I have read more than my fair share of books and I do not claim to be an expert in the greatness of specific literature, but I do know one thing.  Millions of people, children and adults alike, read these books and adored them and that makes them great.  People read them and love them and that is all that matters.  You do not have to be a fan of the fantasy genre (I am) to enjoy these works.  An imaginative world and a stirring storyline are all great but it is the identifiable characters and bonds of their friendship and loyalty that stir us. 

These books, taken as a whole, are terrific.  I have been a very outspoken critic of the last book in the series, Deathly Hallows.  I will not go on and on about it here but I still feel author J. K. Rowling did some great disservices to her legions of fans ( and characters) with Deathly Hallows but I will not condemn her to purgatory just because of my personal opinion.  I still believe this series of books will remain beloved forever, and deservedly so.

The movies, in my opinion, haven’t been as good, in general, as the books, but that is hardly surprising.  The books are quite long and you can only show so much in a movie.  Major storylines were ignored in the film versions for almost every book.  The first two films probably followed the printed works the closest.  Christopher Columbus did a very good job of being patient with the material and keeping as close to the books as possible (I was extremely frustrated and perplexed that he didn’t do the same for the first Percy Jackson film).  Alfonso Cuaron helmed the third installment and it is, in my opinion, the weakest film.  Mike Newell took over for the 4th movie and it is one of my favorites.  David Yates directed the rest and did an acceptable job (still don’t know why changed and watered down the ending of The Half-Blood Prince).

Warner Brothers released the final chapter this weekend.  My 11-year old son and I went today and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I actually liked the 2-part movie translation better than the book because it curtailed much of the inexplicable, never ending, traipsing through the forest, away from the action, bore fest that was a giant part of the book (sorry, couldn’t help myself).  The movie maintained the emotional tone of the best parts of the book and the action was hard paced.  I can’t see the criticism of this movie being any more than it has been for the previous 7 efforts.  It was an appropriate ending to the story and a satisfying wrap-up for our beloved characters.  No one should be disappointed and that is all that matters.  I can’t find it in my heart to write anything negative about the movie and I just want to say that if you loved the series, books or movies, don’t miss out on the final chapter.  We all know the outcome.  It doesn’t matter. 

And so this is it for our beloved Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger.  No more Dumbledore, Snape, or Lord Voldemort.  No more visits to Hogwarts, the school we all wish was our alma mater.  Gone are the Weasleys, Luna Lovegood, and Neville Longbottom.  The final chapter has been written and the last scene filmed.  Rowling has said she will not revive Harry and friends and even though that is probably the right thing, I am greatly saddened by the prospect.  Who knows if she will stick by that or not?  If she changes her mind, she should be careful not to damage the legacy, because right now, Harry Potter is probably the most known literary figure of all time and we want nothing to tarnish that image.   Good bye, Harry Potter.  You will always have a spot on my book shelf.

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