The latest installment of the Harry Potter universe, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, gives one a distinctly sinking feeling. Not because it means there’s only one more episode left, but because one begins to wonder if the films will be able to wrap up the series in a remotely satisfying way.
There’s still a popcorn kind of glee in watching a Harry Potter flick, but of late it’s seemed trickier for the films to capture the whimsy of the books, something present even in the later, darker chapters. Hallows, Part 1, for example, sees the appearance of Mundungus Fletcher (Mundungus being word that means “foul smelling tobacco”), one of the many fantastical character names author J.K. Rowling rolled out. The movies have just seemed to have lost the ability to have fun with them.
It’s been interesting to see them evolve. As Harry has grown older, the stories have become more sinister and ditto the movies, beginning with the genius stroke of allowing Alfonso Cuarón to direct the third installment, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. That film shed the twinkly quality that Chris Columbus brought (appropriately) to the first two flicks for a darker, hipper vibe. Suddenly Harry and company wore street clothes more often and felt more like real, modern tweens. It swerved visually away from the book in the small ways that movies should, without derailing Rowling’s narrative.
My personal goal for about a year now has been to watch all the Harry Potter movies. I had resisted for a while and since I missed the first couple in the theater, I felt like I could never catch up in time. But when the Half-Blood Prince got delayed, I figured I finally had a chance to watch the first 5 so I could see the sixth one in the theater. Of course, the months went by and all of a sudden it was July and I only had a couple of weeks to watch them all -- still, I knew I could do it. I was not sure if I was going to become obsessed with the movies like everyone else had, but I figured I would at least enjoy them. I did probably have time to read all the books as well, but I have been reading about 5 books the last couple of months all at the same time, so I didn't think I could both read the books and see the movies. I also thought I might enjoy the movies more without reading the books. It has been very rare to actually end up liking a movie version of one of my favorite books. I get really attached to the characters in the book and how I feel they should be portrayed. And turning a long book into a 2 hour movie is always hard. You always have to cut stuff out, it is just impossible not to. So I ended up having the benefit of going into the films not really knowing much about them or having any interest in how the books or characters were portrayed. I knew Harry Potter was some sort of magical British wizard that went to some boarding school type school for young wizards. Other than that I really didn't know what to expect. I sort of have a weird dislike for British children in movies, and I wasn't really excited to see them flying around with capes and wands, which is part of the reason I had stayed away from the series...But I couldn't resist any longer. It was too big a piece of pop culture for me to miss out on.
So I finally sat down and watched all 5 movies in about 7 days and ended the run by seeing the sixth movie in the theater last week. I watched them with a big fan of the books and the movies and I tried to find out what happened in the movies before it actually happened but he wouldn't tell me and left me in suspense. It was nice to have someone there to fill in the blanks when I tried to figure out what had just happened after the movies ended. The last couple of movies were my favorites. I like when they started to get darker and I loved the introduction of Helena Bonham Carter's character, Bellatrix. Almost every British actor seems to pop up in one of the movies, and there are a lot of my favorites. I love Gary Oldman, who plays Sirius Black, and Emma Thompson, who plays Sybil Trelawney. Miranda Richardson is also brilliant as always, as Rita Skeeter. And of course, Maggie Smith is perfect as Minerva McGonagall. The best thing about these movies is really the cast. It really is a perfect cast in all the movies. Two of my favorites of the younger cast are Evanna Lynch, who plays Luna Lovegood, and Shirley Henderson, who plays Moaning Myrtle. I wouldn't say that I am now an obsessive Harry Potter fan, but I am for sure a fan. The movies are really fun for people of all ages. I wouldn't mind going back and reading all the books at some point. I have heard they are really fun to read. Maybe my goal can be to read all the books before the last 2 movies come out in 2010 and 2011. I think I can find the time.
Have you heard the true tale of the 16 year old French lad who painstakingly translated (from English into French) all 759 pages of the new Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) in record-breaking time and within days of its July 21st release date, and then posted it online? If so, you know that this time-consuming task landed him in jail and also facing serious charges of intellectual property violation.
Now what he did, of course, was illegal, but the smart, swift French high-schooler is hardly a hardened criminal. And it is important to note that he was not trying to make any money off the book or receive any kind of payment for his intense, time-consuming job of translating an entire book. One reason why it is seems crazy to me to go after this young individual is because anyone who is going to read an entire book online (which is a pain in the ass -- most people only read one page online before tiring of staring at their computer screens) is obviously too cheap to buy it in the first place and secondly because if you were to print out all 759 pages you would end up spending more on ink cartridges and paper than if you were to go buy the book itself at the store.
And if you read it online so as to know the story ending before it was published and available in stores, then you are such a diehard Harry Potter fan that you will -- undoubtedly -- have to later buy a copy of the book to own. It is just like the music file downloaders who, while downloading like crazy, also purchase the most music online.