Thursday, October 31, 2013

Harry Potter Appreciation Post

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I finally finished watching all the Harry Potter films. I promise once I have a good couple weeks' break from college I will try to read the books. This is going to be a review, reflection, and rant all in one post...

Harry Potter

My parents did not allow us to watch or read any Harry Potter while we were growing up. I was somewhat resentful of that since I had friends and cousins who loved Harry Potter, but I respected my parents' wishes and stayed away from the franchise even though I did become acquainted with the general premise and the main cast. In 2011 when the final film came out my parents said we were allowed to watch them if we wanted to ("About time", I thought....) However we never really got around to watching them and by then I had moved away from a lot of fiction books into nonfiction. Last August we were staying at a relatives' house and they own all eight Harry Potter movies. So one night we just said, "Let's do it!", sat down, and watched the first two films. Just tonight we finally finished the series. It took us just over two months, but we finished.


What's my immediate takeaway to Harry Potter?

First, I feel a twinge of regret for not being allowed to grow up with this series. However, I do understand why. The series involves a lot of spell-casting and witchcraft, and knowing myself I know that watching/reading about it as a little kid would have made it seem normal to me, when in fact wizardry in the real world is powered by evil, Satanic forces. But anyway, the farther we progressed into the series, the more I could tell that HP's main audience were the kids growing up with it. I could not attach myself enough to the series to say I'm in the HP fandom or anything, but if I had grown up with it I definitely would be. So no, I do not love Harry Potter as much as I love something like Star Wars or Disney, things I did grow up with. But I did enjoy it a lot.

The whole series in general was pretty good. It was not terribly predictable and involved a lot of interesting plot twists and magic I did not expect. The whole alternative universe was shown with both its light and dark sides. A lot of characters were amazing (more on that in a bit). And I loved how the mood progressed throughout the films...having a childlike magical feel with the first film, and very dark and epic for the last film (again, this was made for kids to grow up with it).

There were a lot of themes covered throughout the series, but one underlying message stood out to me the most...that you never have to fight your battles alone. You will always have friends to help you. There are so many times when Harry feels like he has to do it alone, but his friends are always there to remind him otherwise. That is a great message and a powerful reminder, and I loved that.

A couple things bugged me about it, though. (Warning: a couple minor spoilers here!) First, a lot of the plot devices felt ad-libbed. Spells, potions, and other useful tools for sticky situations are only mentioned the first - and often the last - time that they are used. That was okay for the first couple films, but still going on towards the end? That felt lazy. For example, in the Half-Blood Prince when Harry takes the potion that will help him accomplish all his endeavors...why didn't he save any to kill Voldemort? Or why did they use that extremely helpful Time-Turner only once? Couldn't they have used it to go back in time and stop Tom Riddle from creating Horcruxes? I want to read the books because hopefully they will answer some of these questions, but still...that bugged me a lot. I can't stand loose ends in a story!

Another thing that bugged me was that a lot of advances in the plot had to do with Harry & Co. eavesdropping or going undercover. More eavesdropping in the first half, more undercover work in the second half. It seemed like whenever Harry had to know something important it came about because of pure coincidence that he happened to hear someone say exactly what he needed to know at the exact same place at the exact same time. A lot of HP relied on coincidence...and I know every story has one, but it can only so far before it irritates me. Finally I didn't like how the whole story mostly focused on Gryffindor and made them out to be the "heroes" all the time, and Slytherin were made out to be the bad guys! And there in the background are Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are barely doing anything, just, existing. I would have liked more diversity in the houses - good students in Slytherin, heroes in Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, bad students in Gryffindor, and so on. There was a bit of that towards the end, but not much.

But, Harry Potter had a lot of great things to make up for that, as I already mentioned. Great setting. Compelling plot. Awareness to the viewers. An overall magical and emotional ride. And then there are the characters.

Favorite Film(s): The Chamber of Secrets and the Order of the Phoenix. The former still had that childlike magical feel with some slightly darker elements, which I loved, and the latter took the series to a whole new level and was incredible in many ways with both plot and character development.
Least Favorite Film(s): The Deathly Hallows Part One. It moved at such a slow pace, and lots of scene were just, eh. It had more like the feel of an indie movie, not a fantasy flick.

My Least Favorite Characters:

  • Lord Voldemort/Tom Riddle. He seemed like a very stereotypical villain to me. No real motive or good backstory is given for his evil deeds except that he's, just...evil? I was never given good reason to think of him as an intriguing character, just someone to be afraid of. Which sucks because one of my favorite actors Ralph Fiennes played him, and Fiennes did what he could with what he was given. But my goodness, so much character potential gone to waste and on a great actor too...
  • Dolores Umbridge. How can you not hate her? I can never look at old ladies who dress in pink the same way ever again!
  • Ginny Weasley. She was portrayed so blandly and never really did much of anything that any other character couldn't have done. It was like she only existed to give Harry a girlfriend so he wouldn't be trapped in the friend-zone. She bored me so much, I couldn't stand it.
  • The Dudley's. Need I say any more?


My Favorite Characters:

  • Sirius Black. One of the darker, quieter characters, but he was so noble. He was fantastic.
  • Remus Lupin. He's the yin to Sirius' yang. Like peanut butter to jelly. Ham to cheese. Okay, I'm done.
  • Bellatrix Lestrange. I'm biased because I love Helena Bonham Carter, but Bellatrix was such a unique character, and legitimately scary! She was the most insane of them all and I loved that!
  • Fred and George Weasley. Because every story needs its comic relief duo!
  • Severus Snape. Severus. Snape.

He was my all-time favorite HP character from when I first heard of him during the days HP was something I could never have, all the way until the very end. He made me laugh. He made me cry. He made me want to be a Slytherin at Hogwarts. (spoiler alert!) I did not shed one tear during all eight HP films until Snape's death and then I was crying, and guess what? My family was laughing at me for crying about it! They were laughing as Snape died!! This isn't the first time I've been mocked for crying about a character death, but my god, I couldn't have been spared this once?! Easily one of the worst movie nights I've ever had!!

Severus Snape is why I love this series. Severus Snape is my spirit animal.










Snape. My favorite. In my heart. Always.

(spoiler!) So every single one of my favorite Harry Potter characters died. (I count the twins because George is incomplete with Fred, and what we liked about them is dead.) Every. Single. One. Go figure. By the way, once my family figured that out guess what they did? Yup; they laughed at me again...
This night has been more painful than I thought it would be.

So, in summary, is Harry Potter worth it? I'd say anyone who is interested in stories about fantasy creatures, magic, alternate universes, and large casts of characters will enjoy it. There is a lot to love about HP that definitely makes up for the nitpicky things that bugged me. Again, I missed out on a lot of the emotional impact because I didn't grow up with it, and I'm aware of that. But I commend J K Rowling for writing such a fantastic story.

It was a very enjoyable series and I look forward to reading the books one of these days!

5 comments:

  1. Glad you enjoyed the Harry Potter films! :D I was one of the fans who grew up with the series(my Dad read them to my younger sister and I when I was nine and we immediately fell in love with them). I agree with you on how good the themes were and about the various characters- I loved Sirius, Remus, and the twins, and I definitely HATED Umbridge(she's SOOO evil! And she's even worse in the books). And YES! Snape! He was such a great character! And that scene at the end with him was very sad :(.
    Yes, you should read the books! They're even better than the movies. Some of the plot holes exist, but a lot of things are much better explained, the characters are better developed(Ginny is more interesting), and the other houses do more(especially in the last book).

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    1. That is awesome! I'm pretty sure Umbridge is the most hated HP character of all time, even more so than Voldemort. His death scene was the most heart-wrenching of them all; it was the only scene from the movies where I started to tear up.
      I definitely plan to read the books! :)

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  2. Yay! Incidentally, my parents never allowed me to read or watch Harry Potter when I was younger either, but I read the books last summer, figuring I was old enough to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the magical world, and I loved them! Interestingly, SEVERUS SNAPE IS MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE CHARACTER TOO! Whenever I read that part when he says he will always love Lily, I almost start bawling. A lot of the nitpicks you have are quite legitimate, but overall it's a good series. I was absolutely in love with the Weasley Twins as well, and Fred's death was another of the moments in the series when it was all I could do to keep from bawling. Dolores Umbridge was the character I HATED the most. I simply couldn't stand her; whenever she appeared on the page I wanted to rip my hair out with fury, she was so awful. The blood quill...arrgh, don't even get me started or I will be ranting.

    But nothing can compare to the fantabulousness that is Severus Snape. When we have time, we should Google chat all about HP, compare opinions and such! I read the books and haven't watched the movies, so that gives me a slightly different perspective. Ginny, as you said, IS kind of bland, although I like to think of it as because she younger than the Immortal Three, she doesn't get to appear as much and writing all the stuff about Harry got to know her might have bogged down the plot. But yes, her portrayal could have been improved upon. Hermione is probably my favorite female character; she's smart and nerdy and really keeps Ron and Harry in line (sort of). Plus, she reminds me somewhat of myself. The awkwardness with Ron/Hermione had me howling with laughter during the Half-Blood Prince book. (Of all the books that's the one that made me laugh the most because seeing them go through that awkward teenage-angst phase was just too funny.)

    Anywayyyyy...I'm glad you've gotten introduced to the rich world of Harry Potter, and the theme of friendship in the books is wonderful. No matter what comes between them the true friends always, always stick together, and ultimately that's what is most important.

    Adios!
    Towa

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    1. Wow!! Snape is your favorite too! We're like twins, girl! (then again, it's next to impossible not to love Snape...) It's funny, everyone in my family had different favorites. My sister loved Harry, my mom loved Ron, and my dad loved Hermione. I liked those characters too, but they found it amusing how they're all cheering on the main three, and I'm over in the corner weeping over "that emo guy" as they called him. Oh, I loved Snape...in some ways he reminds me of an older version of Loki :P My favorite female character was either Hermione or Molly Weasley.

      That would be awesome! I would love to Google chat about Harry Potter with you sometime (perhaps over Christmas break?) We could talk about the story and the themes and of course Snape. Oh, and I'd love to talk about Death Note too!

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  3. YES. Snape is such a complex character. I loved him so much by the end of deathly hallows.
    Your parents must be very religious, which is good. I wondered how it would've been different for you if you grew up with the series, though. :) I kind of grew up with it and I love it.
    You should totally read the books! It would clear up some things that bug you.
    Oooh... and Umbridge. Admit it. Everyone wants her dead more than Voldemort.
    In the book it'll help clear up the houses too. Slytherin isn't all bad- look at Snape. Gryffindor isn't all good- look at Peter. There's things about Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff too. I'm a proud Ravenclaw ^-^

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