A HERO'S SPARK: the final book in the Wicked Women series!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A review you can use: Harry Potter

Hello all!

So over the weekend I viewed the final chapter in the Harry Potter movie series.  No, I didn't go to the midnight show Thursday night, and no I didn't dress up.  At my age, the only appropriate costume would have been Professor Mcgonagall, and as much as I love the great actress Maggie Smith, it's too blame hot outside for long black robes and a witch's hat.  However, I did see the movie yesterday, and, now that the series is done, I should give my readers a full on review of the series, both in book form and in movie form.  So, if you are a Harry Potter fan, or if you are coming late to the party, have no fear.  I'm not going to insult anyone, and I'm not giving anything away.

Book one:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Harry is an orphan boy of 11, and is pulled from his miserable life at his aunt's home to the world to which he was born:  Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  We learn along with Harry, about the legend that surrounds him, and we, like Harry, are wide eyed and innocent and we are grateful for his friends, Ron and Hermione.  While the structure of the book is somewhat weak  (lots of passive voice...) the story is most definitely there, and we leave wondering if Harry can possibly survive the confusing world of wizards.

Movie One: 
Director Cris Columbus does a very credible job of showing us Hogwart's through the eyes of a child.  It's brilliant, it's somewhat scary, but it's ultimately a magical place and it's where we wished we belong.

Book Two:  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry is twelve, and eager to return to Hogwart's after another brutal summer at his awful aunt's home.   This time around we see cracks in the happy face of Hogwarts as students are turned to stone by some unseen enemy.  Harry actively takes the role of hero for the first time.

Movie Two:

Daniel Radcliffe grew up a lot between the first two movies, reminding us just how short childhood is, even for young wizards.  This time around we get an image of the young man who became The Dark Lord.  The casting is spot on and hilarious with Kenneth Branagh guesting as Gilderoy Lockhart, the narcissistic professor of Defense against the Dark Arts.  (They really do have trouble filling that position.  Wonder if I have the right qualifications?)

Book Three:  The Prisoner of Azkaban

I don't know why, but this is the book and the movie I most over look.  It's year three, Harry's miserable at home, so he runs away, hopping the Night Bus  (Hilarious...) to meet up with his school mates.  But there's a murderer on the loose, the evil...evil Sirius Black and he's out to kill Harry...or is he?

Movie three:  New movie, new director, this is the oddest paced movie of all of them.  Alfonso Cuaron takes a stab at the franchise and gives the hereto for fun and adventure movies and very dark and almost classic horror film feel.  Maybe it's distracting, I'm not sure, but still, this movie is loaded to the teeth with action, new characters, and a very funny bit involving an old rat. 

Book four:  The Goblet of Fire

J K Rowlings must've started getting paid by the word because this is the book that size anyway.  But every word is worth it.  If you must skip the first three books, go ahead, but your Harry Potter reading MUST start with this fourth book....mostly because much of the book didn't make the movie.  The first book in which a main character dies, this is also the book that teachers hesitate to hand their children.  While the kiddies ages 8 and under can devour the first three books, this one is a step up.  There's far more evil and darkness in this one...and an outright murder.  While my son read it immediately  (I believe he was 9 or 10)  I did make my daughter wait a bit to read this one.

Movie Four:  This movie brings us yet another director, Mike Newell, which is good because if the dark shroud was cast over movie three, this one would be a full on horror film.  By far and away the most violent movie of the series thus far, there is much that is not for the wee ones.  Harry is 15...with all that that delightful age brings.  There's an awerness of girls...and a friction between him and his closest friends.  It's very dark movie and we haven't even gotten to the point where Edward Cullen dies, becomes a vampire, and moves to Forks.  (For those of you into the Twilight movies as well as the Harry Potter movies, you are laughing your faces off right now, aren't you?)  This movie is a real edge of your seat, not kidding around thriller, and if you're a grown up, this is one you won't have to be ashamed of liking. 

Book five:  The Order of the Phoenix

This is the book for those really deep into Harry and his world.  There's so much in there about prophesies and whatnot, it almost feels like a thesis on wizardry. However, much is revealed, now that Harry is 16, about his parents' deaths, and about just how evil the Dark Lord really is.  Set aside some time, and keep a notebook're going to need both.  That said, it is the first book where Harry accepts the mantel of hero and really runs with it. He might be a snotty know it all teen, but darn it all, he's the Chosen One! The otherwise very hopeless mood of this book is eased a little by Rowling's most hilarious villain to date:  pink clothes, kittens and all.
Movie Five:  Like watching some very bad cliff notes of your favorite book.  New Director David Yates guts the lengthy tome, dumbs down the lore, and basically gives us a lot of explosions without a lot of purpose.  By this time in the series, we're feeling a little insulted at the attempt.  Go ahead and watch, but if you're pressed for time in your life, you could just read the book and skip this one.

Book six:  The Half Blood Prince

Rowlings brings back some whimsy, be it fairly dark whimsy, and gives us a bigger glimpse into Harry's parents' lives.  All seems a bit better at Hogwarts, now that those in power believe Harry's claims about the Dark Lord, but we readers realize that we are now on a story spiral that is gaining in momentum as it rolls to the inevitable...we think...end in book seven.  Personally, I read book six in one sitting...finished it at 2 in the morning, and screamed "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" for about ten minutes.  Rowlings is, frankly brilliant, and this book opens that obvious fact wide to those few unbelievers left.  I've never been surprised by an ending in a book...not like this.

Movie six: 
Someone gave director David Yates a second chance, and he did much better this time.  Guess he reads his Facebook posts.  movie six captures the angst of a boy becoming a man who is supposed to be a hero...but who really just wants to make out with a girl.  Harry now is battling forces far darker than he ever imagined...forces no one can predict.  The end of the movie is as startling and as heart wrenching as the end of the book.

Book seven:  The Deathly Hallows

Harry and his two besties leave Hogwarts as the Dark Lord takes control of everything.  They are now on a great quest.  They don't know what they're looking for, or where they will find it, but all the friends Harry's made along the way in the past years turn up to help him. 

The ending of this book is so shattering...that I couldn't put it down, but I had catch my breath.  From a writer's perspective, this might possibly be the most perfectly written book ever.  As a person who's been a casual follower of Harry Potter, I was ready to read the next chapter to find a Harry triumphant...the Chosen One.  What I got was so much more than that.  Romance writers take note:  This book makes us realize that it's all about love in the end.

Movies 7/8

Director David Yates brings us home with this two part conclusion.  I'm so happy they did two movies...there's simply too much ground to cover.  So gold star to the powers that be for giving the fans what we want:  A real send off.  Very little is spared and even less is strayed from in these two films.  There's a lot of bring the hankies because by this time you've fallen in love with even the homeliest creatures.  Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves do an excellent job of bringing the spirit, not just the words, of the book to life.  Even those who have read "The Deathly Hallows" multiple times are going to be on the edge of their the very last moment, and sweet, winsome moment that brings us all full circle, lets us sit back in our seats, and heave a sigh of relief. 

Darn it I want to read the book again!

As an author, I wish I could have come up with these seven books.  As a reader, I'm so glad J K Rowlings did.

Will there be anything as big as Harry Potter again?  I don't know.  I doubt it.  Many book series have been attempted on film, and have, one way or another, flopped.  There aren't many book series that can sustain three films, much less seven.  Even Star Wars stopped at six, and frankly, that middle one in the new movies is just horrible and pointless. 

So kudos to J K Rowlings for her persistence in getting her story published.  Kudos to the hundreds of cast and crew members  (No British actors were spared in the filming of these movies!  LOL!)  who worked for endless hours on these movies.  And Kudos to Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and most of all Daniel Radcliffe, who grew up in front of millions, took on all the evil in the world, and made us believe in heroes (and magic) again.

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