Sunday, July 10, 2011

So, I agreed that I would rewatch all of the Harry Potter Movies before "The Deathly Hallows 2 - Assignment: Miami Beach" is Released

I'm not much of a Harry Potter fan.  I read the first book, then saw the first movie and decided "eh, the movies are good enough".  I get the Harry Potter fandom to an extent.  Trying to turn Quidditch into a playable sport, I maybe get less.  But, you know, whatever gets the kids to put down their X-Box controllers for ten minutes, I suppose.

Again, all comments are about the movie and not about the books.

Some things just never click with you, and for me, its Harry Potter.  I sort of enjoyed the wish-fulfillment inherent in the first book, but after that, I just never found a character in the series I actually liked.  And I particularly do not like Hagrid.  Why JK Rowling wrote a seven cycle series about why its cool to hang out with the weird maintenance guy at your school everybody else steers clear of, I will never know.  (rule of school #1, kids:  do not ever go alone into the maintenance shack behind the school with that dude.  That's never gone well for anybody.)

And its not that I disliked Harry Potter, but in the movies he seems more like a cypher upon which bad things are glommed in order to build sympathy than a three-dimensional character.  Frankly, I can never quite figure out much about Harry Potter, because his primary characteristic is to be anguished about bad shit happening.  And you can't really blame him for doing so as a character*, but its not much to grab onto.  And, a bit like Bella in the Twilight books, he doesn't seem to ever do much but be in the middle of what other, more interesting people/ beings are doing, but everyone is very concerned about Harry, helps out Harry, solves Harry's problems for him, and even dies for Harry. 

Its a bit weird that's the pattern in the first seven movies.  And its why I didn't understand Luke Skywalker was the hero of the Star Wars movies until I did a bit more to parse Jedi circa 8th grade, because, seriously...  Luke is kind of the same way.  He just sort of whines his way through A New Hope before winning the Quidditch match or saving Edward or blowing up that moon or whatever the hell...  I literally thought Star Wars was a movie about teamwork, because ain't none of those people stopping an Empire single handed (well, maybe Princess Leia).

Breakus The Leagus Spiritamos

I find the arbitrary nature of magic in the Potter-verse completely strange.

The 3 Evil Charms seem downright handy to a Dark Lord, and don't seem to cause any adverse effects upon those casting the charms.  One can only wonder why He Who Can't be Named doesn't just walk around nuking everybody in his path, and what the hell all this wand-fighting is about, anyway, if you can basically say "die, jerk", wave a wand and that's that?  Perhaps its an English thing for Evil People to only kill one person at a time, but it seems woefully inefficient.

I'm also deeply, deeply unclear on:
  • what the muggle public knows about magic
  • why the wizards bother to keep it a secret
  • how they have things like Quidditch World Cup tournaments and no muggles ever notice
  • after graduating, do wizards just buy a house and live in the suburbs
  • how does money work in a wizarding world
  • what sorts of jobs and industries are there for wizards
  • if wizards live separately from muggles, is that apartheid
  • if wizards occasionally marry muggles, how the @#$% are wizards a secret
  • why do young wizards dress like normal people, but adults dress like crazy people and dorks at a fantasy convention
  • do wizards get to carry cell phones
  • is all the food that shows up at Hogwarts prepared elsewhere and teleported in, or is a wizard just conjuring that food up?
  • is all wizard food just conjured up, and are there, therefore, no wizard service industry people
  • also:  house elves = slavery.  Apparently, wizards have no problem with this (I am told this is an issue in the books, but in the movie it reads really, really weird)
And why the @#$% do the adults seem to just abandon poor Harry to his fate?  Seriously, what is up with that?

I'm not one to support quitting, but at some point, you'd think Harry would figure his best bet would be to split town and not let the entire Wizarding World wait for a high-school kid to solve all of their problems.**  It just seems patently ODD.  I mean, seriously, wizards...  if you have any tricks that aren't meant for innocuous displays of whimsy, surely there's some of you who can maybe cast a fireball or turn Voldemort into a tootsie roll or something.  Hell, half the stuff we see occurring to the students at Hogwart's when their charms backfire might slow him down a tad.  And I'd think after the first time Voldemort showed up as a problem child, you would have gotten a bit more serious about home protection.

Now, overall, I do LIKE the story of Harry Potter.  Its got a nice, deep mythology that's both very global and very personal simultaneously.  Sometimes Rowling and the movie-makers overplay the "Harry is the center of the universe" part in order to keep Harry in play and our point of view, but the story also plays with themes that I think its good for kids to learn.

Adults don't know what they're doing.  There is evil out there, and people deal with it poorly, especially when they want to go about their business.  You will have to make decisions at some point that are not easy, and doing the right thing will take sacrifice from time to time.  Also:  owls make a swell mail delivery system, so you should buy several.

So I've got...  3 more movies to go.  At least the movies get significantly better after Chris Columbus abandoned ship and handed the reigns to a director whose best work did not involve showing Joe Pesci get hit in the nuts by a ten year old MacCauley Culkin.

I think I'm done here.

* I mean:  @#$%!  An unkillable snake-themed space wizard or some shit wants nothing more than to see him suffer a lot and then die.  I'd be jittery as @#$%, too.
**seriously, Harry seems like he'd gain quite a bit from just heading for Australia


Anonymous said...

Didn't us Signal Watchians hash out the issues with Harry Potter in an earlier incarnation?

Ah yes, we did:

My points on why Harry Potter is the ginormous global brand it is still stands I think.

I DO definitely agree with your criticisms of the characterization of the adults and Hogwarts pathetic faculty.

The one thing that drove me absolutely crazy in HP is that how asinine and stupid the adults are in preparing HP for his challenges. It's the same as when the Jedi Council rejected Anakin for training. Seriously stupid. In both HP and Anakin, you have a young disciple of unworldly power ripe for training and instruction, wishing for an authority figure to help guide them and you abandon them? The stupidity of the Hogwarts faculty in not telling Harry his past, his potential future and keeping secrets just makes them look like idiots. It makes me actually wish for the Vordemort to raze them to ashes with his wand because such irresponsibility deserves consequences. How they got their plush positions at Hogwarts is a total mystery because it certainly wasn't based on anything like thought and analysis.


The League said...

Well, clearly Professor MacGonagall slept her way to the top.

There's likely some lessons to be learned for adults in these books, too, I guess, about not waiting to spill the beans for dramatic purposes when it comes to "save the universe" type info. And while I can understand wanting to give Harry a "normal" life, by the fourth year he's had to save the school and/ or all wizards, maybe there's a pattern here, and folks should take note.

In time Rowling will write more Potter books (diamond encrusted cars don't buy themselves), and maybe Potter will actually do some of that.