A Special ‘Harry Potter’ Retrospective (Part I)

With the upcoming — and immensely anticipated release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II scheduled for release on July 15th, I thought now would be the perfect time to take a closer look at the “Harry Potter” series film by film, leading up to this latest (and final?) installment. However, I wanted to give the series the respect it deserves — and alas, I am not the right person for this weighty undertaking. In fact, as sad as it is for me to admit, I only recently watched the very first film (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and will certainly watch the rest of the films before “Deathly Hallows: Part II” is released. No, this retrospective needed to be written by an incisive professor of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This special Magic Lantern series is written by William Buhagiar (who previously contributed to this website with his Top 5 Tim Burton Films), a man who knows his movies and has an astute knowledge of Rowling’s works.

This first installment serves as an introduction Buhagiar, a passionate ‘Potter’ fan, reflects on a decade of the cinematic adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s “seven-volume masterpiece” (to use his words). The following installments will feature mini-reviews of each film — plus, a look at the all-star cast that the films have featured. I hope all of you Potter fans out there enjoy this as much as I have enjoyed reading it — and, as always, feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions…even if you strongly disagree. Let him know. William is a big boy…he can take it. — P.E.

Very rarely, and I mean very rarely, does a story come along that so radically explodes into public consciousness. One perfect example of this, undeniably, would be the ‘Harry Potter’ series.

The ‘Harry Potter’ phenomenon, for me, began in 1999, when I was given a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for my ninth birthday. Not yet familiar with J.K. Rowling’s extraordinary creation of a world-within-a-world featuring witches, wizards, dragons, aerial broomsticks, potion lessons, etc., I approached the then-obscure book with nothing more than a vague curiosity…and the rest is history.

Now, twelve years later, I am still as furiously obsessed with Rowling’s masterfully executed seven-volume saga of good versus evil as I was upon completing the very first ‘Potter’ novel. Myself, and many others my age, are grateful to be part of what is lovingly referred to as “The Potter Generation,” as we essentially grew up with Harry. From the release of “Sorcerer’s Stone” up until the savagely-anticipated unveiling of “Deathly Hallows,” (the fastest-selling book in history, by the way) we, the madly-devoted fans, would faithfully wait years in between the releases of each volume – which, as any fan would admit, was agonizing. We gladly waited on obscenely long lines at bookstores for the midnight release of each book – not for the simple novelty of attending a midnight ‘Potter’ event, but because we simply could not wait another second to resume the story and hunt feverishly for answers to the questions we had been asking since reading the previous book. Was Snape really Lord Voldemort’s servant? Who was the unknown wizard who stole Slytherin’s locket? How many more beloved characters would we have to confront the devastation of losing in the war against the Death Eaters? And what was the significance of Dumbledore’s momentary “look of triumph” upon discovering that Voldemort had used Harry’s blood as a component for his rebirth?

During the third book, “Prisoner of Azkaban,” Rowling’s books began to grow steadily, palpably darker – and after the fourth, “Goblet of Fire,” it was abundantly clear that these books were no longer the harmless, delightful children’s stories we had grown accustomed to. They had now adapted a dramatically darker and disturbing tone. Beloved characters were dropping dead left and right, a brutal genocide arose and characters more shockingly cruel and inhumane than we could have ever expected in a ‘Potter’ book were introduced. The books had suddenly evolved from sweet, charming children’s stories into a ferociously suspenseful political fairy tale – hence the true magic of Rowling’s writing: her story was now appealing to more adults as favorably as it had to her younger readers. She understood that her young readers who began the stories as children were now more mature, and ready for something deeper, darker, and undeniably more violent than we had ever expected.

Naturally, books as wildly successful as the ‘Potter’ saga are bound to be adapted into films, and adapted they were. Warner Brothers seized the film rights while the ‘Potter’ name was still a hot item, and since 2001, I’ve watched the stories be translated from beloved text to big screen blockbusters. It is common knowledge amongst those I discuss the ‘Potter’ movies with that I find the movies less-than-satisfying, to put it mildly. Of course, as argued to me in the past, books and movies are two very separate mediums, which I must respect – but a Harry Potter junkie like me can only respect so much before he is tempted to rip out his eyeballs in frustration. For this retrospective, I will attempt to maintain a less-prejudiced mindset, and view each film as it is meant to be viewed – as a motion picture…no more and no less. Naturally, covering each aspect of the series (roughly 5,000 pages of story and exactly 1,168 minutes of cinema) is relatively impossible for this humble posting, so I will be covering those topics which I found most distinct throughout the adaptations of Rowling’s novels.

Henceforth, I will now begin discussing each film in the franchise, beginning with 2001’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. With the very last installment hitting theaters in July, this will indeed be a bittersweet undertaking. The ‘Potter’ series has been with me for over half my life, and as Harry grew older, I grew older. Despite the fact that the story itself came to a close (for me) July 22nd, 2007, upon completing the very last novel in the series, I am still not looking forward to the lights coming up in the theater after “Deathly Hallows Part II,” when I will have to bid Harry, Hogwarts, Ron, Hermione, Snape and Dumbledore my final, inevitably tearful farewell.

Thank you, Miss Rowling, for giving us such a marvelous story. — by William Buhagiar

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4 Responses to A Special ‘Harry Potter’ Retrospective (Part I)

  1. Pingback: ‘Harry Potter Retrospective’: A Breakdown of the All-Star Cast « Magic Lantern Film Blog

  2. Pingback: Death … THE end?? | Sandra2891svizzera's Blog

  3. William says:

    I agree 100% with everything you said, and a lot of it I actually discuss in further reviews. You’re right, nobody is ever going to be completely happy with the movies, but the filmmakers could have absolutely elected to focus on important events and themes that were more vital to the plot as opposed to their focus on seriously trivial details.

  4. The first movie wasn’t off too much from the book-no clue why they couldnt have done the traps guarding the stone to match the book. After this all the movies cut way too much out. The exclusion of Dobby helping out all over the place (world cup, getting the right herb for Harry at the Triwizard cup, etc) made each movie afterwards steer in a totally different direction. Excluding how the twins got the money to open their joke shop was another thing that shouldnt have been left out. The exchanges between his Aunt and himself in book 7 should have been shown in Part 1 so that those who didnt read the books dont think Petunia had no heart or love towards Harry. Her background and wanting what her sister had created her.
    I do enjoy the books and movies but so much of what I wish to see is left out and so many scenes that are useless are put in. Nobody is ever going to be 100% happy.

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