Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter: An Unsystematic Postscript

I'm still in the afterglow of the post-Harry Potter era -- or at least, the passing of the Golden Age of Potter (1997-2011), perhaps soon to be turned by J. K. Rowling into the dawn of the Silver Age of Potter.  Along with the new film, I watched the Larry King Special and listened to this NPR special.  I wrote my proposal last week about how I believe Harry Potter was the missed opportunity for the second coming of the tabletop fantasy RPG in our lifetime, which stirred a lot more people to message me than to comment publically, including lots of repeats of stories heard from big time people in the RPG industry who worked at leading places you have heard of.  There were divergences and common elements in people's reports, but apparently no one feels comfortable posting them so I won't.  I will mention that a number of them claimed that it was J. K. Rowling herself who put the kibosh on a Harry Potter role-playing game, which if true would seem to represent a misunderstanding of what an RPG is and does on her part, but moreover would just be sad.  Who wants to blame Joanne when we could blame some idiotic stuffed suit or some faceless corporate cabal?  If it's true, I'm going to try to blame people not properly explaining them to her.

For this Mythopoeic Monday, I want to close by offering my idiosyncratic comments on the movies of the franchise, taken together now as a whole.  They are good stuff.  Rarely am I so happy with the way books are turned into movies.  There are some great soundtracks for these films.  They had, as Risus well turned it, a "seriously satisfying finale."  Talking to fans on Friday, I was made aware once again of how personal both appreciations and criticisms of the film adaptations are.  One eloquent young lady lectured me on the fine points of what the excise of the sphinx does to the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire film.  My chief complaints really are only two and the first one is picky:  The dumbing down of the title of the first book and film for the American audience from The Philosopher's Stone to The Sorcerer's Stone makes the intellectual and the mythopoet that I am cranky.  The second is my biggest complaint: if you have a 12-year old facing a huge basilisk, the fight needs to be staged so well that it is believable that he wins and isn't killed several times over.  It should go down as one of the worst fantasy fights in film history.

I'd love to hear your final thoughts, gentle readers.  What are your favorite moments from the Potter franchise?  Your bitterest complaints?  Finally, do you have some insightful links you'd share regarding the Potterverse?  I'll cheat in my closing by referring to two links I always have up.  I love following what Professor Amy H. Sturgis has to say about things Potter.  Check my linkography for her blog Redecorating Middle-Earth in Early Lovecraft.  She also is a regular feature on Starship Sofa (link at bottom of page).  A Google search will likely turn up some of her other papers and appearances (including ones on Potter-related podcasts).  I end with this: if someone before 1997 had told me that one could write a fantasy series that was as literary, widely-appealing and easy-to-read, and as steeped in the traditional source material as Rowling's works are, I would have said it was unlikely.  If I had been told that it would be pitched originally as children's literature I would have upped that to impossible, even before getting to the level of  success that she has achieved.  Dreaming all this up is one thing, but managing the story and its incarnations as she has through the theme park and the 8th film?  Well done, J.K.  Here's to your plans for the Silver Age.

EDIT: I enjoyed this essay over at Black Gate by Andrew Zimmerman Jones, and he points to a couple of articles over at from their Potterpalooza.


  1. Even now, I am angry about how they did Azkaban. It was my favorite book and the movie bothered me quite a bit. Visually it was appealing, but they left so much out. it just felt rushed.

  2. So many favorite moments but the scene of Harry and Hermione slow dancing to Nick Cave in Deathly Hallows Pt 1 stands out for some reason. I was just floored that they would use Nick Cave. And that all camping sequence was one reason I loved the films so much. The later films found a way to actually correct some of the issues I had with the books. I was *not* fond of the middle section of Deathly Hallows yet the movie made it flow really well. Same for when Harry got really angsty and annoying in the 5th (or 6th?) book. It came off better in the film.

  3. I'm pretty happy with the NYTimes review:

    I wish that I could see pt 1 & 2 back-to-back in the cinema.