Another title could be, I become the 8 gazillionth person to make the following observations about the Harry Potter series.
I freely admit it. I was a Harry Hater. Thankfully I wasn’t one of those who thought the popular series smelled of the Occult*, but I still was adamantly opposed to the books (and by extension the movies). I worked in a book store my senior year of high school and had witnessed Harry Pottermania first hand. How could anything that popular among kids be worth while? Judging by the titles (by then I think only the first three books had been released), they seemed like a cheap, bastardized, dumbed-down version of Tolkien. I refused to jump onto the Magic Bandwagon, or even to “waste my time” giving it a fair shake.
That was until summer 2004 when I was reluctantly compelled to attend the opening night of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Although entering a book series had prejudged by seeing the third film adaptatgion was certainly not ideal. I was hooked. I was amazed at how intricate the plot was (and at how much more intricate the plot of the book must have been), the care with which the CGI was done (Buckbeak looks just as real as Hermione), but most off with the characterizations.
I’ve never exactly been a huge fan of Harry himself, but I instantly fell in love with the Hermione-Ron dynamic and I knew all the way through the movie there was something suspicious about Prof. Lupin (amazingly, I connected his name to “wolf” but failed to recognize him as a werewolf). Alan Rickman’s (bless his British heart) performance was so spot on that I left the theater asking my much more Harry-proficient friend as to whether he was a good guy or bad guy.
And the things I loved about the movie were even more pronounced once I got home and ordered the books.
Rowling does an amazing job with her characters and making us care. I’m a 25-year grad student who enjoys a good dose of German cinema now and again, yet I’m so invested in Ron and Hermione hooking up, living happily ever after, and making lots of wizard and witch babies that I can’t stand it. When rumors surfaced that two main characters would lose their lives in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, my concern was not about Harry (like the rest of the reading world) but for these two star-crossed should-be lovers. If they don’t hook up when I read the new book in nine days I will scream.
Plot twists and misdirection are clearly two Rowling’s strengths. We know the witch or wizard who helms the Defense Against the Dark Arts post will be hiding something each new year, but I defy you to guess what that something is. OK, so it was pretty obvious with Gilderoy Lockheart in Chamber of Secrets, but he’s the exception. Did you have any idea that Mad Eye Moody was actually a death eater using the Polyjuice poition? No, and I defy you to tell me you weren’t blown away when it turned out that Slughorn would be teaching potions and NOT DAtDA.
But the thing that amazes me most about Rowling’s writing is her ability to mine the slightest detail from book one to make a major plot point in book 6. The polyjuice potion is one example, but so other more seemingly insignificant details. Characters pop in and out, previous throw away comments take on more meaning, etc. One example -and this one is from a single book! – if Ron hadn’t broken his wand in the beginning of Chamber, how would he and Harry have escaped Lockhart? The Neville-Harry meta-physical connection is just another of a multitude of examples.
All this to say, I’m offically a member of the Harry Potter Nation. I happily showed up, ticket in hand for the 12:01 opening of HP and the Order of the Phoenix ** and I’m having my pre-ordered copy of HP and the Deathly Hallows sent to my grandmother’s house because I’ll be in OKC the day of the release.
The bottom line? HP rocks.
* for the record, Magic is used in the Harry Potter Universe not as “power” per se, but as a technological skill. Thus my logic for giving it a pass.
** I did NOT dress up.