Okay, I have a confession to make. Ready?

I read or, to be more precise, listened to the audiobooks of the Harry Potter series the first time, when I was already 26 years old. I listened to them between January and July of 2016.

Those were the German translations of the books. Now that Reed has started the Rogues Portal Book Club and the first seven months of it are dedicated to the Harry Potter series, I wanted to take that opportunity to read them again. But this time the original English version. The good things about doing something like this very late and after everybody else are the following:

First, nobody seems to talk about it any more. Maybe because it’s just there – a constant noise in the background. You can start conversations about it if you want, but people would not spoil you by accident, shouting in the middle of the conversation “x dies in book six” (thank you Sheldon – you bastard).

And second, you can buy pretty box sets of the whole series. And I love pretty things on my shelves.

I don’t know why I avoided the Harry Potter series for such a long time, but now that I’ve read it, I am glad to have them in my life. Maybe sometimes you have to grow up to enjoy some things, so you can learn how to be a child again.

As I read the first book for the Book Club again, I finished it in two days. I cannot remember the last time I finished a book so quickly. But it was just so good and even though I knew what was coming, I enjoyed the foreshadowing J.K. Rowling put into Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In addition to that, it is just fascinating to discover this rich world through the eyes of young Harry.

I don’t remember where I heard or read it, but someone pointed out, how talented Rowling is when it comes to the principle of Chekhov’s gun. She does this not just within one book, but throughout the whole series. But you cannot really appreciate this when reading the series for the first time. The second time, though – the second time you recognise things: names and events which are to come in the following books. But what exactly do I mean?

Well, I am talking about the time Hagrid mentions Sirius Black, the break-in to Gringotts, the titles and names of books, Harry’s memory of the day his parents died, secret passages in Hogwarts, werewolves in the forest, Neville not mentioning his parents, Grindelwald, and so much more.

Now, let’s talk about another issue and the next confession: I have never seen a Harry Potter movie. Shocking, isn’t it. Did you fall from the chair? No? Too bad. Either way, I had fallen into the habit of keeping well away from the movies, because for some reason I couldn’t take them seriously. Don’t ask why, I don’t know. But since we are reading Harry Potter again and I own the movies already – it is time to watch them.

So instead of talking about the book and the stuff that happens within it, I want to talk about the movie and why I think it’s not that good…

First of all I have to point out, that the first book is very dense. Every plot point seems to be integral to the overall plot (of either the single book or the whole series). So, if you cannot skip any of the major plot points (delivering Harry, the cupboard, the snake, the letters, Hagrid in the hut, Hagrid and his dragon, Diagon Alley, and so and so forth – let’s just agree that everything is important), what things could you possibly cut out?

Right, character development and interaction.

And that is why I do not think Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a good movie. The film rushes from one plot-point to the other. There is just no room for any natural development or empathy for the characters. If you  just watched the movie could you answer one of those questions:

Why does Harry go first to the library after getting the invincibility cloak? Why are they afraid of Flinch’s cat? How would you describe the relationship between Harry and Malfoy? How are Crabbe and Goyle? You cannot really answer them properly because a lot of information is missing: the subtext.

But, having said that, if you have read the books and watched the movies afterwards they can be rewarding and really enjoyable. I think it’s very funny and interesting to see one’s imagination come to life. Especially when it doesn’t quite fit. The Great Hall, the nursery or Hagrid’s hut are just a few examples I had imagined totally different.

What I really liked are the designs of the magical items, houses, accessories, and the surroundings of Hogwarts. The movies clearly profited from the fact, that they were made in the early 2000s, because CGI wasn’t really a thing back then and they used a lot of costumes and practical effects – except for the Troll (but let’s not talk about that).

Another thing I loved were the actors. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson  are fantastic, especially Emma as she nails the attitude of Hermione perfectly. But the others as well: John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Richard Griffiths, Richard Harris, Ian Hart, John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters and so much more. Every single one of them seemed to have had a lot of fun making the film. You can see that clearly. Oh! And the dialects – I love the variety of different dialects. It’s such a joy just to listen to them all.

There is one last thing that bothers me, though. It is a question, that concerns me. It’s about ending of the movie: is Harry a murderer?

In the book he fades away as he fights Quirrell. Dumbledore is the one finishing him off. At least I think so – it is never mentioned directly.

I think this was a terrible mistake, making Harry murder Quirrell. It is because of his pure heart and the love of his mother, that he survived the initial attacks in the first place. But I think the murder of Quirrell lessens this. I think it’s a similar discussion as with Superman killing General Zod in Man of Steel (sorry, for the spoiler).

But be that as it may, I am very excited for the next movies and how they handle all of the coming plot points. And the fact that Harry killed Quirrell. There must be some kind of aftermath.

See you soon in The Chamber of Secrets.

Chris

Christoph Staffl
christoph.staffl@gmail.com

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