Harry Potter and I have an interesting relationship. I first encountered Harry Potter when an Aunt of mine gifted me with Book 4 for Christmas. I had not read the series and I absolutely refuse to read books out of order, so I tucked it on a shelf and continued about my merry way reading Wheel of Time. (More on that Later.) Six months later I was in England and visiting Oxford. Here my best friend and I stopped at a bookstore to pick up a CD from one of our favorite artists. I noticed Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. One for collecting odd or rare editions I decided to pick up this book, as in America is was re-named and heavily edited from the original version. Our last night of the trip I was tired, bored and felt like reading, so I opened PS and started reading. My the time our plane landed in Newark, NJ, the next day I had finished the book, astonished at the quality and depth of writing for a “children’s” book. While waiting in the airport I discovered the news stand had Book 2 on sale, and picked it up to read. By the time I arrived home, I had finished that one as well. The first day after returning home I went and purchased Book3. Two days after returning home, I had dug out and finished Book 4. Then I joined the thousands of other “Potterphiles” waiting for Book5. I was hooked so completely and utterly.
J. K. Rowling had managed to write a “children’s” book that did something no other book I had read did. It grew up with the characters. I remember reading Nancy Drew novels and finding it interesting how many times she got early 18th Birthday presents. Nancy Drew, forever 17 years old. But here was a well written book that the characters seemed real. They are children in the first book. Do you notice how many times candy comes up in the first book? Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Botts, Fizzing Whizbees… almost constantly they are discussing, eating, or carrying candy. But then, they are 11 years old! It makes sense. Now candy plays a part in the later books, chocolate with the dementors and whatnot, but it falls off as they get older. These characters are by far some of the most realistic I have read in any fiction novel. They are conflicted, wishy washy, confused, intelligent, idiotic, emotional, complicated and annoying at various point throughout the books. In short, I was impressed and admired not only the complexity and depth of the world she created, the humanity of the characters, but also the sheer quality of writing.
When they announced the intention and began filming the first few movies, I was excited, but with cautious optimism. Fortunately for all of us, the producers and directors took the movies very seriously and gave us good quality production. After the third movie, I realized something very important. These movies were no longer “Cliff’s Notes” versions of the books, but rather supplemental to the books. The best way to experience them is to read the book then watch the movie. As we walked out of the theater, my father looked at me and said, “I don’t understand. How did the professor know it was a map?” It took me several minutes to identify what he was asking. In the movie, you are never told who Moony, Padfoot, Wormtail, and Prongs are. In fact, you are never full told that James was an Animagus. Those of us who read the book knew that Professor Lupin knew it was a map because he MADE the object. But my father was horribly lost.
I love the movies. I loved the most recent movie. I thoroughly enjoy seeing the visuals and hearing the proper inflection given to each line. I enjoy watching the actors become better at their craft and slowly grow into adults. I really enjoy that they have extended the story a bit since the completion of the final book. But to be completely honest, the movies are nothing more than a supplement to the books and anyone who watches the movie without reading the book is doing themselves and the story a great disservice.