Monday, November 29, 2010

Blogging Harry Potter

Sunday, November 28, 2010, 12:06 PM

I don't consider myself a huge Harry Potter fan. I have found that the books can be over long, over complicated, and tedious to read. But I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next one.  The movie versions, although epic in length, are stripped down to a bare minimum of plot and move along at a fast pace. The film version of the seventh and final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Something something, part one, has opened and I feel duty bound to watch  it.   In preparation for the final film chapters of the Harry Potter Saga, I will watch the six previous films and write about the experience.  There will be SPOILERS!

I downloaded all six movies from a USENET newsgroup and started re-watching the films during our recent vacation in New Orleans. My plan was to write about each film as I saw them, but didn't have the energy after our long trip.  It was easier to watch the next movie. I ended up watching the first three together, and write about them in one post.

Some of the things I wanted to write about are but couldn't fit in are:
  • I do some of my best thinking in the shower.
  • Not a lot happens until the end of the first and second movie. The previous 2/3rds are exposition about the characters and location.  The real mystery doesn't present itself until the end, when Harry fights against his nemesis.
  • The third movie is beautifully made, using many interesting and stylish effects.  A great example is the glorious montages that depict the changing of seasons.  Sometimes the visual style threatens to overwhelm the movie, but it is totally worth it when you can't sleep.
We first meet our protagonist in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) , directed by Chris Columbus. His further adventures are chronicled 2002's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, also directed by Chris Columbus. The third installment in the Harry Potter franchise is 2004's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, this time directed by Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron.

Harry Potter is an orphaned adolescent whose parents were murdered by evil wizard, Lord Voldemort when he was an infant. He divides his time between the nonmagical world of his aunt and uncle and the magical world of his parents. Each film takes place during a single school year and chronicles Harry's growth, both as a wizard and as an adolescent heading for adulthood. The films have a similar three act structure; Harry's relationship to the nonmagical world of “muggles” (non-wizards or non-witches), his life during the school year, and a final segment that is part climactic battle and part epiphany.

Each movie begins in the muggle world, the non magical world, in the home of his abusive, adoptive family, the Dursleys. Harry struggles to fit in with them, but they treat him with contempt, believing him responsible for the death of his mother, sister of Mr. Dursley. Life with the Dursleys is work and and humiliation.  Their dislike of Harry is so great that they bar the windows and padlock the door to his room.

As Harry's strength and maturity grows in the wizarding world, so does his ability to defend himself in the muggle world.This arc is reflected by how he leaves the house; in the first two films, he needs help to leave the house, but in third, he is able to walk out on his own.  

The middle section of each film takes place at Hogwarts, a school for people with magical abilities.  Hogworts is also where Harry makes his friends and meets his enemies.  His greatest enemy is the mysterious Lord Voldemort, the wizard that killed Harry's parents. Voldemort is known as a “dark” or evil wizard who was unsuccessful in his attempt to kill Harry when he was an infant.  He is without physical body in the first three movies, relying on humans to do his evil bidding.

Draco Malfoy and his toadies
Among Harry's mortal enemies is the Malfoy family, whose son Draco also attends Hogwarts. The Malfoys preach racial superiority, based on how the magical talents were inherited. Like white supremacists, they often refer to them and their kind as “pure bloods.” Lucius, the patriarch of the family, uses his position at The Ministry of Magic, the governing arm of the wizarding world, to foment discriminatiuon against half bloods, wizards and witches with one magical parent, and mud bloods, those with two muggle parents.

Near the end of the school year, also the final section of the film, Harry does battle against his enemies, using the tools he picked up inn the middle section.  As the series progresses, Harry's strength and skill also increases.  

Hermione helps Harry save himself
In the first two films, Harry receives aide off-screen; the first is a spell cast by his mother to save him from Voldemort, the second by two magical items that appear, well, magically.  In the third film, Harry is able to save himself by going back in time to save himself when failed to cast a spell correctly.  Even though his loyal friend, Hermione, provided him with the means to travel back in time, it was his increased confidence that allowed him to succeed where he had failed earlier (or failed at the same time? Time travel can be so confusing.).

Thus far, Harry is well on his way down the path of his own bildungsroman,  his journey from adolescent to adult.  I can't wait (maybe I am that big of a Harry Potter fan after all) to see what happens in the next movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Sunday, November 28, 2010, 9:30 pm

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