Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

July 15, 2009 at 12:00 am 8 comments

‘You know, Harry Potter gets really emo after the third book.’

My initial reaction when my sister said this was knee-jerk indignation. The Harry Potter series, in my opinion, is too good to belittle by linking it with a high school stereotype. No one is wearing eyeliner, no one is cutting themselves, and no one but no one is listening to Fall Out Boy in the entire series.

Once I thought about it, though, I realized what she was reacting to — the overwhelming teenage-ness that Harry Potter himself exudes from book four or five on. He is a little crazy; he’s unpredictable, yelling at all of his friends for various trivial reasons; he’s essentially a very angry young man, saddled with a mysterious scar, constant nightmares, and the task of facing down the greatest force of evil in the wizarding world. J. K. Rowling, being a mother, I’m sure knew exactly what she was doing when she was writing Harry, and while he is not always likeable, he is an extraordinarily well-written character.

But for me, the series has never really been about Harry himself. My favorite part of the books is everything else; the owls, Harry’s friends, the strange creatures they meet, and above all the atmosphere of Hogwarts and the wizarding world.

This last aspect, I think, is why the books have translated so well to film. Now, I know there are Potter purists out there who will read this and angrily think how wrong I am, how the films cut a lot of depth out of the books and how a visual medium like film can never hope to capture all that is within a single novel. Fair enough.

But I have to say, I still enjoyed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the film better than I enjoyed the book. The book was excellent, yes, but even my Harry Potter fanatic friend has admitted to me that Order is the book you slog through in order to get to the rest of the series. While I love the Order itself, the new characters introduced, the prophecy idea, Dolores Umbridge, the Weasley’s triumphant departure, etc, I believe the story was served better by translating it to film.

In film, you can see all the new rules Umbridge is creating tacked up on the walls, you get to see the fireworks and the prophecy and you don’t have to constantly hear how no one understands Harry when you know he has countless people protecting, helping, and supporting him in whatever he does. Everything about this franchise is built to make the books more enjoyable and real, from the theme music to the Hogwarts express, from the Quidditch matches to the patroni.

I think it’s roughly akin to the difference between The Lord of the Rings films and the books. In the books, Tolkien was concentrating on trying to resurrect ancient cultures and languages, creating a depth of detail that is hard to slog through. Instead of focusing on how Helms Deep is like the Battle of Maldon, the reader ends up throwing the book across the room because we haven’t heard from the Ent in about 400 pages.

In the films, however, Peter Jackson was able to accurately portray the atmosphere Tolkien was going for, while being able to preserve the story in a way that is fundamentally more enjoyable (and doesn’t require slogging through 150 pages of battle description for).

This is all by way of saying that I cannot wait until I can see The Half-Blood Prince. Despite what my sister says, I think Harry becomes much more likeable in this book anyway…but there is vast opportunity for the wonderful Hogwarts atmosphere to come through, as well as the scenes where Harry and Dumbledore go into the Pensive. I actually got chills the other night while reading the opening scene with Snape, Narcissa and Bellatrix because I cannot wait to see how they do the Unbreakable Vow. And the scene — you know, the scene?– promises to be amazing as well.

So go read the book this week and then go see the film! That way you get the depth and everything amazing that J. K. Rowling is doing (honestly, because she really is amazing) but you get to see all the best scenes brought to life in the way that only several million dollars in special effects can do it.

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Entry filed under: Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy. Tags: , , .

Teaser Tuesday Hey Jealousy

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Corey  |  July 15, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Oh my god, so pumped! I’ve been waiting for this post all week! I just re-read The Half-Blood Prince in preparation (as you here suggest!), so I’m all ready to be that girl who goes to see the movie and then produces detailed gripes about how it was different from the book and how Hollywood ruins everything. Hee hee!

    That said, I honestly haven’t see a HP movie possibly since Chamber of Secrets. The only one I remember seeing is the first one, which I very much enjoyed, but I’m glad to hear the others were well done.

    I must say I’m a little concerned about this adaptation after hearing about the things they cut (check out the Wikipedia article, so there aren’t spoilers here), most of which seem fairly critical, but I’m excited to see how they pull it off. And the fact that J.K. was more involved this time around is very heartening. It just legitimizes the whole thing.

    Reply
  • 2. Kim  |  July 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Hah. The movies were not as great as you seem to think they are. I only watched them for the special effects, but the rest was pretty lame. You even laughed in what I am guessing was masked horror when I told you how The Goblet of Fire ended. I liked the 1st and 2nd ones, but the 3rd was just ok and the 4th was pretty terrible. I’ll see how the 5th one goes. I might watch the movie before I finish the book since it’s taking me so long to get through, and everyone is ruining the series for me anyway via FB statuses.

    Reply
  • 3. KT  |  July 15, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Actually, Kimmers, maybe the movies are just better than you think they are. I honestly enjoyed the ones I saw, and I think the books translate really well.

    And oooh, Corey, some of those changes are just…argh. Not good. I wouldn’t have maybe noticed most of them unless I had read that, but now I’ll be on the lookout, sadly. The opening scene should be cool, though I don’t know how much sense it makes without Fudge/the Prime Minister.

    Reply
  • 4. Kim  |  July 15, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Hmm! Well, you said you didn’t see the 4th one. Maybe I enjoy the rest more than I let on. ;]

    I mean, really. I’m watching the 5th one as I’m typing.

    Reply
  • 5. Corey  |  July 15, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Yeah, the changes have me a bit scared, especially after I just read the book. (Perhaps not the wisest course after all?) To let slip the least spoiler-y one: No Ministry? Really?! And the end?! Come on! How do you not include those things?!

    Yeah, the opening scene should be special effectstastic!

    Reply
  • 6. The Last of the Mohicans « Literary Transgressions  |  August 6, 2009 at 12:06 am

    […] take this opportunity to stick up for film. Some things are simply better on the screen. As KT has said in the past, there is simply more that can be done visually in a film and there is definitely something to be […]

    Reply
  • 7. Rereadings: The Princess Bride « Literary Transgressions  |  February 19, 2010 at 12:20 am

    […] we’ve discussed here at LT in the past, often there are things that film can do better than books (and visa versa), but I’m starting […]

    Reply
  • […] this is such a broad and hot-button issue for me (and one that we’ve touched on here at LT in the past), that I’m going to save my more general gripes and praise in favor of focusing more […]

    Reply

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