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Harry Potter and the Reluctant Fan

August 3, 2011

NOTE: SPOILERS AHOY!

When the first book came out, I was in high school and didn’t see all the fuss of what was to be a mammoth book and film franchise. I didn’t like boy protagonists much and the story seems to be the stuff of kids with all the wand-waving and broomsticks.

(Even now I still find myself scratching my head and going “Couldn’t they have done a better sounding killing spell than the one that sounds like Abracadabra? Or a villain like ‘Voldemort?’ Because that sounds like the thug from Home Alone…”)

In college, the books were getting bigger. My friends and even my non-reading cousins all got copies. It was inevitable that I’d just find one lying in one side, and I thought I might as well try it. I couldn’t get pass Chapter 2 of Book 1. Later on, I stopped judging it and just submitted that I’m not in the books’ intended audience.

Still, people kept talking about it. I’d eventually get wind of the story even if I’m not reading the series. I know the 4 houses, I know Snape’s a bad person, I know Dumbledore’s gay, I know the trio’s names, I know Sirius Black died. Even if you’re outside of the fandom, you can’t help but know these people and references. Especially if you’re always in the Internet, like me.

I did envy the fraternity people shared because of Harry Potter. I think by this time, only me and my sister weren’t in it. In a way, it fueled my stubbornness. It became a statement to be that chick who doesn’t and will never read Harry Potter (unless someone gives it to me for free). I’ve sworn to be the last one to read it, in an anti-populist hipster stance.

I encountered Harry Potter again at the preschool I’ve worked in 2008. We were having bookfairs sponsored by Scholastic and with book 7 already out, everyone is selling these big compendiums of 7 books. Best of all, Scholastic was giving these books away to anyone who buys big from the fair. One of the program coordinators ended up having like 5 sets of Harry Potter books and started selling them (I was ridiculous enough to offer to buy one set for 800 pesos and was properly scowled at).

Then, it’s 2010. Deathly Hallows 1 and 2 were coming out. Our friends were shaking and crying at the trailers and at us because ‘why haven’t we read these yet and we should before the movies end!’. As it happens, the same program coordinator re-announces the selling of the books (after forgetting about them) and she gave me a special price (it was not 800 pesos). I thought, what the hell.

Early 2011, I started reading Harry Potter. There was no turning back. I can’t just stop reading the books I bought with a hefty sum. So I passed through Chapter 2 of Book 1 and … I ended up staying up late, even after a party, just to finish the book. I was starting to get hooked. Yes, I was aware and I was nitpicky on how predictable the story was and how the pacing seems inconsistent but I do want to know what happens in Book 2 (even if it would be the worst of the lot for me).

The reading continued on to 3 (the best written!), 4 (ho-hum, if not for Snape) and 5 (simply excessive) and finally 6 and 7. I was reading these books in the car, at night, in the hospital while watching over my grandma (my grandma would later summarize my watch as: “She would read, then get something to eat, then read again”), until it did end.

I can’t help but always point out the flaws in the writing. The frequent use of deus ex machina (Invisibility cloak/Time turner), the lack of solidity and cohesiveness. The books reads messily and unnecessarily several times. Significant details come out of nowhere. The ideas are there. If Rowling was only able to arrange them and present them in a less excessive way, I feel the story flow could have been much more resounding and more effective. Generally, I feel the series could really be more effective, if the timing and execution were improved. In the end, I thought the series was still a three out of five stars and couldn’t understand the ferocity of its fandom.

(But I couldn’t get over the fact that Snape dies for a time. Bad enough, I was spoiled. He is my favorite character, obviously.)

I finished around February and was set to watch all 7 movies before Deathly Hallows part 2. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson were so adorable in their littleness and awkwardness. Alan Rickman was immediately, the person I’d look forward to in watching the rest of the Harry Potter movies along with the best thespians of the British film industry. Never mind that the films were not perfect, if just for glimpses of Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes and more of “Hey! Isn’t that–” British personalities whose cameos made the movies all worth it. And since the trio have the most of the screen time, it’s affecting to watch them start growing tall, improve and take on more mature themes.

Sometimes the films were even better than the books in terms of story execution. It was like writing a short story, you can only reveal so much in that length, so a lot of improvisations and cutting were used and a lot of them really worked, whereas the novels would dawdle and introduce a lot of new things that didn’t feel important for the story to be told effectively.

Still, the films were so-so to me for the most parts. Even Half Blood Prince, Even Deathly Hallows 1. Though there were moments. This all changed in Deathly Hallows part 2, which I think is the best film in the franchise, and one of my favorites now. Deathly Hallows part 2 gave it it’s all. The Hogwarts battle scene, very briefly described in the novel (just like a game of Quidditch) is splayed out for an hour of shiver me timbers goodness. McGonagall arming the school is the first time I’ve started tearing up in the movie.

In the book, the Prince’s Tale was written very deliberately. There didn’t seem to be any spark and any need for Snape and Lily. It kind of read like a fan-fic of another universe. The dialogue between Dumbledore and Snape was so clumsy. I expected so much of Snape’s big reveal. I waited for something that would click and make sense. Nothing did. It was like introducing the giant Grawp, the Lily storyline came out of nowhere.

Imagine my surprise at the movie, when they’ve decided to include a scene of an adult Snape entering the Potters’ Godric home and with that amazing stroke, everything worked. I couldn’t reconcile young or teenage Snape with Snape Snape. I’ve always seen them as two entities. But when Alan Rickman scooped the body of Geraldine Somerville, in a scene replayed several times from the previous movies, everything came to place. The films decided to use elements that were already familiar to the audience (the setting and the actors), and reworked it. Thus: Snape and Lily.

Which wouldn’t have worked if they let some young actors we could care less about do the deed. Basically, they stuck to what they have.

And so, the Dumdledore and Snape scene with the ‘Always’ dialogue that ticked me off in the book for its sappiness, was the cherry in the icing in the movie.

That movie won all the awards for me, and before I knew it, I’m starting to stalk tumblrs for Harry Potter gifs, watch Potter Puppet Pals, wanting my own Harry Potter wand, following Alan Rickman, and investing time in finding the Magical Quill. I guess I’ve now belatedly joined the Potterhead camp.

The Harry Potter books and films just resonated with each other so well and became a very involving experience. Their timing was brilliant: Start publishing some books, get the readers’ attention, start turning them into movies with a big budget and the best cast at almost the same time, so there’s always one in each year of both, until the very end. They bewitched literally a whole generation for ten years and more with this formula. In this way, the films didn’t seem to be a separate adaptation but a compliment. The films guided the books as much as the books guided the films. It makes sense to say, I’ve read the books to watch the movie, and will read the books again having appreciated the movies. This is why Pottermore will be the next big thing.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jessie permalink
    August 4, 2011 12:54 am

    Awesome article! 😀

  2. bookshopper permalink*
    August 4, 2011 2:39 am

    Thanks Jessie!

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