Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter Books and Movies

I run the risk of alienating Harry Potter fans, but here goes... JK Rowling is a death-eater.

Now hear me out. I just recently finished the entire Harry Potter series. I know, I know, they've been out for awhile, but I was coerced into seeing the first movie, went on my own to the third, and while I liked them okay, I didn't feel an overwhelming need to rush out and read the books.

Then a few months ago, I found myself with some major time on my hands and access to the books, so I decided to give them a go.

(spoiler alert, although I can't imagine who doesn't know the plot of these novels and movies by now!)

Let me say, Rowling is an interesting and alluring writer and I liked the books much better than the films I saw. But she ticked me off. While the first four books each had me salivating for the next ones (Glad I didn't read them when they first came out. I hate waiting!), book five was really dark. It was hard enough to read about that annoying and cruel Professor Umbridge, but then Rowling goes and murders Sirius Black, one of my favorite characters. The poor guy had a messed up life; he lost his closest friends, was blamed for killing them, and then was sent to that hellish Azkaban. He finally attained some happiness and then bam! Not to mention I felt terrible for poor Harry, who was now an orphan again and had to return to the miserable Dursleys.

So book five didn't leave me feeling warm and fuzzy, but I was hooked now and wanted to see how it all ended. So onto book six where, ta da! Rowling kills Dumbledore. Okay, I know it was for important plot reasons, I get that. But if she hadn't already abandoned Harry by killing Sirius, it wouldn't have seemed so terrible. And I was really frustrated that Dumbledore didn't pass on nearly enough knowledge to Harry before he died. It's like if the teacher from Karate Kid dropped dead after only passing on a few defensive moves and a couple words of wisdom. It's bad form to leave your hero high and dry.

Then came Deathly Hollows... This is where my thesis is proven true as Rowling murders beloved characters left and right, even Harry's owl! Really? The owl, Rowling? Poor Hedwig didn't even die heroically, just kinda keeled over unceremoniously in her cage(although I hear they changed it in the film-movie makers know the importance of a good death). That's what Hedwig earned after years of loyal service to Harry- feet up in a cage.

I'd like to say Rowling lost me at the owl, but I was heading out the door already. She killed so many characters, many of them gratuitously, that it'll take too much space to list them all, so I'll just go over my biggest disappointments.

Dobby... Those who have only seen the movies might not care too much as his role there was minimal. I have to admit when I first saw his character in the movie, I didn't really like him, but that changed once I read the books. Here again is another tragic figure who just manages to eke out some happiness before being slaughtered. And by a dagger in the back, no less... if you disapparated, wouldn't you disappear before the knife could get you?! Oh, the humanity! Er, elfity!

Fred Weasley... by stray wand fire. Sigh. I heard somewhere that Rowling felt it would be un-realistic if all the Weasley's survived. Whatever. Still, why not kill Percy then? It would have been much more dramatic. Percy comes to his senses, feels ashamed for how he's acted, steps in front of a spell and takes one for his brother. I'd have preferred that than losing Fred- one of the few comic reliefs in the whole dark series. You don't murder the funny characters!

I'm just glad Rowling wasn't in charge of Star Wars. She'd have killed off Threepio, R2, Lando, and Chewbacca long before the heroes reached Endor.

Then we come to Snape... we all know Snape must die. It's just inevitable. And I'd predicted long before this book that he was only pretending to be on the bad side, so I was hoping for something really climatic and heroic. How does he get it? By Voldemort shoving him unceremoniously at Nagini, the snake, while Harry hides in a corner watching. Snape didn't even get off a spell. That's like killing Darth Vader with stray blaster fire before Luke gets to him. What a let down. Snape deserved a better death than that. Yet again, a character with a dark and depressing past who draws the short stick on glorious death. I didn't even get the satisfaction of a confrontation between Snape and Harry.

My version would have had Harry learning important skills like Legilimency from Dumblodore during all those extra lessons instead of just trips down Pensieve lane, so that he could confront Snape, read his mind, discover Snape was really on his side, and then Snape could die some other way that involved protecting Harry. Something far more heroic than simply falling to the floor and passing off his old memories. Poor tragic Snape...

Finally... If you take the time to write about someone in a seven book series, they should at least get better than, "oh, yeah and by the way, that guy is dead too." There were some major secondary characters who we still have no idea how they actually died.

Besides the deaths, there were a few other things that bothered me:


Harry didn't grow and improve nearly enough to become a capable hero. If it weren't for Hermione, he'd still be wandering around lost in that forest. He doesn't find the items in the quest as much as the items find him. Who was his mentor? Inspector Clouseau?! I would've liked to have seen more magic ability and common sense out of him by the end. Yeah, he did a brave and good thing confronting Voldemort, but his moral fiber was never in question and didn't need to evolve; he was always that good a person.

Harry couldn't have used his invisibility cloak to escape from the Dursley's? I think that motorcade thing was written just to kill off characters.

You might be thinking, "Yeah, but what about that ending!" Ah, yeah. Liked the ending. But I was too bloody teed-off about all the deaths and my other frustrations to care by the time I got to it. I threw the book across the room so many times that the binding has dried paint chips on it. I've never wanted to take custody of a character so bad in all my life. Poor Harry! From the Dursleys to all the mishaps and deaths, I suspect Rowling subconsciously hates Harry, or someone she based Harry on, and decided to take her literary revenge.

I guess I just prefer my fantasies to be a bit less dark. And I prefer to admire my fictional heroes, not feel sorry for them. Maybe it's just old age creeping up on me. Life can be tough and I read fiction to escape life's problems, not be reminded of them.

So no, I won't be seeing the final movie. I'm sure it'll be really good but I'm also sure it'll be pretty loyal to the novel and I just can't relive all that darkness. As for the books, I've kept the first four and I will pretend the last three don't exist. In spite of my negativity, this review is actually a testament to Rowling. If she hadn't created such an interesting world and such captivating characters, I probably wouldn't have felt so strongly about what happened to them.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say, I've been reading your blogs and your style of writing has kept me interested. I haven't read the Harry Potter series, it's not the type of reading that generally interests me but after reading your blog, I am intriqued.