July 24, 2007

Pottermania

HP AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: ENDING WELL.

After six books and practically allowing Harry Potter to grow up before readers' eyes, it almost became anti-climactic that the books would end; of course, everyone knew, from the start, that there would only be 7 books but knowing it and realizing that you were holding the last book in your hands were two different things altogether.

JK Rowling has grown immensely as a writer; the first three books were superior children's books but the fifth book (Phoenix) and sixth book (half-blood prince) were superior exercises in whetting people's appetites for the climax. And, the seventh book (Hallows) has not disappointed.

Off the bat, there is no quidditch--hooray for that! Off the bat also, as the blurbs have already announced, there is death all around--this won't be a spoiler for those who haven't read the book yet but I must say that Rowling handles the deaths (yes, several) very, very well indeed.

Rowling demonstrates a deft touch at tying up all the loose ends she purposedly put out in the fourth (goblet of fire), fifth and sixth books even as she dredges up our memories of the first three (sorcerer's stone, chamber of secrets, prisoner of azkaban) with characters and images from all the six books. At times, the connections are seamless, in others, however, there is a stretch;however, she may be forgiven that as there is a large backlog of memories to account for.

What Rowling does not do, and this she must be commended for, is to write the last book as if she were writing it for the inevitable screen adaptation. Unlike other franchise writers who, after having their books adapted for film, write with the lead actors in mind,. Rowling sticks to what she knows--writing about this boy's life;and bollocks to the film. It would have been easy in the final book to write cinematically, especially during the obligatory final fight scene (imagine Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort and Daniel Radcliffe as HP duelling in a large hall with hundreds of onlookers, with all the lush visuals that cgi can conjure up and you can appreciate the restraint that Rowling has put into the seventh book.); instead, what we have is a book written as a feast of the printed word.

The narrative is fueled and moved by the words, not by fancy images. And the pace is quick; while the chapters are moderately long, it is not fanciful to say that as you end one, you lose the struggle to resist continuing another. I am a fast reader and I consumed the seventh book in one hour and a half, the first time, and a more sedately 3 hours the second time; all in a span of one day and a half.

Finally, Rowling goes all out--all the characters are fully developed and they are all there (even Viktor Krum, in a pivotal non-quidditch role)--Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, all the Weasleys, the Order of the Phoenix and of course, the Malfoys and even the house elves. There are kissing scenes (!), and now fully-developed love angles. It is the last book after all and it is fitting that the saga of The Boy who lived is given a good ending. And, it is a good ending.

Harry is in every chapter, except one; I liked all the chapters, except one--even the obligatory wrapping up chapter (reading the book, I forget that it is supposed to be for children, so storylines need to be wrapped up and explained.) There are many surprises, very few disappointments and a lot of satisfaction at the way Rowling brings down the curtains on this boy's life.

All in all, a very good read and certainly worth the wait. The movie should be fascinating. But, until the movie, bravo, bravo!

NB. And just in case, Rowling leaves room for more. . . in the future. Read the book and you'll understand why.


HP AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX: DARK HARRY, NOT FOR THOSE WHO LIKE HIM LIGHT AND FLUFFY

Those who know me well will know me well enough to know that I would love Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for one reason: it is dark. And yes, I did love HP and the Order of the Phoenix for that reason.

No longer is the franchise a kids' franchise, it has now taken on an identity all its own by simply taking on the dark hues that match Harry's descent into Voldemort's clutches.

Those who are looking for the bright and cheery hues of all the previous Harrys (before Azkaban, which I loved also because of its dark and grim tone) will be disappointed. There are no cutesy scenes, there are no magic scenes for the sake of showing them and, best of all, there is NO QUIDDITCH! For this last reason alone, the movie soars!

From the start, you know it is NOT the book that was adapted for the screen but simply the plot and some situations and that is why the movie works. JK Rowling has given us a rich vein to tap into but she writes like a children's book writer. This movie is not a children's movie and so, no JK Rowling scenes, please.

And the movie does not disappoint. Harry is grouchy and moody the entire time and Radcliffe captures the growing despair Harry feels at being left out, being kept in the dark and being uncertain; the fight scenes are great and are given just the right amount of exposure; the scenes showing the DA in training are great too. Dolores Umbridge is perfect--the quintessential schoolmarm who insists on the book and will not hesitate to throw it at you, literally.

My only complaint is that there is very little development given to the reason for the Order of the Phoenix and very little development given to the plot line involving Snape's history with James Potter,who turns out to be a creep and a bully along the same lines as Draco Malfoy. A minor complaint is that there is very little time given to a now very beautiful Emma Watson as Hermione and very little development of the chemistry between Hermione and Ron (except for one scene involving the giant which is sublty and very deftly handled).

The movie ends without a pat and happy ending, but just the right amount of suspense to keep us whetted for HP and the Half-Blood Prince.

It is a dark Harry Potter we get and I love it. Definitely notfor those who like him light and fluffy.

1 comment:

wernicke said...

[SPOILERS! You've been warned!]

Sir, goodness! How do you speed read Deathly Hallows in an hour and a half, or even "slower", in three hours?! =)

I read it for a total of 18 hours (including crying moments) which suits me, I think, as I just love how all the characters in the past books made their presence felt in this last book.

In particular, I liked how Trelawney used her crystal balls as a weapon in the Hogwarts seige. And how touching it was, knowing and understanding why Snape asked Harry to look at him at the end of the chapter, "The Prince's Tale." I am now reading Sorcerer's Stone and yes, Snape, during the beginning of term banquet was looking at Harry in the eye when he first saw him. Snape's is a sad tale and I feel it was cathartic that Harry had "Albus Severus" - the one with Lily's eyes.

It is sad knowing there won't be any HP book to look forward to but I think there will be a different pleasure in re-reading the books (which I'm doing now), knowing all the answers and mysteries. But hey, JK Rowling said she just might write an encyclopedia where she will include the subplots which were edited out in the book s(i.e., Dean Thomas's story) and even some details as to what happened to the other characters after 1998 (the year when the final confrontation between Voldemort and Harry happened - see Chamber of Secrets, Sir Nicholas de Mimsy Porpington's 400th deathday). JK Rowling, in her first live interview after the release of the book (MSNBC.com), said that McGonnagal was replaced as Headmistress, among others.