(Part 1) Harry Potter : The saga begins
Up until about 6 months ago, I’d never shown any real interest in the Harry Potter franchise. I’d seen the first two films and was not really a huge fan of Chris Columbus’s offerings. I did see The Prisoner of Azkaban and thought that was a major improvement, but nevertheless, this was the sum total of my Potter exposure.
The craze as a whole had totally passed me by. To this date I have never read any of the books. Actually, technically, that’s not true. I have read part of one of the books. My better half was reading the final book on a weekend away in Llandudno (oh the glamour) and, being the hilarious prankster that I am, I decided to steal said book, read the last chapter so I knew the ending and then use this information to blackmail her over the course of the weekend. Unfortunately, my dastardly plan never came to fruition as I was told in no uncertain terms that if I carried it out, it would quite probably be my last. At this time you see, I had no real intention of either reading the books or watching the films, so I didn’t think the massive spoiler would come back to haunt me. Oh how wrong I was.
After commandeering the aforementioned ball and chain’s Potter DVD box set, I decided to go back to the start and try and see what all the fuss was about. I didn’t have the highest of hopes, but to my surprise, I did genuinely find myself enjoying the films to the point where I spent hard earned cash on seeing the Deathly Hallows Part 1 at the local Cineplex. Due to an already extensive backlog of reading material and a general overwhelming preference for the medium of cinema, I still have not read the Potter books and don’t really foresee doing so in the near future. This scenario does however give me the opportunity to take a run through the Harry Potter franchise on a purely cinematic basis without any nagging doubts about how” that’s not how it happens in the book.”
I imagine many people may have had the same experience as me: they saw the first two Columbus helmed films and these put them off the rest of the series. Barring the notable blip that was the Goblet of Fire however, the rest of the movies are extremely enjoyable and successfully blend moments of light-hearted humour with moments of dark menace. Readers of the books will be well aware of the perilous and gloomy scenarios that occur throughout the later films, but to a non Potter-aficionado, they came as a bit of a shock. These are films that aren’t scared to show kids being beaten, bruised and bumped off at boarding school. I initially had a hard time accepting that the Health and Safety officers would allow Hogwarts to operate as they do, with Quidditch alone looking like a lawsuit waiting to happen. OFSTED inspectors would have had a field day. It’s these moments of danger and dread though which elevate the films from being bland kids movies and make them look like adult friendly fantasy films in their own right.
So, with the impending release of the final instalment ‘The Deathly Hallows Part 2’ in July, let’s take a look at the film franchise from the start, establishing the various highs and lows of the series thus far. On the way we’ll address the important questions such as, is there any British actor left who hasn’t had a part in at least one HP film? If he’s clearly such as bad egg, why not just expel that Malfoy kid early on? And perhaps most crucially, what agency are they using for these Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers? They are always seem to be nothing but trouble. The hiring committee really need to employ a more thorough vetting process. Though, granted, it may make for slightly less compelling cinema.