Monday, July 18, 2011

The Last Battle

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was, in my opinion, a fitting capstone to one of the greatest book-to-film adaptations of our time. Over the past decade, the Harry Potter movies have been more than a cultural phenomenon: it's a cultural force in its own right. Most often, when popular books make it to the big screen, the film becomes a point of origin for a line that divides the fanbase into "true fans" and those who just saw the movie. But I feel that this isn't the case with Harry Potter. Sure, there are plenty of fans who insist that you're not a true fan if you haven't read the books (and I'll admit that's a position I've taken myself, on days I'm not feeling particularly generous), but I feel that those who truly understand the spirit of the Wizarding World can accept that the movies are not necessarily a lesser experience than the books, simply a different one.

And let's be honest, if you've only seen the movies, then at least that's a step in the right direction. These films are some of the finest big-budget blockbusters crafted in our lifetimes, and they feature the cream of the crop of British actors. Any film series which manages to include the likes of Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Ralph Fiennes, Julie Walters, Brendan Gleeson, and the incomparable Alan Rickman deserves... well... I don't know what. Something big, anyway! Maybe their prize is just the chance to be connected with something so huge, so international, so important to so many people all over the world, both children and adults.

Difference is key. If the movies were exactly like the books in every respect, they wouldn't be nearly as much fun to watch. If I want to see Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone precisely as the author wrote it, then I can just reread the book. I've read that dialogue (and listened to Jim Dale read it) before; I don't need to pay ten bucks a head to see an actor read me a book that's already sitting on my shelf at home.

As always, John Green has interesting thoughts on book-to-movie translations, and the relative merits (and demerits) of remaining slavishly faithful to the source material. And hey, he conveniently agrees with me! What a crazy random happenstance!

We Potterites should be thankful for what we've gotten: eight amazing films, populated by the crème de la crème of British actors, and helmed by some of the best directors in the world, which not only bring our imaginations to the big screen, but allow us that most precious of all gifts: another glimpse, from an excitingly different vantage point, into the the enchanting, alluring, magical world of the Boy Who Lived.

To paraphrase Dumbledore: Don't pity the dead; pity the living. And most especially, pity those who go through life with only a single glimpse of Harry Potter.