The film version of the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in 2001, in the long drought between the publication of the fourth and fifth books. I don’t think I have ever been as excited about a film release as I was about that one. My wife and I even dressed up in wizarding robes when we went to see it. (Don’t worry, we weren’t the only ones. It was a special charity screening where people were encouraged to show up in costume.)
My overall impression of the films, is that they are a damn good adaptation of the books. Yes, some are better than others, but that’s the case with the books as well. My only regret with having seen the films, is that my visualisation of the world and its characters has been over-written by the films. Try as I might, I now can’t picture Harry as anyone other than Daniel Radcliffe, or Hagrid as anyone other than Robbie Coltrane. And I am sad that I have lost my initial impressions of those characters. It’s for this reason that I am doing my best to keep my daughters from seeing the films until they are old enough to first read the books. Fingers crossed on that one.
Anyway… back to the individual films.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was a good start. It was the shortest of the books, so was probably easier to adapt than its successors. It was not a brilliant film and the performances of the kids, while good, were not particularly outstanding. What was brilliant, was the casting of kids who really fit the roles… so it didn’t matter if their acting occasionally came across as inexperienced.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was a better film. The actors had settled into their roles and the director, Chris Columbus, created a more cohesive film.
And then Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban changed things. The new director, Alfonso Cuarón, raised the bar in terms of visual style, and the actors really began to hit their stride. And yet, for me, this was the weakest of the films. It lacked energy and just didn’t quite gel.
Another new director, Mike Newell, took the helm with film #4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was my favourite of the books, so I was particularly looking forward to this film. And I wasn’t disappointed. It still stands as my favourite of the films. My only disappointment was that you didn’t get to know and like Cedric as much as you did in the books, so his death was not as impactful.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, now with David Yates as director, was perhaps the most successful of the adaptations. As the waffliest of the books, they were able to cut out a lot without actually losing much plot. It was also noteworthy for its superb casting of Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was not as successful an adaptation. Some rather odd decisions as to which plot points to leave out resulted in a film that retained the Half-Blood Prince title, yet purged the majority of that storyline. It felt a little unsatisfying.
Thankfully the film-makers decided to turn Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two films. (insert huge sigh of relief) It would not have been possible to do justice to the story in a single film… there simply would not have been enough time to include all the major events. So, although leaving the story half-finished at the end of the first film, and having to wait all this time for the conclusion, has been frustrating… I’ve been able to live with it. 🙂
Now, I am counting down the days until the release of HP7.2, as it has become known. But what will I do once it’s all over? I fear that the whole Harry Potter experience will be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I cannot recall a set of books ever having this much worldwide impact. And I cannot recall a set of books having had this special a place in my heart. There are other books I love just as much, and there are other books that I think are better books — but no other set of books has generated the excitement that Harry Potter has; no other set of books has taken up as much of my life as Harry Potter. And yes, I know I can re-read the books and re-watch the films… but it’s not the same. No more NEW Harry Potter! So…
Farewell Harry Potter. (No, I’m not crying. Really, I’m not!) I shall miss you. I shall miss you and all your friends, rivals and enemies. But I look forward to one day introducing you to my kids.
Catch ya later, George
PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I shall release the Mandrakes.