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Harry Potter and the Half-Baked Movie Franchise

July 15, 2009
Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe/Warner Bros.

Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe/Warner Bros.

Pottermania returned to the Muggle world early this morning, when the sixth entry in the stupendously successful film franchise, Harry Potter and the Half-Breed Prince, opened at theaters nationwide at 12:01 a.m. Early reviews for the latest in the uneven series range from lukewarm (“comfortable and reliable as an old shoe,” L.A. Times) to positive (“talkiest and most engaging installment,” Miami Herald) to ecstatic (“mean, moody, magnificent,” Daily Mirror {U.K.}).

Director David Yates, who helmed the preceding picture, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is back. He’ll also direct the concluding films — Deathly Hallows, at more than 900 pages, is being split into two pictures. He’s not the best filmmaker to get his hands on Harry. That would be Alfonso Cuaron, who injected energy and imaginative vision into the project with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, after Chris Columbus directed the first two entires with stultifying fidelity to Rowling’s books.

Still, Yates is good enough — nimbler by far than Columbus at turning J.K. Rowling’s novels into watchable movies. In a number of important ways it doesn’t matter whether the new movie is anything more than competent. Like its predecessors, it will gross upwards of a billion dollars worldwide, making Warner Bros. happy. Fans will revel in the chance to relive the joy of reading the book.

No, what matters is that each movie revives interest in the books. Rowling, who matured and deepened as a novelist with each new volume, created one of the great fantasy epics of all time, and she did it in a way that entranced young readers (and a fair number of grown-ups), showing them that reading is fun after all. A veteran librarian of my acquaintance once told me that with Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling “saved reading for the next 25 years.”

Now that’s real magic.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Alina Interián permalink
    July 15, 2009 1:33 pm

    Hey… I’m all for whatever it takes to get young readers (and those not so young) to pick up a book! And if it’s about visual stimulation, so be it! Bring on the films (which will make you want to read more about what you just saw…), games, comics and graphic novels! Whatever!

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      July 16, 2009 11:53 am

      If only from personal experience, I believe movies drive people to books. I read such books as Little Big Man, The Graduate, Starship Troopers, A Room With a View, Old Yeller, and many others only after being exposed to their stories in movie adaptations. In almost every case, I thought the novel superior to the film, but that may be my bias.

  2. Oline permalink
    July 15, 2009 4:10 pm

    There can never be too many musings from Chauncey Mabe. Your voice is very much needed. I have book marked this site.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      July 16, 2009 11:53 am

      You flatter me outrageously. Don’t ever stop.

  3. Nancy Pate permalink
    July 15, 2009 4:26 pm

    My 9-year-old neighbor just started the series this summer and is wild about Harry and discerning enough to note the books better than movies. She is reading Half-Blood Prince before she sees the new flick, too.

    Happy to follow you here!

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      July 16, 2009 11:55 am

      My three daughters, now in their 20s, loved the books so much they have so far boycotted the movies. They claim they don’t want the filmmakers vision of what the Potterverse looks like to replace the images in their heads.

  4. July 15, 2009 6:39 pm

    Hey Chauncey, your literary profile online is ascending with each entity you create…Glad to have you among the literati in blog fashion, and surely will be hearing from me! I definitely will stay tuned. Keep up the good work.

    ACR

  5. July 15, 2009 9:42 pm

    I too have bookmarked this blog. Looking forward to many more of your articles, Chauncey.

    Not having sampled the HP phenomenon in any format (as yet) I’m not in a position to make comparisons, but I wholeheartedly agree that JKR’s fostering so many millions of young people’s fascination with the written form is a staggering achievement.

  6. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    July 16, 2009 11:56 am

    I will rise early each day to fulfill your faith and make sure there’s something here worth reading.

  7. Alexis Mabe permalink
    July 16, 2009 1:36 pm

    Being a teacher, I see a lot of the books kids read. (by kids I mean middle schoolers) and I have to say that I almost ever see one with a Harry Potter book anymore. In fact, the one time a student did have a HP book, they were made fun of. The “cool” thing to read now is Twilight. But, I don’t give that series’ shelf life much longer. For some reason it seems that when the movie comes out, it kills the cool factor of the book.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      July 16, 2009 4:18 pm

      That’s an interesting observation, Alexis. I’d never thought the movies made the books uncool, but could be. Of course, the Harry Potter series is now closed, with Rowling writing the last one in 2007, so there’s no more suspense about what’s going to happen next.

  8. July 16, 2009 3:00 pm

    Chauncey, I won’t be able to see this film until my daughter, who lives in Seattle, Washington, comes home and then, we’ll see it as a family. Our kids grew up reading Harry Potter among other books and we even went to a few midnight release parties at Books & Books and our local Barnes & Noble.

    I’ve bookmarked this site and look forward to reading more of your posts.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      July 16, 2009 4:15 pm

      Better late than never. I won’t see it before the weekend, at the earliest.

  9. John Zakrinsky permalink
    July 16, 2009 3:05 pm

    Just a quick correction: Alfonso Cuaron did not direct the Chamber of Secrets. He directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third in the series. Personally, I like the ever-growing dark overtones to the past three HP movies.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      July 16, 2009 4:13 pm

      John, you are correct. Apparently I got my Harry Potter and the…. mixed up.

  10. Tena Hubble permalink
    July 17, 2009 10:38 pm

    I must agree with the comment made by your librarian friend that the Harry Potter series has tremendous value in motivating young readers. As a first grade teacher I have the rewarding pleasure of facilitating beginning readers. Not too long ago, one of my little charges asked me if I was going to teach her to read the Harry Potter books so that she can be like her big sister. In response to Alexis’ comment, I have read both the Harry Potter books and the Twighlight books. There is no comparison in the literary value of these two series. I hope Alexis is right and the Twighlight series will have a short shelf life. So far I have not had a student to ask me to teach them to read Twighlight, but…

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