16 July 2011

Obligatory Harry Potter Post

Matt asked me a few days ago when I was going to start reading Harry Potter to Isaac. I had just finished re-reading the final book, Deathly Hallows, in preparation for the final movie that was released this weekend.

I have considered the question before, with no good answer. Part of me would like to start sharing the books with him in a year or two. But another part wants to wait until I feel he is ready to read the whole series so we can read all seven books straight through, assuming he likes them, of course.

My answer to Matt was "not for a few years." Whatever that means.

I love the Harry Potter books. I have not liked the movies so much. I had not seen an HP movie since #4 until this weekend. But I felt compelled to go see the final one, and I even sat through #7 part 1 so that I could appreciate the theatrical version of Deathly Hallows in its entirety.

A group in our town organized a pre-show tailgate at one of the local theaters, which was also showing part 1 before the midnight premier of part 2. Matt and I know the organizer, and wanted to see part 1, so we went to the party. We tasted butterbeer, I got Hedwig painted on my face, and we commented on the various people in costumes. One girl was wearing a particularly impressive "snitch" costume.

There was one moment that I wished Isaac were able to experience the excitement (he was spending the night with friends so Matt and I could go to the movie). There were children dressed in their Hogwarts robes, carrying wands, with house crests painted on their cheeks. Many of them had not even been born when the first book was published, or the first movie was released. (I will not reflect on the fact that many of them had probably not actually read the books.) I missed Isaac as I watched these other children and saw how excited they were. I was sorry that he had missed out on what has been an amazing phenomenon. I know he will read the books, and I hope that he will feel the same exhilaration when he experiences the story as the children we watched Thursday night did. But by the time he experiences it, he will be playing catch-up. The first thrill will be gone. That made me a little sad.

So, Matt and I watched part 1, then left the theater and stood in awe of the crowd waiting to see part 2 premier at midnight. The line wrapped around the sides of the building on both sides. We found the youth group from the church in the mass of people, but were quite happy to leave them behind and go home. We could wait another 18 hours before seeing the final piece of the puzzle.

Part of me hoped that I would love the last movie. I didn't. I did like part 2 better than part 1, but many of my favorite moments from the book fell flat in the movie, not because they were not wonderful moments, but they were small moments that got lost in the action and drama of Harry's last stand against Voldemort. I think that is what makes the books so special -- there are so many small moments that give the story heart. It's hard to capture those on the screen. The friends that we watched the movie with had some of the same feelings, though we did talk about how the movies have served the purpose of fleshing out the world that Rowling had created and giving it life. I cannot fault the visual mastery of the films.

The movies may not have lived up to my hopes (I won't say expectations because those were never high), but the books will always be some of my favorites. I will read them with Isaac in "a few years" and, while he has missed out on this first rush of excitement, I think he will enjoy them. And, as Matt reminded me, every generation has a Harry Potter phenomenon. There will be something that he gets caught up in and excited about and maybe will even be dressing up for. If we are lucky, it will be something we can appreciate, too.

There is so much more I could say. What I loved in the books, who my favorite characters are, which scenes made me cry or laugh. But, as with any book, each person experiences it differently and much of the meaning that we find in the story comes from the connections we make from our own life. We give the story power, not the other way around. So if you haven't read the books, you should. The movies, well, maybe not.

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