What Harry Potter Meant to Me
In the upmost attic of my mind, there lives a memory of my Dad reading the first Harry Potter book. He performed voices for Hermione, and I murkily recall sitting on our couch and taking in “The Boy who Lived”.
I avidly watched Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson star in Sorcerer’s Stone as a kid. The movie released me into euphoric child wonder. A routine developed, I re-read the book prior to the next movie’s theatrical run. The end of the series mirrored – in many ways – the end of my childhood.
This Christmas, I revisited the series entirely. Harry naturally incites nostalgic daydreams (and purchases of licensed swag). Beyond the immediate visceral reaction, watching the movies with adult eyes revealed nuggets of hilarity and nuanced storytelling. Consuming the Harry Potter series 18 year after the series’ premiere is an exercise in cinematic immersion. When you are also 18 years further into adulthood, you notice directorial decisions that stir a modern perspective.
- Of the “Harry Potter” trio (Ron, Harry, and Hermione), Hermione does not receive fair acknowledgment.
- The Leaky Cauldron looks like a great dive.
- How was Hagrid remotely qualified to supervise children? Letting 11-year olds alone in the an enchanted forest after finding a dead animal? What kind of draconian punishment endorsed here?
- The wizarding world hosts undercurrent classism with broom technologies. Is Harry Potter truly the best seeker or did he just have the fastest, most agile broom?
Award: Three Nimbus 2000’s.
Chamber of Secrets
- Hermione once again outshines Harry and Ron in logical reasoning and emotional maturity.
- This movie is deeply gloomy given the protagonists are 12 years old. Messages on the wall in blood? Her skeleton lying in the Chamber forever? Yeesh.
- Dumbledore drops underrated counsel on one’s choices.
It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.Dumbledore
Award: A flying Ford Angelica.
Prisoner of Azkaban
- Hermione awakens as a crusader that does not indulge others’ nonsense (Snape, Malfoy, Trelawney). Sirius acknowledges her competence (FINALLY!).
- Hogwarts transitions from yellow-tinged movie sets to a realistic and believable character in this movie,.The rugged backdrops and architectural elements parallel increasing stakes for Harry.
- Whomping Willow is the WWE star of the Wizarding World. The evergreen “Punisher” interrupts Harry’s full “Velma of Scooby-Doo” moment, searching blindly for his glasses.
- More broom classism. Nimbus 2001’s? C’mon Slytherin.
- The Harry Poter series consistently feature a flying object students learn to tame:
- Sorcerer’s Stone, broom
- Chamber of Secrets, car
- Prisoner of Azkaban, hippogriff.
- Flying animals regularly save the day, looking at you Fawkes and Buckbeak.
Award: A jazzy necklace with time mobility.
Goblet of Fire
- This movie is the official endorsement of shaggy man bobs.
- The costumer clearly negotiated a backhand deal with Adidas as the official sponsor of the Triwizard Tournament. The stripes on those Hogwarts training sets are unmistakable.
- Yule Ball revives the standard muggle social tangos of asking a date, learning to dance, and outfits.
- Dumbeldore’s loose interpretation of “points” and “competition rules” comes out in the first movie (giving Gryffindor the House Cup) and in the second task of the Goblet of Fire (Harry earning second…. for saving people… from fake danger?). From the outside, I smell favoritism.
- Baby Voldemort (dropped into a cauldron by Wormtail) is on the other end of the cute spectrum as compared to Baby Yoda.
Award: A screeching golden egg and emotional baggage.
Order of the Phoenix
- Patronus may be the origin of “spirit animal”. I await a naturally passive animal to be featured as a Patronus, like a sloth.
- The political and media interludes within this movie add societal panache on the wizarding world. They are frighteningly familiar to modern coronavirus times with mentions of conspiracies, smear campaigns, and denials of truth.
- Umbridge undoubtedly grates a viewer more than Voldemort, and no surprise, she is an unabashed cat lady. My hypothesis societies see much more Umbridge’s “murky moral uppity-ness” versus Voldemort’s “outright venomous destruction”.
- Once again, we continue on the theme of breaking magical animals; this time we ride a thestral.
Award: A souvenir prophecy orb and more emotional baggage.
- Harry’s romantic relationship with Ginny is closer to a friendship with the Lunch Lady. How often does a hug look awkward? Prior to this movie, the margin for error was unnoticeable.
- Weasleys keep aflame the hope and optimism in troubling times. We need Weasleys in our lives.
- Wizard TSA to enter Hogwarts is about as thorough as normal TSA. Malfoys bringing in questionable materials? Fine, but make sure you pack your death liquids under 4 Fl Oz in a Ziploc baggie.
- Slughorn’s Great British Potions-Off for the Felix Felicis (Luck Potion) elates me. A spin-off should be in the works.
- This movie deploys the Instagram filter of cooler hues, with dark and shadowy tones. Especially shown in the horcrux hunt within the cave, the cinematography appears monotone.
Award: A used book and oversized fee for 50lbs+ of emotional baggage.
Deathly Hallows – I & II
- This two-parter breaks convention and in doing so remains epically involved even when the movie becomes the countryside camping adventure.
- I recognize my quarantine deprivation of social celebrations when I sigh for a wizard wedding crashed by murderers and cult members.
- With mental distance from the books and the movies, these movies are dense for those who have not read the books. Each episode introduces fresh characters with intersecting relationships. Though unlike the books, the movies do not have the space to properly connect their importance in the plot.
Award: Questionable aging makeup.