Wednesday, July 20, 2011

HARRY POTTER AND THE, EH, SOME DAMN THING PART 2: A CRITICAL BUT AMBIVALENT OUTSIDER VIEW OF THE PHENOMENON

Less than a week after the film "Harry Potter" film came to theatres, the movies has already set numerous box office records, shorting only "Avatar," for all-time records, so far, and is ranked #69 on imdb.com's fan-voted Top 250.

Okay.

That's all I really have to say on that, okay. It's eight movies, seven books, a theme park, and and hundreds of other things into this phenomen that's basically lasted half my life, and yet, it's never struck me as something interesting enough to even draw a clear opinion on it. There've been many similar phenomenons that have peaked my interest in one way or another. I've basically become ostracized by many of my fellow filmmakers and cinephiles because I've been particularly critical of the "Lord of the Rings," trilogy, "Avatar," and "Twilight" in recent years, and I've been a fan of "The Matrix," trilogy (Well, the first two), consider myself at least a "The Next Generation" trekkie, and recently, I just finished reading all three books of the "Millenium Trilogy," after watching the movies. They fascinated me to such an extent that I had a strong point of view regarding those franchises. I don't dislike Harry, in fact of the four movies in the series, I've seen, "The Sorcerer's Stone," "The Chamber of Secrets," "The Prisoner of Azkahban," and "The Goblet of Fire," I thought three of them were good, and at times they were very good. I thought "Chamber of Secrets" was unfortunately boring and predictable and basically amounted to a new character being the obvious villain.  I also have very fond memories of "Goblet of Fire," being particularly creepy and thrilling. I gave that film 4 1/2 stars and was amazed at how edge-of-my-seat thrilling it was. However if you ask me what exactly happened in any of the four films I saw, I couldn't tell you. I remember certain visceral emotions I had watching them, but I couldn't even get a D on a test of Harry Potter trivia. I don't know the different between Ravenclaw and Voldemort or any other pieces of the lingo. I think I remember Timothy Spall playing a bad guy, either a bad guy or a rabbit, I'm not sure. I'm in no rush to see this latest Harry Potter, and I'm not in any particular hurry to catch up with the other movies. Come to think of it, three of the movies I saw was because they were on TV one night when there was nothing else on. ("Sorcerer's Stone," I saw because it was my Little Cousin's choice.) I never went out of my way to see any of them; I've never read a word of the books. As I've struggled to determine why I haven't jumped on this ship, or viametely opposed it, I'm just as baffled to come up with a reason. There's a few easy refrains that some who know me might say. "I don't like fantasy." Well, I can't deny I'm critical of the genre, but as much as I can't stand Tolkien, I absolute love Lewis Carroll, so I have some doubts about that simple explanation. I never read as much, and I rarely read series of any kind as a teenager and pre-teen, maybe I just simply wasn't attracted to the series from whatever reason. It can really be any or these things, a combinations of them, it's hard to tell. Maybe if I read the books, I'd have a stronger point-of-view, about the movies, but I hardly think that'd give me an opinion of the Harry Potter franchise itself, just now I'm critical of books and movies.

Actually, this brings me to the core question of, "What is the Harry Potter franchise?" What is it that distinguishes it; what is it that it represents; what are it's features? Every other franchise of these natures seem to have a dimension to them, not simply in symbolism, but strong points of view and things that really distinguish them. I think that's what really has puzzled me about Harry Potter, what is it really about? It seemed to me to simply be a seven-part miniseries, where eventually there's a final battle. It has wizards, kids, growing up, good vs. evil, prophecy, broomsticks, mysterious characters, but these almost seem parts the are randomly thrown together. While I don't like the "Lord of the Rings," I must admit that it has a far stronger and complete vision than Harry Potter. Somebody says "Star Trek," I have a very distinct vision and idea that that franchise represents. Same with "Star Wars," same with "Avatar," same with every other recent major franchise that has had the level of popularity in recent years. What do I think of when I think of Harry Potter? What does anybody think of when they think of Harry Potter? I don't think of anything in particular. What does this represent? I'm actually asking, what is it that Harry Potter represents, and why has this captured so many peoples' imagination? What distinguishese Harry Potter from all these other franchises? I'm four movies in, and frankly I don't have a clue. That's not to say that it needs one. To some degree I think it's refreshing to some extent. No extra apparent symbolism that underlies an ulterior motive, usually religious in nature, no blatant attempt to simply be apart of a trend. (There aren't too many other wizards out there, are there?) And yet, I am constantly underwhelmed by Harry Potter. I do not dislike, nor do I like, but I'm not overly praiseful of the franchise to the point of fetish, and I'm neither overly critical to the point of obnoxious disgust. Maybe the appeal of Harry Potter is that it's a good piece of fantasy and nothing else. If that's the answer, than maybe I understand it more than I thought, however I hardly think that alone would be enough to create such rabid fanfare.
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