Let me make a confession at the very start: When a friend excitedly yapped on about Gringgots and Muggles after the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released, my immediate reaction, despite being a children’s books junkie (something I remain to this very day) was far from enthusiastic.
I mumbled something about the fact that JK Rowling had basically stolen the plot from Jill Murphy whose Worst Witch series, first published in the 1980s, tell the story of the bumbling Mildred Hubble who attends Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches. So what exactly, I argued, was the need for such a commotion? After all, it was hardly an original idea. And so, I dismissed the thought of reading it without a thought, deeming it a case of ‘been there, done that’.
It was at the prodding of yet another friend in college (I was in my 20s at the time) that I began reading the first book. And the rest, as they say, is history. I was spellbound. I had discovered a world that was a wonderful combination of Blyton’s school stories and her Magic Faraway series, replete with magical creatures, magnificent spells, extraordinary sub-plots, thrilling games of Quidditch that transported – nay, floo networked and pensieved – me into the magical realms well beyond my imagination.
By that time, in 2000, the fourth book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had been released, and I had the pleasure of reading all four books in one fell swoop, forgoing many a night on the town – in New York City of all places – for the simple pleasure of discovering more and more about Harry Potter; learning more about the wizarding world, wondering why on earth there was no magical counterpart to the internet (I privately reasoned that it could be called the Wizarding Witch Web – giving a new twist to the world wide web we cannot do without) where Harry could have just Oogled the name Nicholas Flamel instead of wasting so much time in the Hogwart’s library.
Of course, the icing on that very magical cake was the fact that the movie adaptations of the series followed, the last of which Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, was released just last week, which many Potterphiles like me watched at the cinema even if it meant catching the 12 am show.
However, even though the movies were received enthusiastically by people across the world doesn’t mean that they were flawless. After all, the case of a movie bringing to life each and every detail covered in these wondrous books is never likely. But we forgave the filmmakers for changing the colour of Harry’s eyes from blue to green; and although we all missed Peeve the poltergeist, we figured that it was a small price to pay to see Hogwarts, in all its glory, come to life with such intricate and spellbinding detail; to see the floating candles on the enchanted ceiling, to ‘meet’ Harry and his ‘best’ friends Hermione and Ron; to watch his professors, which included Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall in action.
And although it was difficult to deal with the fact that the actor Michael Gambon, who played Dumbledore in the first two movies, had passed away and was replaced by Richard Harris in the consequent movies, we realised that it was even more painful to witness Dumbledore’s death as he lay in that cold, white tomb.
However, while the first three movies managed to stay true to the story, under the swift direction of Christopher Columbus and Alfonso Cuarón, perhaps because the books were relatively shorter, it was the fourth and fifth movie adaptations that disappointed many a Potter fan. They ran like documentaries; racing from one magical encounter to another, devoid of the nuanced, storytelling aspect that made the first three movies such a treat. Thankfully, eventually under the direction of David Yates, the last three movies regained the trust of many a Muggle, keeping them fervently waiting for the next one.
Of course, other than the directors, it is the actors who ensured that the films were enchanting. In addition to Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (who played Harry, Ron and Hermione respectively), the stellar cast included Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Felton and, of course, Ralph Fiennes (who played Hagrid, Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape, Bellatrix Lestrange, Draco Malfoy and Lord Voldemort respectively), who gave memorable performances that truly brought to life JK Rowling’s diverse characters – from the pages of her books and right on to the silver screen. Perhaps one reasons for this was the actors were primarily British, and thus were able to lend an aura of authenticity to their characters.
But the movies, especially the last one, were special to many Hogwatrisans, because it meant that they didn’t have to say goodbye to their friends Harry, Ron and Hermione just yet, even after the last book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released in 2007.
All that, of course, has changed. The last movie has been released. There will be no more – at least that is what JK Rowling says. And other than perhaps reading The Tales of Beedle the Bardthere is no way to connect with the magical world of Harry Potter. Other than perhaps playing the video games, or visiting the theme park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, in Orlando, Florida. (Good luck with getting a visa!)
Then again, there is always the DVD to the last movie that one can wait for – it will, hopefully have some deleted scenes we can savour.
Or, of course, you can always start re-reading the books and then re-watch the corresponding movie. That’s something I have started to do. Because I am not ready to say goodbye just yet.
First published in Books and Authors, July 31, 2011