I’ve said before how I’m always behind the times, right? Anyway, I recently read the first three Harry Potter books. I’m sticking with my plan of not reading the books until watching the corresponding movies. I do believe I get more enjoyment that way. I enjoy the movie way more than people who read the books first, and I still enjoy the book. So that’s my plan.
The movies I would rank (from best to worst) 2-1-3. The books I would rank 3-2-1. I pretty much completely agree with Ebert’s reviews of the 3 movies. I totally loved the first two movies. Having had no exposure to the stories I found them endlessly imaginative and entertaining. The third one was well crafted, but it just didn’t have that sense of wonder to me that the first two had. The way he used landscapes and the way they dressed, I almost got the feeling like the director wanted a more realistic Harry Potter, if such a thing is possible. And it felt more plot driven without the tons of little side touches that made the first two movies wonder filled. But the plot isn’t the point.
I heard this commentary on Out of Sight once, dunno if you saw it, it’s this Steven Soderbergh adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel. Tons of Leonard novels have been made into films, and they almost all suck, two big exceptions being Out of Sight and Get Shorty, both of which I like a lot. The screenwriter I think of both, Scott Frank, had this interesting insight. The problem with the other adaptations is that they focused on the plots, changed the dialogue and stuff. But that misses the point of Leonard. What makes his writing great is his ear for dialogue and mood. So Frank’s tack was to keep those things, which distinguish Leonard’s writing, and be a little more flexible with the story. And I think it worked on both movies, they both “got” Leonard.
I personally think the same is true for Harry Potter, at least for me with the first 3 movies, 2 books. The plot is important and all, but it’s not the main point. What sets HP apart is the imagination and sense of wonder. First two movies have that for me, third doesn’t. Watching the third movie, I felt like they ditched some of the imagination for the sake of the “story”.
So when I read the third book, I was really surprised, because it turns out the movie actually did change around the story quite a bit. So they weren’t being slaves to plot. And when I think back, they didn’t ditch a lot of the side stuff that makes the stories wonderfilled. So I have no idea why I didn’t connect with the movie. It just felt like it was trying to be gritty, not wonderish. Anyway.
From someone who watched the movies first, I thought the first two movies were fantastic and I think they did a really good job with the story. Things are deeper in the books, but the movies were clear enough as to what was going on, which is fairly amazing. I dunno, I’m a big fan. Third movie also, storywise at least, I always knew what was going on, that part wasn’t confusing.
My worry is that the books are all essentially the same. Harry hates his Muggle guardians, goes to Hogwarts, someone people think is bad ends up being good, Harry learns a little more about himself. Which further leads me to believe the plot is, while important, not the main point. I dunno, I’ll find out in the next few years I guess.