I've been hearing it for the better part of thirteen years...
"What do you mean you've never seen any of the Harry Potter movies? You haven't even read any of the books?!?" - - and various other statements of absolute terror that I just wasn't a passenger on the Harry Potter bandwagon for all this time. The fact of the matter is that I had seen (parts) of the first two movies and they just never really grabbed me. And at one point during a family vacation had attempted to read my sister's copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and only made it about fifty pages in before succumbing to boredom.
But since my wife and I started dating, we'd always talked about watching all of the films so that I'd be up to speed (and people would stop calling me a Muggle followed by nine-year old girl giggles).
A great package sale with all eight movies for fifty bucks, a desperate need for loafing time following the holidays, and a sick day/New Years day off combination proved the perfect opportunity to view all of the films back-to-back-to-back. And while I'm not exactly running around with a Gryffindor scarf disarming people of their wands now, I've found an appreciation for the series and see why it's appealed to so many. It was also interesting to see just what elements it influenced in the boom of derivative young adult fiction that's followed in the years since. I'd find myself often going, "Oh, well there's Twilight. There's Maze Runner. There's Hunger Games." All of which followed five to ten years after the publication of the first Harry Potter book. And vice-versa, how the popularity of several of those properties then appeared to influence the Potter series. And I also find it interesting that the first movie/book in the Potter series is so heavily influenced by Enders Game, it's a shame the film adaptation of that book didn't make the mark that it really should have.
So what did I notice in our viewing of all the films in succession? Here's a few of a Muggle's thoughts:
• You really have to admire how the films (and the books I would imagine) were paced out to divulge bits and pieces of the bigger story over the course of the eight films. Sure, there's a lot of backtracking on things that we're led to believe were placed there as storytelling elements that a bit of a head-scratcher but the overall story arc was really impressive... even if the ending wasn't ultimately fulfilling.
• I know House/Clan/Group Slytherin is associated with the deadly snake. But they should really think about changing their crest to a herring. Of the red variety. Especially Draco, I was surprised by the end of the series where he actually WAS responsible for something for once.
• I'm really glad the Time Turner disappeared as quickly as it appeared, because their time travel logic is all sorts of Doc Brown headache inducing. Also, for as smart and cunning as we're led to believe these kids are, they go all the way back in time then just sit and hang out until nightfall? You could have, I don't know - captured the creepy rat man before he got away, warned Sirius Black that he'd be crucially injured (or even take a step back from that and just yell at David Thewlis, "HEY! REMEMBER, YOU'RE A WEREWOLF! AND THE MOON IS COMING OUT!").
• Emma Watson really grew from that first movie. And no, I don't mean that in a "dude the girl got hot" way (but that's also true) - but her acting in the first film was toothpaste commercial terrible. Chris Columbus has been amazing at directing kids in the past, I'm surprised that he let this slide but each precocious line was followed with a dimpled smile cheated to camera, it was horrifying. By the final installments of the series though, she's by far the best actor of the bunch.
• Speaking of which, Harry sure does grit his teeth a lot. Hope Hogwarts has good dental.
• Wow those last two movies are a long slog. Dancing montages and Horcrux hunting are seriously laborious. But then when the final battle actually happens, it goes by in a blur. I won't get into the logic of who needs to die in order for who to die, or why Harry meets Dumbledore in purgatory (if that's even purgatory) because that's a bunch of cosmic mumbo jumbo that would make Grant Morrison proud. But after four hours we finally learn that there's a legendary wand to end all wands with a super-cool backstory... that nobody until this point had ever talked about? Wouldn't all the first-year students be super-stoked about ultra-mega-wand?
• Why are they not supposed to say Voldemort? They dare not speak his name, but the guy really has a glass jaw. Maybe that's something that's a little more ominous in the books but it plays a little silly in the movies. It almost sounds like a convenient writer work-around. "Oh, we dare not speak of that. It's a long story."
• Dumbledore really gets upset toward the end that he's put the students and faculty in grave danger. But he's been doing that since Harry and his friends' first day of school. "We must close the school, it's just too dangerous." Because everything to this point wasn't? Kids die playing Quiddich and nobody seems to bat an eye.
• Following the super pretty battle in the room with all the prophecies, Harry learns that neither can live while the other survives. But they have been? Just not at full wizard power? And does anyone else find it strange that Potter starts calling himself the Chosen One out of nowhere? I get it, the phrase Chosen One adds mystique but it immediately veers it into Matrix sequel territory for me.
At any rate, aside from the minor quibbles (and the fact that everyone has a name that seems to rhyme with the word quibble) I'm glad I plowed through all the films and gave them a chance. Definitely enjoyed them from time to time. The first two and the last two films definitely are the weakest of bunch but as a whole especially when viewed rapid-fire, it was a fun and satisfying story.