Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Top 10 Things I Liked About The Harry Potter Series

In my personal site, I already wrote a top ten list of things I didn’t like about the Harry Potter series.  But I made it clear in that article that though there are things I didn’t like about HP, I am no Harry Potter-hater and am actually a “fan” to the extent that I have actually enjoyed the series.  So, this time, I think it is only fair to write a list of things I like about the Harry Potter series.  
View this image first as an appetizer, then meet me after the jump...
Click to enlarge.  Here's something I found from Deviantart.

In the Harry Potter universe, young wizard and witches enjoy charmed treats that ordinary humans – “Muggles” – can’t enjoy.

There’s “Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans” where there are several flavors in one pack.  Most of the candy flavors are good and based on edible food, but there are some that’s just disgusting, like vomit and earwax.  The catch is you won’t know what the flavor of the candy would be until you put it in your mouth. That’s basically a Russian roulette candy eating experience. Sure, the odds are favorable that you would get a good or at least edible flavor, but it’s still a Russian roulette-type risk.  All of the chambers of the revolver except one are loaded, very likely you would end up with an empty chamber, but there’s no way it’s going to be a comfortable statistic to risk for.

Then there’s “chocolate frogs”…
It’s made of good chocolate.  The bad news is it’s charmed to act and move – jumping and all – like a real frog.

Now, these two are just some of the food mentioned in the series. And there could be more food of such weird character.  But though the food in the Harry Potter universe is unappetizing to a Muggle like me, it can’t be denied that they are fascinating in the context of a fictional setting.
Actually, I am curious of how “Butter Beer” would taste like…

It is not unlikely to see youngsters – children or teens – to be the central “good guys” in conflict with adult “bad guys” in fiction (especially in anime).  However, it’s still refreshing to see Harry and friends being the youth power stereotype in fiction.  While the adult good guys are hindered and bounded by rules, the youth – as the youth will always be anti-authority – will break rules, at the risk of punishment, if it’s the only way to get the job done.  And many times throughout the series, Harry and friends did this.  Another thing refreshing about youth power is being able to overcome the odds stock against being young and inexperienced.  Case study: (from HP 5) Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Luna, and Neville (the “Dumbledore’s Army” core) – a group of green underdog spellcasters – taking on Voldemort’s “Death Eaters” – a group of hardened killers.  Before being bailed out by the “Order of the Phoenix”, Harry’s young group actually did pretty well.

But more fun than a display of youth power in fiction was the display of senior citizen power.  There’s just something about fragile old people kicking butt that makes you smile.  Sure, Dumbledore being badass is already a given since he’s a wizened Gandalf-type character.  And fans of fantasy already know that wizards like Gandalf should not be messed around.  But the Harry Potter series also had elderly characters like Minerva McGonagall and Horace Slughorn – non-Gandalf-type characters.  Non Gandalf-type wizards are not intimidating at all.  I mean McGonagall looks like your old grand aunt that loves to spend her days drinking tea and knitting while Slughorn looks like an old clumsy, nervous, rare book collector. 
Still, don’t a judge a book by its cover as McGonagall and Slughorn rocked in “The Battle of Hogwarts”, fighting bravely and kicking Death Eater butts.  
This kind of guy…
…bravely fighting these guys (and surviving the battle)?
That's badass!

The Harry Potter universe has one of the most extensive and detailed magical inventories in fantasy.  Spells, charms, and curses have distinctions and healthy variety.  I really like the concept of each wizard or witch having a unique and appropriate “wand recipe” for him or her to be able to optimize the best possible magic he or she can wield.  And, thanks to the films, I found that magic duels in the HP are pretty cool. 

My favorite is the “Avada Kedavra” or the Killing Curse.  Though it appears to be the most evil magic there is (one of the three “unforgivable” spells), I actually don’t think so.  I mean, in the context of a battle, “Avada Kedavra” is probably, not only the most sure way to kill an enemy, but also the most humane way since it kills a target immediately.  That’s efficient painless death.  That’s preferable than killing by fire or ice.

I also like “Expecto Patronum” since it’s a deeply personal spell for its caster – as it summons an animal representation of the caster – and has to be conjured by a happy memory.  That’s nice. 
my Patronus will definitely be a Lolcat

In Hogwarts, students are grouped into Four Houses depending on their personalities and characteristics that mirror those of the four founders of the school, whom the houses are based and named from.  This makes the school population roughly classified into four almost homogenous identity categories.  The stubborn go to Gryffindor.  The jerks go to Slytherin.  The geeks go to Ravenclaw.  The nobodies go to Hufflepuff.  Moreover, the competition among the Four Houses – especially between Gryffindor and Slytherin – that we saw in the series puts the rivalry of intra-school organizations into a whole new level.  

The one who assigns the students to which house they would belong in during their 7-year stay in Hogwarts is the Sorting Hat – a rugged, talking wizard hat.   In their freshmen year, during the welcome supper, the students take turns in wearing the Hat as it psychoanalyzes them and determine which house they are fit for.   (Note: aside from segregating students, the Sorting Hat can have the Sword of Gryffindor be drawn from it.)

The Four Houses system and the Sorting Hat definitely helped in making the Harry Potter mythos enjoyable.


As we all know, Emma Watson was cast as Hermione Granger for the Harry Potter movies.  Thanks to the Harry Potter franchise, since the movie series took a span of more than a decade, we saw how a lovely girl like Watson grew before our eyes during those years – from a cute lassie to a hot sex-symbol.
Adorable, sweet, charming, cute, little girl
50 points for Gryffindor!
Scorching Hot
Er, let’s forget about this one…

As I mentioned in that other article (no. 3 item there), I found that Luna Lovegood and Bellatrix Lestrange are more interesting characters than Harry Potter.  In fact, the two are my two most favorite characters in the series.  The characters caught my interest when I had read the book, but I only really get to love them when I saw them being carried out in the movies.   

Helena Bonham Carter (the female version of Johnny Depp. Or is it Depp is a male version of Carter?) was absolutely brilliant as Bellatrix.  She really enhanced her as a character.  In fact, she was more than perfect.  In my opinion, Carter portrayed the character better than how Rowling meant the character to be.

As for Evanna Lynch… her acting was not really good at all.  But the charm about her is that she didn’t really need to exert much effort in acting at all since she was a natural real life Luna Lovegood.  
If not for the Harry Potter series, I wouldn’t have encountered such great characters.

"Harry Potter taught us to read."
It can’t be denied that Harry Potter made an impact on geekdom.  Just like “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings”, the Harry Potter series created a noteworthy niche and a die-hard following for itself in pop culture history.  In other words, whether you like it or not, Harry Potter is one of the modern pop culture fads that would become an immortal classic.  

I mentioned in no. 2 in that other article that Harry Potter is overrated.  Harry Potter is great but not that great as most believe it to be.  And one of the reasons people think it’s that great (when it’s not) is because most of its fans probably haven’t read much books or, at least, not much fantasy books other than Harry Potter.  However, as I’ve said, Harry Potter has carved itself a significant niche in pop culture, thus, it had became a healthy starting point for its fans to be exposed to other (better) fantasy titles, and then to a wider area of pop culture.  

Example, a non-book enthusiast watched a Harry Potter movie.  He got hooked with the HP fad, so he got into the HP books.  The HP books made him interested in other children fantasy and it led him to other popular but richer fantasy titles like “Lord of the Rings” or “Chronicles of Narnia”.  Then he got into fantasy titles published by Del Rey.  He liked the Del Rey books he read, and since Del Rey also publishes sci-fi, he decided to try sci-fi too and got himself hooked on sci-fi.  OR he liked the concept of a boy in a fantasy setting, so he read “Artemis Fowl”.  He was so impressed by Artemis Fowl that he sought other books that has a smart protagonist.  And it may lead him to Sherlock Holmes, which might make him love the mystery genre.

And so on and so forth… the possibilities are endless.  Thanks to Harry Potter.

So though some got stuck and refuse to budge from Harry Potter, some managed to move on to better things than Harry Potter because of their exposure to Harry Potter in the first place. 

Unfortunately, there are also those who have treaded the “dark side” after starting with Harry Potter, as they ended up with “Twilight” (No.1 in that list). 

Again, though I keep on mentioning that Harry Potter is overrated, it doesn’t mean that I found it to be dumb or lame.  It’s actually an enjoyable good piece of fiction.  My point is that people brand is a 10/10 when I believe it‘s actually rightfully just a 7/10 (7.5/10 at most).  

A 7/10 is actually great already, isn’t it?     

It’s a classic good vs. evil story with important themes (Voldemort is definitely patterned with Adolf Hitler and his racism, hatred, and madness) and morals present.  It had plot holes but I liked the overall plot.  Its storytelling kept me interested.  The series started with a “General Patronage” feel.  Then, it started getting darker.  More mature.  People started getting killed.  And the body count piled up through the series.  Some criticized this transformation to a darker feel in a children’s book.  I disagree with these critics.  I actually think the transition style – the level of maturity and grittiness increasing with each book – employed by Rowling in the series was brilliant.  You see, not only is Harry the one growing up, the readers are, too.  Take for me, for example, I started reading Harry Potter when I was in my late elementary.  Book 7 came out when I was already in college.  Harry Potter is not entirely a children’s book.  It’s rather a “generation” book for those who were children when the first book came out.  Thus, as the kids grew up, with their level of maturity growing up with them, the books also grew in maturity.  And that’s brilliant.  

And I liked how Rowling employed twists in the story.  Right from the start (i.e. Quirrell is the bad guy, not Snapes), Rowling made it clear that she knows how to use twists to enhance the story and impress her audience.  There are several of them, and they were cleverly inserted across the series.  Sirius Black ending up as a good guy after all is the one that blew me away the most.  Snapes being loyal to Dumbledore all along and that the killing of Dumbledore is planned by them is something I expected (I never doubted Snapes) but I guess it’s still a major twist in the story.  Harry Potter as an accidental Horcrux was also a wonderful twist.  But I think it would have been more badass if Neville was actually the true “chosen one”.  And that Dumbledore (we all know he’s a master manipulator/tactician, planning his death and all that), to protect Neville, was making it appear that Harry is the “chosen one” so that Voldemort would target him instead.  This is no big after all since Harry is a Horcrux, and to destroy it, Voldemort must kill him.  So when Harry willingly walked towards Voldemort to be killed after this fact was revealed to Harry (through Snape’s memories), he would be killed for real.  And then, in the end, Neville would be the one to kill Voldemort.  That would be an awesome mindblowing plot twist.  Of course, not all would like it.  Especially crazed fans who want the world/story to revolve around Harry Potter.  But it can’t be denied that would have been one of the greatest twists in fiction.

This “what-if” or “it would have been better if…” discussions actually make it more fun.  Which leads us to…
I want to put another Emma Watson photo
so here’s a shot of Hermione thinking
I never really followed “Lost” but I know it is highly praised by many.  Some people are even saying – probably, those that never saw “The Twilight Zone” – that it’s the best TV show ever.  The show enjoyed such success and honor because it instigated plenty of talk among its audience.  I mean after each episode, it became the main topic at work or school.  “Hey, did you see the latest ‘Lost’ episode last night?  That was some awesome stuff, man!  What the hell was that all about?”  And they would talk.  Discuss.  Speculate.  Debate.  Try to predict what would happen next.  Give their interpretations of the mysteries raised.  It provoked the audience to think.

When a movie/TV show/book provokes discussions or debates among its fans, then it motivates them to think. And I believe that the best of fiction or pop culture should make its audience or readers think or/and reflect.           

Harry Potter actually made its readers think.  Rowling wrote a story where new questions are raised as soon as old ones are answered.  And that was great.  It made people (including me) hang on until the last book, where everything is answered.  And along the way, there were plenty of discussions and debates among HP’s followers.  I know since I was one of them.  I can still remember how I kept on arguing (after Book 6) for the case that Snapes is a good guy.  And I was right.

First one who blinks loses...
Indeed.  Not only is the last Harry Potter movie the best HP movie ever made, but it is the best thing ever about the Harry Potter franchise: a box-office record breaking film.  

There are plenty of great things about the movie.  Plenty of epic scenes.  The fight scenes were smooth and badass.  Especially at the climactic Battle of Hogwarts.  I forgot how the Battle of Hogwarts went in the book, but I think the movie effectively created a perfect “Battle of Hogwarts” for visual purposes.
I criticized Voldemort of being not as menacing as expected (No. 7 in the other list).  But the scene of him walking barefooted on a sea of blood with the corpses of people he recently killed (because of his anger after Harry and friends stole a Horcrux in Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault in Gringots) covering the floor made me think that Voldemort might be one scary evil dude after all. 

Another favorite scene of mine was the preparation of Hogwarts for battle.  Professors and senior students – mostly from “Dumbledore’s Army” – readying themselves at the front yard.  The covering of a magic bubble shield around the school.  Dumbledore’s Army and Order of the Phoenix members readying themselves around the campus.  And Prof. McGonagall summoning Hogwarts’ stone knight guardians.
"I've always wanted to cast that spell."
This scene was also perfectly taken out from the book. Epic.
"Not my daughter, you bitch."
All in all, the movie successfully ended the HP story with a bang.  It was greatly entertaining and gripping from start to finish.  Easily one of the best movies of 2011.  It was that kind of movie that even if you are not familiar with the first 7 films or the Harry Potter mythos, you will still appreciate the movie.  Visuals… story… plot… action… all terrific in delivery.

1 comment:

  1. are you kidding?


    anyway LUNA LOVEGOOD FOREVER!!! raaaawrrr!

    hahaha she's probably my fave character next to Hermione...hahaha