Since I’m sure nearly everyone in the world is familiar with Harry Potter, I’m not going to write an overview of each individual book. Instead, I’m going to review the series and its movies as a whole. I will also talk about the effect this book series has had on people and media, including my personal experience with the series.
I really feel that the Harry Potter series was one of those once in a lifetime things that is just so rare. This book series spoke to a new generation and got them reading. When I picked up the first book, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. There was just so much imagination and general wonder and splendor in those pages that I couldn’t put them down. I borrowed my mom’s books after watching the first two movies. I was in my first year of college and I remember taking those books with me to class, reading when I could between lectures and just devouring the story in the pages. It was in the fall of 2003, so when I finished the first four books, my mom bought me the fifth book for Christmas and I read it so quickly that it was almost agony to have to wait for the next one. I don’t remember the release of Book 6; I may have gone to a midnight release party, but I can’t remember at this point. I do, however, remember the seventh book release. I went to my local Chapters for their midnight release party and was one of the few who picked up a copy with the adult cover. I spent the whole night reading, even though I had to work the next day. At work, we were also having a release party when the store opened. I had been put in charge of helping to organize it for the kids that were coming in because my manager knew how much I liked it. As a reward, I was given a copy of the book with the children’s cover, so needless to say, when we were slow in my department, I was reading. To this day, I still have the entire series in both covers along with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch for the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard. These books reminded me how much I loved reading and led me to other book series such as Percy Jackson and the Hunger Games.
This book series was like that for a lot of people, whether it was older people trying out a new genre, or kids who hated reading, these books just seemed to capture so many people’s attentions and imaginations. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a single book series that has done that across such a broad range of ages. Certainly, you can see such a thing happen within a specific group of people, such as the Twilight books being popular with tween and teen girls, but nothing of the magnitude of Harry Potter. Fans came from all walks of life, generations and even places in the world. Even to this day, 19 years after the first book was published, it continues to enthrall the public. I have no doubt that these novels will become classics that people will be reading years and years from now.
The Harry Potter movie series started in 2001, four years after the first book in the series was published. It starred newcomers at the time Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. For those who hadn’t been reading the books, this was the first glimpse at the world of Harry Potter. For me, this was my gateway into the series. It was sometime after the second movie was released on DVD (I think this was in 2003, just before Order of the Phoenix was published) that I decided to check out my mom’s movies to see what all the fuss was about. Up until that point, I had joked about my mom and sister watching and reading children’s books. It wasn’t until I sat down and watched the two movies and read the four paperback books that were out at the time that I really began to realize what an actual amazing thing this series was. From the third movie on, I saw each of the new films in the theatre, on opening night when I could. Admittedly, I may have even dressed up for one or two of those premieres.
While the movies are not a perfect adaptation of the books, I truly believe that J.K. Rowling’s involvement helped the movies make the most sense without alienating the fans of the books. So often authors give up the rights to have their books produced into movies, which are then usually handed over to writers, directors and producers who have no idea what the books are even about, ending with horrible changes and cuts to the story that leave fans of the novels wanting. I’ve seen it so many times with books like Eragon and the Percy Jackson series, that it was so refreshing to see the Harry Potter movies stay true to the book series as much as possible. Cuts that were made were made in such a way that the overall story wasn’t affected and things still all flowed together in a cohesive way. For example, the removal of SPEW was hardly felt because of the way they wrote around it. Yes, certainly, things were missing that added a lot of depth to the stories, but we can’t expect perfect adaptations of novels else we’d be sitting through 5 to 6 hour movies, which is a bit ridiculous. The movies told the story the best way that it could and left in the most important elements. I truly believe this is why authors should be more involved in the adaptations of their books, but also that the authors need to be realistic in the limitations of movie adaptations.
Pottermore was released to everyone in April of 2012. It started out as an interactive Harry Potter story experience where you could relive the moments of each of the books as they were made available over time. You could collect potions ingredients and chocolate frog cards and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. There was dueling and potion making and new things to discover. In September of 2015, the entire site underwent a complete overhaul and was transformed into more of an informational site. Background and behind-the-scenes information is still provided and available, but all of the fun extras, as well as the interactive stories are now gone. They were fun while they lasted. I haven’t had much of a chance to explore the new site as it now holds less interest for me, but it’s definitely worth a look. It gives information about upcoming projects (as discussed below) as well as new information about the Harry Potter world (recently, J.K. Rowling released information about the other wizarding schools of the world).
There is more and more coming out of the Harry Potter universe for the fans to enjoy. Universal Studios has added an entire section in their theme park dedicated to Harry Potter, which they continue to expand. Warner Brothers has also decided to produce a new trilogy of movies based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, starring Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, which admittedly looks fantastic at first glance. J.K. Rowling has also written a two-part play for London’s West End called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It follows Harry Potter 19 years after Deathly Hallows and his son Albus. According to J.K. Rowling, it is not a sequel nor a prequel. I think, based on what I’ve read, that it is just a little more information given on Harry’s early life. The play’s script will be published in print on July 31, 2016, Harry Potter’s birthday, and the play opens in July as well.
I think it’s fair to say that the Harry Potter phenomenon has yet to end, and it doesn’t look like it will anytime soon. It may not have the intensity it once did, but fans of the series are still willing to pay what they can to get their hands on any bit of information, experience or other new thing that J.K. Rowling gives when it comes to this series. I am still waiting and hoping for the encyclopedia she had spoken about previously. I have my fingers crossed that it will be in production soon.