Sunday, April 12, 2015

RE-READING: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
This won't be a proper review but I wanted to note down some general thoughts about my re-reading of the first book in the Harry Potter series AND about re-watching the movie.

First of all, I was surprised at how really perfect this first book is.  With trepidation, I admit that I was ever so slightly disappointed in the latter installments in the series, particularly the last book, and it was that taste that was most recently on my tongue.  I love the series but my relationship with it was one of many years of association; where there is love but also a recognition of faults.  I had forgotten what the first flush of the relationship was like:0).  Also, one might expect that the first outing, the debut, might be a bit shakier then those written by the practiced veteran, but actually it is perfect in almost every way. Sure, the actual plot only fills a quarter of the book and the rest is pretty episodic but those episodes are the perfect vehicle for being introduced to the world and to Harry, Hermione, Ron, Hagrid, Snape, Dumbledore etc....

Some other thoughts:
1) I'd forgotten how middle-grade this first book is and having realized that I have decided that what Rowling did with the series was utterly brilliant.  In each successive book she aged it up with her characters and her initial audience.  Has any other author done this with a series?  I've said it before, I am most sad that I was not of an age to grow up with these books (I was older) and I am hugely jealous of the cohort who did get to do that!

2) I've mentioned this before on the blog but I really appreciate an author, particularly one writing a series of books, with a plan.   Rowling definitely had one and I love how things build and how you can see the initial sparks in this book.  She does trip up from time to time though.  I was surprised to hear Hagrid say, in the first or second chapter, that he borrowed the flying motorcycle from Sirius Black.  As we know from two books later, that would have been difficult considering that Sirius was in Azkaban and presumed to be a servant of Voldemort.

3) Harry has very little personality at the start of the book and really throughout this first book.  His childhood with the Dursleys has made him kind of a blank slate  - his personality has been completely repressed.  One of the joys of the book and the series is to watch him flower into such a strong individual.

4) I'd forgotten how funny Fred and George are.  My favorite exchange is after they've received sweaters from their mum with an F and G embroidered on them, speaking to Ron: "You haven't got a letter on yours,' George observed, 'I suppose she thinks you don't forget your name. But we're not stupid – we know we're called Gred and Forge."  Dumbledore is also pretty hilarious with his first speech being: "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you."  The best thing is those are some totally wicked cool words:0)!  Point being I laughed out loud several times.  I'm not sure any of the rest of the books is quite this funny.

5) I listened to the audio by Jim Dale which is really excellent BUT I am dying to listen to the British versions of the audio books narrated by Stephen Fry.  There is apparently a great and heated debated on the internets about which narrator does better, encapsulated I think in this summation on Book Riot.  It appears that it is very tricky for someone in the States to get their hands on a Stephen Fry narration though *grumble, grumble*.


I'm just going to come right out and say it - this movie is kind of terrible.  If the book improved upon my memory of it the movie did the opposite.  I think at the time it came out it was just so exciting seeing all the magical things from the books and to be fair the visuals for the most part really work. The casting was also pretty excellent or, at least, would end up working out.  Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid is great, Maggie Smith as McGonagall, and Alan Rickman as Snape are particularly great. 

The main issue with the movie is the acting by the three main children, made worse by the stiltedness of the script and the removal of a lot of the humor I mention above as well as some of the more interesting scenes from the book.   As for the acting of the three main children, I don't entirely blame them - I think they were inexperienced, but they were also directed poorly.  The forced and completely unnatural dialogue between them is jarring throughout.  I've since watched The Chamber of Secrets and it's amazing how much they've improved as well as how much they've grown up.  They become bearable to decent in movie two but this first one is kind of a mess.  That said, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe do grow up to be how I imagine Harry and Hermione.  Rupert Grint as Ron is okay for me but isn't exactly how I pictured Ron and I'm not sure he ever captures Ron's humor. 

To Wrap Up:  The book is a five star read for me and is nearly flawless.  I've always thought of Goblet of Fire as my favorite book in the series but I'll be interested to see if that holds up as I continue to re-read. I am all googly with admiration for this book right now. The movie.... was a disappointment. 

Give me all your thoughts on this beginning of a classic series!  Gimme Gimme!  I want them all!

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