I decided to do this to write out how I remember the series. These
are not reviews, and they often discuss my visceral reactions more than
anything substantial about the book’s message.
This is written entirely from my perspective, and for the most-part
the series’ importance in children’s literature is glossed over. Even
though I have personal opinions and memories about controversies
surrounding the books, they’re more or less kept out of this blog. All I
will say is this: it made reading feel less required and more fun, and
wizards aren’t fucking real.
That said, I did give my respect to the series as a book phenomenon
first by keeping this free of any pictures or videos, which I feel in
cases like this where you already know what I’m talking about, are just
unnecessary bandwidth guzzlers anyway.
This is definitely not a blog for non-Potter fans, as it’s mainly
intended for comments about your impressions of the series and reactions
to mine. Now, here it is.
My first introduction to the Harry Potter series was not necessarily
of my own volition. My aunt was trying to get me into this great new
series all the kids were into, but to this day I’m not sure exactly what
made me decide to give in. Maybe it was her being my favorite aunt, or
my best friend’s mother mentioning how the book became better when Harry
left the Dursleys while she and I were both browsing at a Sholastic
I’m also not certain that I read any of the first three books even
close to the time they were released; the fourth book is when Harry
Potter became a day-after-midnight-release priority for me (I don’t like
crowds) and I’m pretty sure that my aunt sent “Prisoner of Azkaban” (I
know quotations are not what you use for novels, but they’re easier to
use in Word so hush) to me in the mail after finishing the first two, so
there’s no way I read that when it first hit shelves.
As for the book itself, I remember being intrigued, but not overly
impressed. I wanted to know more about Harry… at least I’m assuming,
since I recall reading these books in order, but I wasn’t willing to
give in to the craze yet. It was a fun, relatively short read.
In this case, I believe I liked the movie better than the book.
Usually of course, it’s vice versa, but the world in the movie was
pretty much exactly how I’d imagined the book (minus, oddly enough, the
British accents of the characters, because yes, seriously, I did not
know this series originated in England at the time) and even made it
somewhat more dramatic. Sure, the CGI Fluffy and Troll looked fake even
back then, but the tone and pace made it very enjoyable. It was the
right mixture of serious and silly.
*To get this out of the way early, I really only read each
book, except three, once, then saw the movie, once. So my opinions
should I re-read and re-watch everything again may have changed
dramatically. This retrospective is more about my memory of the series
than any serious critical analysis, so keep that in mind.
The Chamber of Secrets
I don’t know why I recall not liking this one as much as the first.
The more I think about it, it’s quite a bit more important to the series
and certainly a bit darker than the first one (although the cartoon
sleeves on these books can be very deceptive about that), and is a much
more substantial look into Voldermort (which is one thing I never
thought could be adequately translated to movies and wasn’t; when you
describe something as the most fearful entity in all existence more or
less, you’re going to fail when you try to express it visually 99% of
the time). Hell, it even fleshes Dumbledore out more with that scene
where Harry snoops around his office.
Repeating myself, I really don’t remember why I liked this the least
of the series at the time; of course, it might have been because others
loved it so much at the time and I’m often a contrarian, but that’s
because I genuinely tend to have differing tastes on so many things,
despite being very mainstream in other regards.
In any case, my memory (which any Psycholgical study will tell you is
not much to go on, but please read the asterisked and boldfaced
disclaimer above) recalls the movie and book being pretty much equal in
this case. Once again, Christopher Columbus basically just threw the
book at the screen and made magic happen, this time with a giant snake, a
book getting stabbed, and J.K. Rowling’s interpretation of The
Simpson’s Troy McClure filling in that Dark Arts professor spot that
just never seemed secure.
I do remember my friend saying it was his favorite because he liked
snakes, which seems irrelevant but I’m using it as a segway to my next
thought. Recalling this series is not only an exercise in remembering
the books, but also one in remembering what my tastes were when I was
reading these at a young age, as well as throwaway moments from my youth
that are sorta-kinda related to these books.
Prizoner of Azkaban
Of course, no book in this series relates to my taste at that age
more than this one. If the second installment was where this series’
eventual dark direction was hinted at, this is the book where it came to
the forefront for me. Being at that age where I was still a kid, but
wanting my entertainment a few shades darker and more “mature,” this was
the book that started it all for me in terms of semi-rabid fandom, as
opposed to the first one.
I enjoyed the Potter books’ first two entries, but this one managed
not only to genuinely frighten me a bit with the introduction of beings
meant to drain the soul of prisoners called dementors, it also
introduced my favorite character in Sirius Black, who may very well have
been key in my obsession with the judicial system as it relates to
wrongful imprisonment. Also, he was a bad-ass and the only sympathetic
member of Harry’s family still living it seemed.
I’m not going to pretend that this being my favorite book by far in
the series isn’t heavily based on the character of Sirius Black, because
it is. In comparison to Hermione’s workaholic time travel and other
non-Sirius related plots, Black’s introduction was far more important to
One of the most memorable scenes for me was when Sirius was thought
to slash into Harry’s four-post bed (which thinking about it now, just
makes me jealous there would be a school that provided you with a damn
four-post bed, and not a twin mattress with a prison tag like in
college). I was pretty sure Sirius was innocent throughout the book, but
that was the moment that solidified in my mind what made the latter
books so appealing: they were mystery books with the backdrop of magic
and clever literary references, and they were essentially told in a
medieval setting once the students arrived at Hogwarts. While I defended
the series as an epic in a previous blog, what I can say for it now is
that its greatness was in how its mysteries unfolded, not its battle
scenes (a la Lord of the Rings).
Sadly, that may have been what made the translation to the big screen
in this case such a letdown for me. There was so much build-up to
Alfonso Cuaron’s directing the movie fresh off Y Tu Mama Tambien,
resulting in much ado about Harry perhaps “playing with his flashlight”
in the opening sequence being a reference to masturbation in Y Tu (which
I’ve never seen), and an inordinate amount of praise for a CGI tree
shaking its snow onto the camera (still don’t know why every review
seemed so taken by that) that I couldn’t help but be excited for my
favorite in the series come to life. And oh, if people didn’t like Harry
Potter because they wrote it off as a kid’s series, they were gonna get
a wake-up call when they realized how dark this was.
What I got was a movie that seemed shorter than the first two,
despite that I can’t recall anything too major being glossed over, and
one who’s ending seemed a lot less climactic than the book. I think it
was because the movie wasn’t quite the type of dark I expected. Where
the book had been noticeably darker in tone and presentation, the movie,
while obviously under new direction, seemed more in line with the first
two than I had imagined it to be. I can’t fault Cuaron for not bringing
exactly what my imagination saw to the screen, but nonetheless I was
Of course, Columbus never had to impress me as much as Cuaron would
have, seeing how the book had grabbed me so much more in this case, but
what can you do? At least I thought the scene where Harry rides the
Knight Bus was well handled, as well as the Dursley scenes, but I
The Goblet of Fire
This was, as mentioned before, the first book I went out to buy the
first day or close to of its release. It did not disappoint, as my only
complaint was that it lacked the proper dosage of Sirius, the proper
dosage being to turn him into the main character.
This book did even more to solidify the series as a mystery drama in
my mind with the Mad Eye Moody subplot (and it was a subplot compared to
the games) and the contest rigging. That sounds weird, given how much
broader in scope the not-all-Quidditch competitions made the overall
narrative. Actually, now that I think about it, this might be a better
example of the mixture of mystery and epic, but oh well.
At any rate, I read this in about a day, maybe two, on a road trip to
I don’t remember where though I’m sure we were visiting family for some
reason. That I read it so quickly is relevant perhaps because of how
much thicker these books began to look. J.K. must have known that the
third time was the charm that would make everyone willing to endure the
tomes to come.
I remember this mainly as the dragon-centric installment, since one
of the best scenes involves dragons playing a central role in a fight,
and of course Hagrid’s pet raising antics were always amusing.
I remember other people and critics championing it as the birds and
bees installment, once Cho Chang and the concept of school dance and
rejection is introduced.
Speaking of Cho Chang, this is also where the movies started losing
people who never read the books. I can’t recall all of what was cut out,
though I seemed to enjoy the movie more than most, but Cho Chang was
definitely a head-scratcher for moviegoers I’ve spoken with. Who was
this random Asian girl? Why did she wink at Harry? Why is Viktor Krum
this movie’s equivalent of a downsized Fabio on a broomstick in terms of
But hey, you can’t really say Harry Potter is like Twilight in that
regard: in the latter case, the crushes are the point, in the former
they’re subplots and ways to confuse the theatrical audience who could
have used a playbill of some sort.
The Order of the Phoenix
Sirius dies, fuck J.K. Rowling.
Oh, I actually like this book quite a bit despite its 800+ page
length, but that may as well have been my reaction to its ending.
That being said, the government takeover and Proffesor Umbridge’s
role as the love-to-hate character did a great job of delivering on the
grander scale of consequence promised throughout Goblet.
Not only did the plot succeed in steering me through so many pages
(this time in a slower fashion than a couple days, but still), the
Weasleys’ joke shop subplot was the most rewarding of the series. Too
bad it wasn’t made as big of a deal in the movie, though personally I
think it was still handled much better than people give it credit for
and the fireworks FU to Umbridge was pretty damn sweet.
In fact, I’d say this is my favorite interpretation of one of these
book’s endings. The ending fight scene was actually the most climactic
thing in the series as far as on-screen for me. That was one hell of a
Anyway, despite my bickering about Sirius, I still consider this a
very worthy installment to both the film and book franchise (which
frankly, I do consider separate whether or not Rowling’s pocket book
The Half-Blood Prince
I had the ending spoiled for me by a friend a few months after this
came out, meaning I didn’t get through it very quick at all. I don’t
know why, since it was my third favorite once I did (behind 3 and 7).
The mystery aspects were in full force in this one, hinting at the
climax to come with the death of an untouchable wise-man, the seeming
solidification of a long-suspected villain, and a dark ride into the
psyche of Voldermort that all adds up to one of the best beginnings and
one of the best endings, and of course one of the best second acts in
the series to boot.
In this case, my feelings towards the film translation echoed both
the audience-at-large and my feelings about Prisoner’s translation:
really remembering the climax being a lot more climactic. Not only that,
but one of the most touching examples of falling action in the series,
Dumbledore’s funeral, felt glossed over in comparison to the book.
Snape’s genius and compassion were greatly hinted at while not
necessarily making his intent too obv… ok, I saw it coming, but I can
see how you wouldn’t. The point is, this was one of the best in the
series largely because its focus on the villainous psyche. In that
sense, it more or less echoed my impression with the third book as a
dark and psychological thriller/mystery. Only problem was the movie’s
direction in those final moments, but the book is still awesome.
The Deathly Hallows
Obviously, the movie is fresher in my memory, but as per the route I’ve taken so far, I’ll give my impression of the book.
The opening scene with someone dangling above a table bleeding is,
like the sixth book, an excellent dark opening. The Horcrux collecting,
in the book, seemed less tedious to me. The final battle, in the book
(and I do believe some battle scenes/settings were changed to not my
liking in the movie) seemed much more extravagant… and bloody.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the movies. The first part got me
stoked for the second, and celebrating a friend’s birthday at Chili’s
led to a good hour-long plus conversation about it between 10 or so
people. I’m also still trying to find out what the animation style used
in the explanation of the Elder Wand’s formation is.
The second part gives you no recollection of the first past
Voldemort’s raiding of Dumbledore’s grave for a good two seconds. Where
people have compared the battle scenes of Return of the King to this,
that doesn’t make sense when you consider how much more quiet and dark
they are in this movie (the bright white costumes, elephants, and much
bigger sense of grandeur made me like Return’s battle scenes more
honestly; the Potter movie feels more like everyone loses until the very
I should mention that my disappointment with Part 2 may be for
personal reasons. I didn’t get to see the midnight showing with a
friend, so I saw it with family in a not-crouded theater the Tuesday
after the week of release. That may not have served the film’s
I will say the Gringott’s dragon is a great CGI creation, especially
given how much I was looking forward to it, and the roller coaster
sequence in the bank was worth the theater price (matinee though it
was). I just don’t think the two-parter left me with the lasting
impression of the final book though. It kind of felt like the craze had
been over by the time the movie hit.
… And yes, as many non-fans have said, this school would be closed by
book 3. I never really thought about that at the end of book 7, but
that’s cause I understood the emotions surrounding Hogwarts. And that’s
why I did this retrospective. Amen.
This was done in one sitting, so forgive me not going over the series
in any real meaningful detail and knowingly glossing over details in
the actual books meaningful to me.