The ramblings of a pseudointellectal…or a genuine idiot?

Taking one for the team

My youngest daughter is a true PotterHead. She's read all of the books and watched all of the films. Several times. On rotation. My psychotic sister gave her Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit for Christmas last year, presumably because she hates us. (thinking)

My wife likes the novels and films, but in moderation. My eldest daughter has seen all of the films at least once, but she has never really got over the death of Cedric Diggory—who I hardly ever refer to as Dedric—and only tolerates repeats of the other films as a quid pro quo in broader negotiations with her sister.

I couldn't be less interested in Harry Potter. I haven't read any of the novels, and, until now, had only seen the first three and the last in the film franchise, the latter as a time-filler on a flight. But, now, I'm taking one for the team during the holiday season, and watching all of the instalments with the youngest, back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back, so that my wife and eldest don't have to. This is my penance.

I realise that it's only fantasy fiction for children, so it has to be taken with a pinch of salt; but how large a pinch? Nutritionally-deficient feasting; Draco Malfoy, a two-dimensional character played one-dimensionally, travelling bucket class on the Hogwarts Express; Hagrid's hut moving from just outside the school to way down the hill; and ancient spells largely incanted as modern English-cum-faux Latin mashups.

Bankbalancior inflatum…nope, doesn't work.

Overall, I'd say that each of the instalments is at least an hour too long, which means that the series unnecessarily robs innocent people—particularly me!—of eight hours of their lives. And the producers have taken the unfortunately trendy step of dividing the last book into two films, to double-down on the misery, rather than trimming out a whole load of nothing much going on. So, that's an extra two hours of life wasted. There's a reasonable story in there, but it's stretched out so far that Peter Jackson must be kicking himself.

With so much going on, much of it padding, over so long a time period, it's easy for the neophyte to lose track of the plot. Or perhaps its inconsistencies are genuine. For example, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, entry to the Triwizard Tournament is limited to older students, because the trials are considered to be too dangerous for children. Yet the prizes in the second trial are all children who're placed at risk of drowning. If the tournament's organisers planned to intervene in the event of a champion failing, then why the big deal over Harry rescuing Gabrielle Delacour? Furthermore, the Ministry of Magic condemns Sirius Black for a murder that was never committed in the first place, but are willing to potentially drown four children for the sake of a tournament. Either the Ministry works in far more mysterious ways, or somebody didn't think about this shit as they were making it up…or I'm overthinking a film made for kiddie-winks.

At least it was amusing to ponder, whenever mention was made of Tom Riddle, as to whether he had a brother, James. (thinking)

Although there's some A-list British talent on screen, pretty much the only one who consistently got it right was Alan Rickman—when he was on screen, he was the best thing on screen. Michael Gambon was also believable, if you could ever believe that a grown man would dress like a bargain-basement end-of-pier fortune teller, as were Gary Oldman and David Thewlis—Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was my favourite instalment—and their characters' later deaths, along with Hedwig's, soured my appreciation of the series as a whole. But seeing grown adults, albeit pretenders, pointing sticks at each other and shouting bollocks in a wank-battle was excruciating. What were Julie Walters—playing Julie Walters in a ginger wig—and Helena Bonham Carter—showing us that she can match Margot Robbie and Johnny Depp in the hamming-it-up stakes—thinking? Other than of the pay cheque, that is. And it saddens me that many people's first, last, or most abiding memory of Richard Griffiths would be as Vernon Dursley: he deserved better than that.

At least I have seen the complete series now, so that I can say from experience that it's not my thing. I acknowledge, with good humour, that I lie outside the target demographic; not just due to age, but having a general dislike of child actors en masse, coupled with an unwillingness to suspend so much incredulity for so long a period of time. I've done my penance, and need suffer no more.

Nevertheless, my baby girl loves Harry Potter, it's important to her, and it has some undeniably redeemable moments. Sharing in her joy of it all was…almost magical. And that's good enough.


Our Potter oracle has since advised me that the prizes in the Triwizard Tournament were in no danger, because…reasons. This is made clear in the novel, but was lost in translation to the screen. So, if, like me, you came to the screen adaptation as a complete neophyte, you're excused for any confusion.