Why I love Harry Potter

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I was one of those people who thought ‘why on earth are adults reading Harry Potter? It’s for children isn’t it!’.  Then, when The Philosopher’s Stone was released at cinemas in 2001, two of my friends dragged me along…..I got hooked.

Ron, Harry and Hermione (so cute!)

Let’s face it, if Harry Potter wasn’t any good there would not have been so many of Britain’s finest actors clamouring for a part.  Like the Star Wars saga/franchise, you would have to live on another world to have not heard of Harry Potter.

For anybody who knows nothing about Harry Potter (all five of you), Harry is an orphan being brought up by his nasty Aunt and Uncle Dursley who treat him like a slave.  On Harry’s eleventh birthday he discovers his parents were part of a wizard world he was not aware of and he is invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.  Harry finds out his parents were murdered by an evil wizard named Voldemort, who tried to kill Harry and failed.  Harry was left with a lightening-shaped scar on his forehead.  The boy who lived.  Voldemort disappeared.  Harry befriends Ron Weasly and Hermione Granger at Hogwarts.  He settles in to the wizarding world, but all is not as it seems, Voldemort has returned……

Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore

In my opinion, the first two films are aimed at a younger audience and don’t fully reflect J.K. Rowling’s books, although they are a good start.  My favourite film is The Prisoner of Azkaban where director, Alfonso Cuaron, took over the reins from Chris Columbus.  Mike Newell directed The Goblet of Fire and subsequently David Yates the final four films.  The film is more muted in colour with greys, blues and greens (the ensuing films retain this winning look).  This reflects the change of direction in story and characters from jolly wizarding japes to serious, people are getting killed, storylines.  I also prefer Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore.  I loved Richard Harris, but Gambon’s Dumbledore is more steely and less twinkly-eyed/cuddly, if that’s the word I am looking for, truer to Rowling’s character.

For children, the appeal of Harry Potter is the magic and fantasy.  For everybody else, the eternal themes of friendship, good against evil, choices, bravery (I adore Neville Longbottom in Deathly Hallows, part 2), right and wrong, along with fun escapism, appeals to their inner child.  It is also the attention to detail and richly drawn characters in Rowling’s world that is wonderful.

In terms of casting, these films could not fared any better.  The actors are all perfect for their characters, Snape, Bellatrix, Lucius Malfoy and Sirius, in particular.  The child/teen cast are likeable and each bring their character to life from the pages of Rowling’s books.  Dan Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grew up whilst making these films and it is noticeable in their acting, it improves with each film.  Unusually, for child stars, as young adults they all appear to be thoroughly likeable and unspoilt.  Great role models for youngsters.

My (now) 6 year old started watching Harry Potter last Christmas and loved it.  I was apprehensive over him finding it scary, but he was fine.  His friends with older siblings have seen the films too.  I think if you know your child, you will know what is acceptable for them.  We intend to watch the films, one each Sunday afternoon, on the build-up to Christmas.  A new, yearly, film tradition.

I see nothing wrong with being a ‘grown-up’ and watching these films.  The world can be a little dreary sometimes and a bit of Hogwarts magic is just what is needed.  Expecto patronum!

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Albus Dumbledore

 

 

Lord of the Rings

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Like many others, I was a fan of Tolkien’s trilogy long before Peter Jackson and New Line brought the films to our screens in 2001.  My first introduction to Tolkien’s world was at 9 years of age when my school screened Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated version of the books.  I did not discover until I read the books, as a teen, that his version stopped mid-way through The Two Towers.  However, this was my entrée into Middle Earth and I was hooked.

For any (rare) people who don’t know the story of Lord of the Rings, it is about Frodo Baggins, a hobbit, who is left a ring by his Uncle, Bilbo Baggins.  The ring happens to be the most powerful thing in Middle Earth and the dark lord Sauron wants it back.  With this ring, Sauron and his dark army of orcs, goblins and uruk-hai will be able to control Middle Earth.  Frodo, along with his hobbit friends, Sam, Pippin and Merry, end up on an adventure, travelling through Middle Earth, in a quest that must see Frodo destroy the ring….but, will it destroy him first?  To help Frodo on his quest are; Gandalf the Grey, Aragorn (a mysterious Ranger), Boromir, Legolas (an elf) and Gimli (a dwarf).  The trilogy is also about these friends and how they all have their own part to play in helping Frodo.

Hobbiton

In my early 20’s, I eagerly followed the production progress of Peter Jackson’s films via Empire magazine and I vividly remember the first published photos of the ringwraiths.  I think those pictures went viral.  Here was a director who was a Tolkien fanboy too.  Any cynicism was erased because I was looking at Tolkien’s world coming to life.

The Nasgul/Ringwraiths/Black Riders

The LoTR films have already become modern classics.  As with any other film in this category, casting is key.  Peter Jackson found a cast who lived and breathed their characters, they invested themselves in the whole process with him and realised these films were a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Frodo Baggins, Pocket-Sized Hero

If the actors don’t believe in the story, or director, how will it ever translate well on screen (for example, Natalie Portman in the Star Wars films).  Before these films and Andy Serkis, who ever would have thought they would sympathise with Gollum?

Gollum/Smeagol

Everybody has a favourite character, or characters.  I love Legolas, Eowyn and Sam.  My 5 year old is already a fan and he loves Legolas, Boromir and Frodo.  Legolas  because he is just too cool for school, surfing on shields as he fires arrows at orcs, taking down olyphants and making it look effortless.  Eowyn feels trapped and wants to help fight for those she loves.  She proves very brave indeed.  And Sam?  Sam is loyal and true and loves his friend, Frodo, and would do anything for him.

Boromir of Gondor

Boromir: “It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.”

There are stand-out cinematic moments in each of the three films.  For me personally, I love the Mines of Moria sequence, Helm’s Deep, I love Eowyn standing up to and destroying the Witch King and, although it made me cry, the scene with the boat departing for the undying lands (I will say no more, no spoilers!).

Merry and Pippin (probably thinking about second breakfast)

Friendship runs at the heart of each film, the Fellowship of 9, Sam and Frodo, Merry and Pippin, Merry and Eowyn, Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn, Aragorn and Boromir.  It is these relationships that also carry the films through.

Eowyn, Shield-Maiden of Rohan

Peter Jackson achieved what George Lucas did not (with episodes 1-3) and created a world that you could see, feel and touch.  The land of the Shire and Hobbiton were created a year before filming so that they had a lived in, real look and it shows in the films. Most of the sets and locations were real and the bits of CGI that are in the films, are so well done that you forget it’s CGI.  You know that Peter Jackson believes in the books, his work, the creative process and getting it right and it comes out through every pore of these films.

Frodo: “I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here, at the end of all things.”

Trivia:

Peter Jackson gave one of the rings used in the movies to both Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis as gift when the shoot was finished. They both thought they had the only one

The Fellowship of 9 actors (Sean Bean, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Ian Mckellen, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan) all got a tattoo with the elvish word for ‘9’.  John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) did not, but his stunt double did.

Christopher Lee (Saruman) reads the LoTR’s books once a year and has met Tolkien.

Images: IMDb and LoTR.wiki