Harry Potter vs. Voldemort – so what?

The Deathly Hallows. Review.

Review of The Deathly Hallows (2010), by Stefan Stenudd


It might be blasphemy, but I have trouble appreciating the Harry Potter stories. I might not even know what I'm talking about, because I only managed to read something like a hundred pages of the first book – the rest is just what I've seen in the movies. That's fine with me.



       I just saw the last set of Harry Potter movies, The Deathly Hallows, and I can't believe they made the books justice.

       The first part was consistently dark, with minimal colors – mainly blue and greenish to signal angst. Who would enjoy two and a half hours of that? And for what?

       It was frequently obvious that scenes were extended for no other reason than to fill a movie night halfway through the book. J. K. Rowling had announced that this was the last one, which was obvious enough from the book's ending, so everybody was eager to cash in as much as possible.

       The seventh and last movie made it clear that these movies were made only for the fans, who knew their Harry Potter stories by heart. The plot was so chaotic and unclear that only the ones already very familiar with it could follow. That's not a movie. It's just a very elaborate way of retelling a story the listeners already know, just because they want to hear it again.

       Well, lots of people have read most of the Harry Potter books, so the huge audience received was no surprise.

       But the movies are reported to have been quite truthful to the books, and J. K. Rowling seems firm enough to have made sure of it. Then, I must conclude that there is much lacking in her own work.

       The reason I lost interest in the first Harry Potter book after some 100 pages was its predictability and lack of imagination. It's just a regular English boarding school, spiced up with a little magic – of such conventional kind: wands and brooms. Come on! Aleister Crowley yawns in his grave.

       When it comes to magic I need the writer to show some insight into it. How does it work and why does it work? The most believable stories about magic show clever intricacy, giving the impression of the author being the foremost of magicians. It has to contain a somehow believable magic cosmology.

       In the Harry Potter stories, though, the wands are mostly used like the revolvers of cowboys. Bang! Bang! This spell and that spell in toy Latin, as if magic works with the same mechanically straight cause and effect as every phenomenon of natural science. That's not magic. Fireworks, maybe. Special effects and Hocus Pocus, but not magic.

       What was also trite and boring was the very conventional black and white of the whole Harry Potter setup. Good, innocent people fighting genuinely evil ones. A villain striving for power just to have it, and heroes struggling to stop him from getting it. It's never that easy, never that black and white.

       Already the unbalance of evil being so much more powerful – except at the very last scene of each movie, though mostly almost only by chance – is as twisted as it's common in fiction. Evil keeps popping up its ugly head, but is always outnumbered, inferior, doomed. Sometimes it takes a while and proves costly, but there you have it. Evil is a loser.

       It's like darkness and light. The former is utterly helpless against the latter. There's no match. Just let there be light and the darkness is blown away, as effortlessly as if by speaking the words only. That's how it is.

       Even in fairytales and their recent incarnation fantasy, this has to be understood. A story is pointless when its villains do bad things just because they want to be bad. Aristotle stated that in a good drama, the characters should act as they must, because of the situation they are in. No good or bad. Just people trying to do the best of the mess they are in.

       So, for example, what drives Voldemort? Why does he act the way he does? Evil is no answer, just another question: why is he evil – or more correctly: why does he persist with evil deeds?

       The same should be asked about Harry Potter. Why does he continue to struggle, fight, and suffer tremendously? Not because he's righteous. That's as blank as being evil. In these stories, it seems the only reason he has is that Voldemort keeps hunting him.

       Predator and prey. Not interesting enough for seven increasingly thick books and eight increasingly dark movies.

       No, I find so many things lacking in the Harry Potter suite – as far as I know it. Nothing tempts me to sit down and read all the brick size novels. There are so many other books of which I know that the reward for reading them is immense.

       The Harry Potter series has gone on for something like ten years. J. K. Rowling allowed for her characters to grow accordingly. I guess that's why her initial audience kept following. They grew with the stories, or the other way around. But will coming generations care to embark on the same voyage?

       Maybe some of the children of that first generation of followers will, inspired by their parents. Maybe. But they are better served with new fantastic stories – hopefully ones that say something profound about life, the world, and everything.

Stefan Stenudd
December 26, 2011




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