Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Mystery that is Harry Potter

I probbly should na say this, but here goes. (SPOILER ALERT)

What is so great about Harry Potter? I've read all six books now, seen all four movies, and I still can't figure it out.

I'm not saying they suck, because they don't. They are extremely engaging stories. But like the very worst secret agent and superhero films, the plots are for the most part laughably unlikely.

Take the Goblet of Fire, for instance. If you are powerful enough a wizard to defeat and capture an ex-Auror like Moody and take his place, fooling everyone including Dumbledore, why in God's name do you need to go through the whole elaborate Tri-Wizards Tournament and risk the million different ways it can go wrong and you be discovered and your identity revealed, if all you really want to do is kidnap Harry Potter and take him to Voldemort? It's ridiculously complicated. Catch him in Hogsmeaded and teleport him out! Problem solved.

But Goblet of Fire is one of the best of the series! It's a great story, but the plot makes not a lick of sense. That's not supposed to happen!

Now take Chamber of Secrets. Tom Riddle wasn't really after Harry Potter. Jenny Weasley made a much better target. Harry only found the magical diary by accident, and the accident made sense in the plot. The story is much more plausible. And it sucks. It's not the worst of the series, but it is second worse.

The worst is definitely Order of the Phoenix. If ever there was a filler book in a series, that was it. Two chapters at the beginning of Half-Blood Prince would have been sufficient to cover everything in Order of the Phoenix, and it would have spared us from having to watch Harry Potter act like an obnoxious 15-year-old for 500 pages. The whole thing was dreadfully tiresome, and nothing but a set-up for Half-Blood Prince. Again, if all Voldemort needed was for Harry to get the prophecy, why the elaborate set-up? Just do it, man!

So why is it that the series is so good? I have very discriminating tastes in fiction. I recently read two of the giants of spec fic - Ringworld and Ghost Story. I was impressed by neither. I'd say Ghost Story was relatively awful. But Ringworld is considered one of the great all time sci-fi novels, Ghost Story one of the scariest horror novels ever written (whatever!). Not to me, they weren't. So when I say the Harry Potter series is good, I mean it.

But I can't, for the life of me, figure out why they are good.


sdfsdfsdf said...

Hi, nice to see another Harry Potter fan! I think we all like the story because something just clicks, the story line the characters are just addictive. Did you write the books under "My Novel".

my blog:

Jeff said...

Yes, I wrote those. I also wrote the short stories under My Stories. Thanks for visiting.

polijn said...

What I can't figure out is why there are teenage girls out there writing so much fanfic where Harry & Ron are gay. Gah. Fanfic.

Jeff said...

Aren't they?

Hel said...

It's popular/good for the same reason Ender's Game is read by every 6th-8th grader. It's a daydream in novel form. Who doesn't want to be the orphaned loner who then discovers that he's a super-talented wizard with a knack for flying destined to destroy the ultimate evil and save the world. But there's also enough danger/humor/'but I just want to be normal' thrown into the mix that it doesn't feel too much like wish fulfillment.

That's my theory at least. Oh and I bet the pages are laced with crack cocaine. Which must be the reason that I've gone to the bookstore at /midnight/ for the release of the last 3 novels. It can't be that I'm just a dork. Nope. Not possible. :)

Jeff said...

Well, if the pages are as you say, then Order of the Phoenix must have had a bad batch because I could not wait to finish that book. I was rooting for Voldemort by the end.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it that a Dragonlance movie is in the making. What do you think about that?

Jeff said...

I know that Tracy Hickman has been shopping a script for years.

But if he can find someone in Hollywood who will let Tracy/Margaret/Wizards retain creative control, it'll be a miracle. My understanding is that creative control has been the biggest obstacle to a Dragonlance movie in the past.

Standard practice is the studio buys your script and rewrites it however the hell they want. Tracy obviously doesn't want that to happen. Under the right conditions, a good director and screenwriter could probably improve on the story, but that's not how things usually work out unless you've got a Kubrick making the movie.

The first Dungeons and Dragons movie was horrible because TSR/Wizards didn't have creative control. The second Dungeons and Dragons movie was only slightly better when Wizards did have some creative control.

I hope they don't let the people who made the second D&D movie make the Dragonlance movie. But my guess is that it will end up being a made-for-SciFi-Channel or USA Network movie rather than a big-screen summer blockbuster.


jehlo said...

The books are brain candy, man. They're easy reads and fun, at that. It's really a simple answer for me. They make me feel like a kid again, I suppose. That's the fun in 'em for me, anyway.

blog queen said...

Although I have read all the Harry Potter books, I can honestly say that they are not my favorite. I tend to find the plots mundanely the same. Yet I read them because I teach middle school and want to keep up on them because my kids do.

Also, I agree they are an easy read. I put them in the category with many other "beach books" that I read in the summer. These are books that don't make me have to "think" a lot. Unlike say, "The Good Earth", which I have picked up and put down twice now. I MUST finish it someday. Or for example "The Tale of Two Cities" which really made me think a whole bunch. Also on the must think list is "The House of the Scorpion" by Nancy Farmer. A really good read that makes you THINK.

And I think Enders Game is a cut above Harry Potter. I believe the underlying currents of how adults manipulate children, particularly smart children, is the real theme of the story. But hey, that's just me. I recommend it to my Academically Gifted Kids all of the time. They actually "get" how adults use kids for their own purposes, because they very often live that.