The Harry Potter Experience

I read (or had read to me, or listened to the tapes of) the first four Harry Potter books, and then I went to college, and that was that. Since then I’ve managed to thoroughly forget most of the important plot details and a lot more from the series.

Much like with cancelled television shows, I found myself with renewed interest in the Potter franchise once the series was “finished.” I picked up an inexpensive paperback box set of the first six books a few months ago and last month finally got down to business. Tonight I finished the second book, and was surprised and amazed at how much I had forgotten, including the major plot twists. Which made it a lot of fun, actually, to experience it all over again.

That someone has decided to pick up Harry Potter doesn’t make for much of a story, but my friends and colleagues with whom I have shared my adventure suggest that my secondary pursuit is a bit more unorthodox and even interesting to the general public. Which strikes me as a little odd, but okay.

The twist is that I’m watching the Harry Potter movies, as well. *Simultaneously*. Well, not exactly, as that would be tough, but for both books one and two I’ve found that by the time I’m about a quarter of the way through the book, I’ve gotten the itch to see how certain things are portrayed on screen. So I’ve watched the movies up until the point when they catch up to where I am in the book, at which point I pause and continue to read. As I expected but which others find amazing, where I stop ends up being almost precisely a quarter of the way through the film.

And it repeats — I get to the half-way mark in the book, hit play, get half through the film, and pause, because I’ve caught back up. It maps that closely. This has held true for both the first and second movies, although the second had a few scenes chopped and other minor changes. But the timelines still lined up nearly perfectly, and the experience was utterly complementary and safe, in terms of revealing plot details and the like.

Which says something, although I’m not sure what, about the movie scripts and the directing and the editing.

Because I’ve watched the movies while reading the books, I’m in no position to judge them as films in their own right. But I can say that the films are *incredibly* true to the books — for better or worse. I suspect had I not been reading along I would have found the movies a real drag. The acting is in many places abysmal, and not just because of the 10-12 year old cast. Some of the choices they make in terms of switching lines and characters and combining plot points in the movies drive me a bit mad, seeing as they mess with the source material. Hermione’s reaction to the “mudblood” slur, in particular, was a sore point for me.

I have high hopes for the third movie, directed by the magnificent Alfonso Cuaron, except I’ve heard that my method of watching in real time won’t work with his film, which has been the most divergent from its source in the run of the series so far. So I won’t watch movie 3 while I read book 3, but I will watch it afterwards and compare it, let us hope favorably, to my experience with the first two.

Oh, and I hear if you read the book backwards from the end while playing the movie forwards, spooky patterns emerge. Try it!

Okay, not really.

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