I didn't always like it. When the first book came out in 1997 I spot read in it and wasn't impressed. It seemed like a rehash of Lord of the Rings, which in book form I never liked much. On the eve of the movie debut in 2001 you could hear my yawn a block away. Then I saw the film.
Holy Cow! It was fascinating! I came out of the theater muttering, "So THAT'S what Rowling had in mind!" I couldn't believe what a blockhead I was for being so dense.
Looking back on it, I think my resistance had to do with Rowling's disappointingly normal dialogue and and narrative. It's not bad, it's just not special. You expect English writers to dazzle with language, and she doesn't. No only that but she writes in a mass market adolescent style, which strikes me as somewhat simplistic.
So why do I like her? It's because great assets outweigh great liabilities. She has an astonishing imagination. Add to that a wonderful ability with characters, an infectious idealism, and a marvelous way with scenes and images. On the film side, she's amazingly good at picking collaborators. Her choice of actors (above) and art directors was perfect, and her out-of-left-field choice of Chris Columbus to direct was inspired.
Here's (above) the real star of the story: Hogwarts Castle. It's a wonderful image. All by itself the picture of the school asks the question: "What if school was fun, what if it combined serious purpose with tradition and life and death struggle? What if the buildings themselves were monuments to the efficacy and noble purpose of man? What if marvelous, life-changing truths were revealed there? What if students were expected to be clever and adventurous, and not just passive receivers of knowledge? What if you made loyal, lifelong friends there? What if your own life, the only one you'll ever have, wasn't scrinched by muggles?"
Of course you don't travel to the world's best school on a plain old bus. Rowling has us take a real steam-driven train over trestles and through beautiful countryside that looks as much like Hawaii as England.
In the films directed by Chris Columbus, the interior of the school is beautifully art directed. I love this idea of candles hovering above tables in the dining hall (above). The addition of ghosts walking through doesn't hurt either.
Terrific set design (above) for the staircase sequences.
Above, the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. Very nice!
Above, Dumbledore's office as it's reconstructed in the theme park that opened in July. Can you believe that it took 13 years to get a small park going?
The park is okay, just okay. Can you believe how lame this candy store (above) is? It looks like the identical design used in the Zany Brainy stores. Come to think of it, Disneyland is full of stores like this. Did the designer take time to read any of the books?
The merchandising on Harry Potter has been woefully unimaginative. Potter could have sold 10 times the toys that it did. This reaffirms my belief that 80% of all toy executives should be tarred and feathered.
At least the park cafeteria (above) has an interesting ceiling. I think all ordinary high schools should have cafeterias with complex, interesting ceilings. Occasionally a kid will get hurt when illegally trying to climb in them, but that's to be expected. You don't want the world to be so safe that no one can have fun anymore.