Six of the eight Harry Potter movies are out and the thing to be noted is that they have been so consistent in quality. These movies have excellent production values, the special effects are there in a good measure but they never overawe you. As Harry Potter was literature before anything else, they are very well grounded story-wise. Its not something stretched from cartoons or cooked up just for the sake of producing a SFX heavy movie.
The story itself seems to borrow a lot from fantasy-lore and is yet fresh. The forces of dark and fair is familiar to the readers of LOTR already, but unlike LOTR, Harry Potter is based in current times. The magic world is parallel to the normal world. We are all poor magicless muggles, doomed to live our lives as we know it, while somewhere we cannot see, lies a world where battle rages between the good and evil forces.
Hogwarts seems like the countless boarding school stories we gobbled up when young. For me, notably, the Mallory Towers and St.Clare's series. The children grow up and learn values in these series, quite similar to the kids in Hogwarts. There are feasts and sports and studies. Except in Harry Potter books they learn about the dark arts, fortelling future and casting spells.
The horcrux that contain the soul of the dark lord is also so similar to the evil magician who could not be killed because his life was in a parrot kept in a cage in a faraway castle.
The muggles world which Harry Potter grew up in is so Dickensian. He is an oppressed and disadvantaged orphan, subject to ridicule by his foster parents, living in a tiny room and denied any privileges or rights. He is denied any knowledge of his legacy, and is not allowed any letters even. By contrast, in the magic world he is famous, rich and accomplished. The magic world could be a fantasy of a poor orphan, like the magic world conjured up by the match-girl. But this world is so real, that you quite believe something like this could be going on right now.
So while Harry Potter story absorbs so many elements from other such tales, it is unique in its own way. There are no elves and dwarves and talking animals, but there are lot of people who work magic, giants and weird animals. Its world is lovable and warm and full of people you like instantly. Like Hagrid, Dumbledore, the weasly twins. Hermonine and Ron are the kinds of friends you would like to have.
Yes ! No wonder the books and the movies have such a hold on millions of children and grown-ups.
The books were so vivid and popular that it was inevitable that they would be made into movies.
In the first movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone we were shown the poor orphan boy who is having a bad time with his foster parents. He soon discovers his wonderful legacy and enters the world of wizards. Unlike the muggles world where he is a disadvantaged orphan, here he is already famous and rich. Along with Harry it was great to step into Hogwarts, the moving staircases, the talking pictures, the talking hats, Hermoine, Ron, Dumbledore, quidditch. OH the WHOLE JING BANG ! This movie will never lose its sheen for me.
Things are still at kid-level, but are getting a bit serious. The world is still hooked on to Harry Potter. He is gradually getting more clues to his legacy. Looking back it is easy to connect the unease with which Harry will later face regarding the pull of the dark side.
The kids are no longer wee. In this one they have to take some action. It is really my favorite of all (so far) HP movies. Ron-Hermoine action starts tentatively. Hermoine looks fabulous. Emma Watson is turning into a hottie without getting into the gauchy teen phase. Sirius Black is not what they thought he would be. Harry gains a godfather.
Harry finds himself embroiled in a serious game which could be fatal. Goblets of Fire does result in a death, that of a senior student. But Harry comes out of it, growing wiser and stronger by the year.
Decidedly dark, Harry begins to find out the extent of evil that the dark lord can summon around him. In this bleak movie, Harry learns what makes him different, its his friends who nourish his soul and keep him away from evil.
Harry has to learn how to be quick on his feet, be a bit of a sleuth, be a bit clever to find the means to serve his needs. He has lost one friend already and must lose another. He knows now that the time has come when he has to venture out and seek to defeat the Dark Lord.
The last book in the series is to be made into TWO movies, slated to be released in the years 2010 and 2011. Here is wishing there is no postponement and our decade long fellowship with Harry Potter comes to a satisfactory culmination.