Worldwide – It was November of 2001 when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone began a decade long shockwave in planetary pop culture. Though the first three books had been out since 1999 and before, the 2 hour and 22 minute film was everything a generation of kids had been waiting for; imagination, fantasy, and being a kid. A hero.
On Harry Potter’s eleventh birthday, Hagrid takes Harry to the opening gates of an adventure that no one expected and would last until he became a young adult. Once on Platform nine-and-three-quarters, through Diagon alley, Gringott’s bank, Ollivander’s Wand Shop, and the Hogwarts express we go. Striking the near perfect blend of a family film while eventually taking a serious turn in the series, the books and the films set themselves up perfectly for rising conflicts within the story as well as rising profits in this commercially viable phenomenon. It had heart, it had friendship, it had a school for witchcraft and wizardry, and it had merchandising. Not to be cynical (and it was NOT all about money) but big stories and profits like these come around but once or twice per generation, arguable only three have been so memorable: Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the Harry Potter series. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant, Muggle. HP is here to stay.
The first and second book of the series is where we will begin our journey. Both film adaptations were written by Steve Kloves and directed by Chris Columbus; titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (in the UK) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets respectively. By and large this series began innocently enough and that was understandable. The topics and themes available to the characters and the story this early one would have felt out of place to have been too heavy and too serious (as the series later became and was more than welcome.) What we are given in the beginning is the introduction of the characters and the jargon of the world. Masterfully did J.K. Rowling paint the reader a detailed world of magic, magic, and more magic. Everything from the names of people, to the incantations, to the robes and the common household items had a name unlike our own to give the world extraordinary depth and wonder. The first two books, while establishing a larger plot conflict to come later, mostly focused on learning how these characters operate within their world and with each other. Harry Potter; the boy who lived, somehow spared by “You-Know-You”. But why? How? Hermione Granger; the smarty pants over-achiever who saved the boys more times than she cares to remember. Brilliant girl. Ron Weasley; the awkward, red-headed goof who many can relate to and, surprisingly, at least once the films came out, became the idol of many teen girl’s affection.
Together, these three characters plus an equally dimensional and realized cast (including many wonderful and sometimes shady professors, Luna Lovegood, Lucius Malfoy, and Neville Longbottom, etc.) make these two books necessart for the true appreciation of what is to come. Especially in the third book.
But for me, now that I am in my mid-twenties, these books do feel young to me, as do the films, and will always have a place in my heart—however I will be returning to them rarely. I know the basics already, and that’s what these books and movies represent. They are the starting gate. The movies and books I will surely return to first if given the choice are the stories which come after this. If you are gripped in anyway by these first two tales, you are going to be falling in love with J.K.’s series with the tales to come. Get ready. (Harry Potter Series continues in an upcoming blog with even more depth and analysis…)