By the book

Toby Young on Harry Potter

16 July 2011

I must confess to being completely unmoved by the Harry Potter phenomenon. The books strike me as derivative and bland, and the film versions are, if anything, even worse — faithful adaptations of schlock. Pulp fiction can be transformed into art, but only if the film-makers treat the source material with a healthy amount of disrespect (see The Godfather). The various writers and directors who’ve worked on the Harry Potter franchise behave like Talmudic scholars adapting the Holy Book. Or, rather, seven Holy Books, God help us.

Some grudging acknowledgment is due to David Yates, director of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, the latest film in the series. Splitting the last book into two parts was probably a cynical ploy by Warner Bros to extract one more egg from the Golden Goose, but it’s freed Yates from having to compress 500+ pages of narrative into 120 minutes. For once, the spectacle and magic aren’t sandwiched in between the building blocks of some interminable plot. All that guff about rendezvousing with Dumbledore at Ravensbrook before Voldemort can release the Tormentors is kept to a minimum. (Note to Potter fans: I deliberately got that wrong.)

Daniel Radcliffe is as leaden-footed as ever, but Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman are there to lend the proceedings a bit of class. The Potter franchise has been praised for providing these old British warhorses with lucrative employment. Let’s hope they’ve now earned enough to retire and won’t be tempted to whore themselves out again for a son-of-Potter franchise.

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  • Massive public sector expansion under Brown

    Totally agree with you-except a la Whitehouse I`ve deliberately never watched or read a single emission from JK. Was she in favour of AV?

  • Noleen Wyatt-Jones

    Toby, you are one of my favourite columnists but on this issue I have to disagree….Harry Potter, whether book or film has become a cultural icon. You may not like it but I assure you that you are in the minority and there is much to commend it. It brought hordes of boys back to reading and has given huge cinematic pleasure and whilst it may not be ‘worthy’ it is still relevant! The producers and directors who have chosen to be involved with the Harry Potter franchise have done so for good reason…yes they have made money but also they have produced films which will stand the test of time!

    Be a man and admit that you are wrong…after all I can’t believe that you are the same man who has written so eloquently on so many different issues and deep down you know you love it!!!

  • Johnjohn

    Toby, I’m not a fan of yours and have posted adverse comments on some of your articles, but I forgive you everything (I’ll bet that makes your day!) for your comments on this Harry Potter rubbish. Its popularity is a fitting comment on our present day society.

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