Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Obliviate: Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts and Fan’s Selective Memory

harry_potter_and_fantastic_beasts_4dx_textless_by_mintmovi3-dajxg1p copyJ.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was released in the UK in 1997 and created a phenomenon that has lead to the sale of over 500 million books, in the 7 book series. Going back to the beginning, Rowling sells the rights to the series in 1999 for a mere £1 million. By the time that the first movie is released in 2001, there are 4 of the books in the series have already been released and in fact, every movie released will have the next book in the series already out. This means, for every Harry Potter film, there is never a time when people watching them, either don’t already know what happened, because they’d read the books or they could easily go and read online what they missed.

This gives the Harry Potter filmmakers a lot of freedom. If you’ve read the books and seen the movies,  you know how much of the story is left out. Especially as you get to  Prisoner of Azkaban and beyond, whole storylines are absent from the films and even what’s there is rushed for time since they didn’t seem to want  every movie be 3 hours long. Quick example, the end of Order of the Phoenix, and one of the most important chapters in the book is The Lost Prophecy. It’s arguably the most important chapter in the series as it’s finally the place where Harry truly understands his connection with Voldemort and what is to come, “…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…“. Yet the movie only gives about a minute to a minute and a half to this pivotal moment. The filmmakers rely heavily on the audience to fill in the gaps with their preexisting knowledge from the books or leave it open for them to look online for answers. The movies, for all their visual wonder are truncated versions of Rowling’s epic.

Why do I bring all of this up?

When the first Fantastic Beasts movie came out, I began to hear rumblings in the fandom that Rowling had lost her touch. It’s a criticism that has only gotten louder in some corners of the fandom with the release of Crimes Of Grindelwald. And one of the reasons why I think this is happening is because we’ve forgotten what it was like to be in Rowling’s world and not already have all the answers.

I started reading the books just as the fourth one was released, so I was part of that long wait for the fifth, sixth and seventh books. Like most fans, I was part of the midnight parties, waiting in line for the book, taking it home and devouring it as quickly as possible so I could then talk to my friends and those online about what I thought it all meant and speculate where it would all go next. It was half the fun of the series.

I can distinctly remember waiting for what would be called, Half-Blood Prince, talking with fans who were just sure it would be call, The Pillars of Storgé. Of course they were wrong, but the conversations had between fans then, was all about their favorite series and the speculation happened because we couldn’t wait to find out what Rowling had in store for Harry and his friends. Most importantly, we trusted Rowling as a writer. She’d already shown us her ability to weave a narrative, as well as truly surprise us.

13669129_10157190743835075_291675916011469870_nSo, what’s changed? Why are people so angry at Rowling and what she’s doing with Fantastic Beasts? Why have we forgotten the fun of eagerly waiting for the next installment of her work, all while having the time of our lives trying to figure out, from the breadcrumbs she’s laid, where the story goes next? We know she is a master at using the tiniest detail to create something completely unexpected and wonderful. I mean,  Deathly Hallows the is the proof. If you look at the structure of her screenplays, it’s very similar to how she wrote her books. You can feel the structure with the way she creates mystery, places people and things in the movies that might not be as important yet, but will play a larger role later. Then, she throws you for a loop by upending the mystery, explaining how what you thought was happening wasn’t quite right.

So what’s changed? I think the answer is that we’re spoiled. We’ve forgotten what it’s like to wait for things. We live in a binge culture. In fact, many people actually wait for a series to be over so they can start them and not have to wait. But this has hurt our ability to just enjoy what’s been given to us and wait for what comes next.

Secondly, the binge culture has also lead to the rise of militant fandoms who obsess about everything and begin to place themselves as gatekeepers over franchises and gods of the created universes they didn’t create. In fact it’s become common place to see people demean someone like Rowling or Lucas for “messing something up” in THEIR universes. Can you imagine Tolkien in the age of social media? He’d be crucified for retconning The Hobbit so that it fit better with Lord of the Rings. I mean the guy literally rewrote parts of his previous book to work with his larger mythology.

tumblr_nhm36njqle1rc13aso1_1280This sense of entitlement and peevishness is destroying our ability to enjoy things. As creators continue on in their creations, there may be things that change over time, but shouldn’t they be given the freedom to do that? It is their work after all. So what if Rowling has decided that McGonagall is older than we thought, does that really hurt anything? If she expands on what we know of boggarts, the Mirror of Erised or anything else, what’s wrong with that? Why do we think that just because we know something about a part of Rowling’s universe that we know everything? She’s continued to reveal things she knows about her creation that we do not and telling the creator they are wrong or have messed something up is the height of arrogance. In many ways, we’ve forgotten how to be okay with not knowing everything and having someone, other than ourselves be the arbiter of what’s “canon”.

The act of creating mythology, universes and stories is one that’s always evolving. As much as Rowling knows about her universe, and from all reports, in every interview with the other people involved in both film series I’ve seen or read, she knows almost everything, down to the smallest detail but she’s also still human. Like every author and creator, there will be things she’ll discover about her world as she expands it and she should be given the freedom to do so. Creation is a shear act of will, it’s been said, but it’s never been said to be perfect (unless you’re God), so maybe we can remember that as we wait for the next film in the Fantastic Beasts series. She has 3 more movies to answer our questions, therefore we cannot expect to have all the answers now, especially when we don’t have books to pull off our shelves to “spoil” the end.

Look for reviews of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald on The 602 Club and Cinema Stories podcasts.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Review

cn6q7eqvyaadlr7-jpg-origGet The 602 Club review is here.

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In 1926 a former Hogwarts student, Newt Scamander travels to New York with a case full of magical creatures only to find himself pulled into the strange world of magic in the United States, which is very different than Britain. The Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) is embroiled in a situation that threatens the safety of the wizarding community as well as the No-Majs (Muggles). It also jeopardizes the International Statute of Secrecy, risking the exposure of the wizarding world in America. Newt and his beasts may be just the thing needed to help bring to light the true forces at work.

Us vs Them

The Magical community has been hidden from the rest of the world since 1692 when the  International Confederation of Wizards enacted the International Statute of Secrecy to protect itself from Muggles or No-Majs. In America it has created an even stricter divide between the two worlds as witches and wizards are forbidden to marry non-magic folk. It’s created a sense of superiority in the magical community which Tina clearly show when she says to Newt, “Why would I want to marry him?”, pointing at Jacob, a No-Maj that has unwittingly become entangled in the wizarding world. The No-Maj world is no better. Mary Lou Barebone who runs an orphanage and the New Salem Philanthropic Society, works to indoctrinate the children she “cares” for and the people of New York of the dangers go witches and wizards in their midst. There is a real sense of tension that is palpable as each side cloisters in it’s group, spreading fear of the other.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-dan-fogler-alison-sudol-600x400The movie, in subtle ways, slowly undermines this idea of Us vs Them through the character of Jacob. In America, a No-Maj is immediately obliviated (a memory charm) so that they do not remember what they have seen of the wizarding community, yet circumstances in the film make that impossible. Jacob and Newt form a friendship, learn from one another as they share their worlds. Jacob also has a major impact on Tina and Queenie Goldstein who, for the first time in their lives, get to spend significant time with someone from the “other side”. It’s beautiful to see the fear of the unknown vanish as communication leads to the awareness that they’re not that different. In the real world where this happens every day, the message is clear, true knowledge of the “other” side only comes though interaction, communication and an open mind.

Stewardship

Newt loves the magical creatures of the world, the ones that people have discounted or worse, hunted down because of fear and misunderstanding. His main goal in studying, recording and publishing his book is to educate the magical community about the importance of these creatures, their benefits and to encourage their safeguarding. It’s interesting to see how the themes from the magical vs non-magical communities parallel with the magical community’s interaction with magical beasts. When fear, misinformation and lack of education drive people, the consequences to ourselves and the world around us can be devastating. The film, in both places, drives home the importance of cultivating a climate of learning, education and stewardship.

The Movie

This is the first of five movies in the Fantastic Beasts series, written specifically for the screen by J.K. Rowling. There is a really strength to this since there are no books to compare it to leaving the audience free to enjoy the film for it’s own sake. The movie does a good job of laying the foundations for the world of wizardry in this time period as well as what’s to come in the series. The cast is outstanding, with the relationship between Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein and Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski being a true highlight. James Newton Howard’s score is good, even if it never reached the heights of Williams and the production value, character design and world building is, well, magical. The film nicely begins it’s journey to telling the history of the Harry Potter universe that we got hints of in the previous series, making it a wonderful addition and expansion to the world, yet, at the same time, it stands on it’s own. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is rated 4 out of five Bowtruckles.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Review

911Xmhn9+rLWhen J.K. Rowling entered Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, one of the most contested parts was the ending that took place nineteen years later with the gang and their families at platform 9 3/4. Interestingly enough, this is exactly where the new book, the script of the play just released in London’s West End, begins. The story introduces us fully to Albus, Harry’s middle son and his struggle growing up in the shadow of the world’s savior. The story is poignant and had me choking back tears as I found myself in love with the world of Harry Potter all over again.

Past Suffering

Rowling has never downplayed the struggle of life or it’s unfairness. In direct opposition to so much of popular entertainment, the Harry Potter books have always embraced the ideas of suffer and death as natural. It’s echoed beautifully in the script when Dumbledore’s portrait tells Harry,

“Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”

It’s a powerful reminder to us all that life is not fair and that suffering is part of all our experiences. Suffering cannot be avoided, therefore you can only control how you let it affect you, mold you and teach you.

Suffering can often lead to the desire to change the past or into destructively obsessing over it, leaving us stuck. The Cursed Child‘s plot is a clear picture of what happens when we mess with time in such ways. Our past, our suffering, our experience make us who we are and the only thing that can change is the future. Harry points this out to Draco in the latter half of part two,

“Love blinds. We have both tried to give our sons, not what they needed, what what we needed. We’ve been so busy trying to rewrite our own pasts, we’ve blighted their present.”

Albus is struggling with all of these things plus the thought that he should have done better. This feeling drives him to do something that puts the entire world in extreme peril. So often we as humans are so hard on ourselves, willing to give grace to everyone else but us. Harry lovingly reminds Albus that both of the men that he’s named after were great, but also deeply flawed, we all are. We can do better and the future is wide open for us to, not though self flagellation but though using the lessons of the past change our future.

Conclusion

There are so many continuing Rowling themes in The Cursed Child, family, friendship, the power of love and the nature of life itself; I am honestly still mulling them over. What I can say for certain, this is a worthy addition to the Harry Potter story. Rowling has said that this will be the final story for Harry and if so it’s wonderful to know, all is well. The Cursed Child is rated 4.5 out of 5 wands.

The Magicians – Review

The-Magicians-Book-Cover-e1317909429117In 2009, Lev Grossman, a writer for some of the most popular newspapers and magazines in the world gave us a new fantasy book. The premise, what if the Harry Potter series and the Chronicles of Narnia had a child, but that child turned out to be a vulgar, “adult” perversion of it’s parents. This is The Magicians

The Good

The was one thing that stood out as a positive. The innate depravity of human kind is on full display. Every character is lost in a hopeless cycle of searching for happiness and never being able to find it. They are trapped in a life were there is nothing beyond themselves and the material world, even their fantasy realm is just as mundane and morose as the “real word”. It is a fantastic representation of darwinian, atheistic belief and the utter despair that kind of worldview fosters.

The Bad

The Magicians stands on the backs of fantasy genius, Rowling and Lewis, yet it lacks any of the heart, depth or soul of either. The plot meanders for far to long, following pointlessly vacant characters doing aimless things. There is no driving force to the plot or passion in the story. It is the post-modern Harry Potter/Narnia and it suffers under the weight of it’s hollowness.

Another important issue is the amorality of the characters. This fits perfectly with the feeling that Grossman seems to be striving for. The problem is it never rises above feeling like Harry Potter: The College Years. Grossman seems to revel in the salaciousness and profanity of his characters. The whole time it just feels forced, as a way to cover up for his constant and blatant ripping off of Rowling and Lewis; it’s the book’s undoing. By leaning so heavily on these pillars of fantasy, Grossman’s story falters, coming up completely void and empty in comparison. Tolkien and Lewis both speak of the power in fantasy and myth to teach as well as mirror the great story of the Gospel, even George Lucas with Star Wars understood this. Myth can guide and teach in ways no other literature can. Yet as you read The Magicians, the lack of purpose gnaws on you, reminding you that Lewis, Rowling and Tolkien are all on your shelf with the ability to wash away ruinous, joyless fantasy such as this.

Although there are many problems with this book, the last I’ll mention is the lack of joy and fun. All of the characters are completely lost and lifeless, eking out, what can only be considered vapid, wearisome lives that no one reading would wish for. The hopelessness and purposelessness translates to the reader, a rain cloud following you everywhere. It is sad because just as much as there should be some fun, fantasy can also be a very serious work and regrettably here too, the book fails. There is just not enough self reflection for the characters or meat to the story for there to be of any redeeming value. Fantasy should have a sense of awe and wonder, like Harry in Diagon Alley for the first time or Lucy entering the wintered Narnia to find a lamp-post in the wood. Unfortunately all The Magicians has to offer is drunk, drugged miscreants with little worth living for.

Conclusion

Do yourself a favor, pick up Narnia, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, something by Le Guin, Riordon or Asimov and leave The Magicians to gather dust at you local bookstore.

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Exclusive: Read J.K. Rowling’s new post for the latest Harry Potter ‘gossip’

550w_movies_harry_potter_epilogue_4Can’t get enough of Harry Potter? Then this is for you. Since March, best-selling author J. K. Rowling has been writing original stories about the imaginary 2014 Quidditch World Cup Finals for Pottermore, the online home for the world of Harry Potter. 

Rowling shared her latest Pottermore.com story exclusively with TODAY.com. Written in the voice of the fictional Daily Prophet’s gossip correspondent Rita Skeeter, this post centers around the reunion of Harry Potter and his friends at the Quidditch World Cup Finals. Click here for the new Harry Potter Story 

For Taylor Swift, the Future of Music Is a Love Story

taylor-swift-red-largeWhere will the music industry be in 20 years, 30 years, 50 years?

Before I tell you my thoughts on the matter, you should know that you’re reading the opinion of an enthusiastic optimist: one of the few living souls in the music industry who still believes that the music industry is not dying…it’s just coming alive

Gbj6CRxJustice’ is served with another helping of Superman

Who’s better, Superman or Batman? Zack Snyder doesn’t have to choose a favorite since he’s getting to put both on the big screen at the same time.

The director of last year’s Man of Steel doubles down on A-list superheroes in his follow-up Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (in theaters May 6, 2016), teaming a returning Henry Cavill as the big guy in the cape and “S” on his chest with Ben Affleck as the latest cinematic incarnation of the Dark Knight.

Europe Is Starting to Take American Soccer Seriously (Seriously!)

article-2594795-1CC15A9B00000578-590_634x457Did American soccer just win the football world’s respect?

The World Cup is over for the U.S.A. after a heartbreaking loss to Belgium. But that defeat made for what some regard as perhaps the best match of a tournament that has thrilled from the start. More importantly, the U.S. has been called a “world-class team” by the likes of Barry Glendenning, the ever-critical football writer from The Guardian. Glendenning is perhaps not the Supreme Leader of Football (that title belongs to Sepp Blatter), but he is near the epicenter of international football, and he does not compliment teams lightly.

The real story behind the war over YA novels

91o13sPo7VLFew categories of literature right now seem to receive the level of hatred reserved for young adult fiction, which is the subject of nearly endless editorials on its supposed inanity, excessive sexuality, darkness, and girlyness. It doesn’t escape notice that there’s a strong whiff of sexism underlying the wave of YA hate—the genre is heavily dominated by women, and female authors can recount their experiences with sexism first hand.

Coming Out as a Christian

social-mediaI’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live transparently—especially when it comes to my digital life. For as long as I’ve been on social media (I first joined Facebook in 2005), I’ve oscillated between expressing myself honestly and expressing contrived personas that I broadcast on Twitter, Instagram, and everywhere else.

Take, for instance, my well-documented love of Rolling Rock. Anyone who follows me on any website knows I’ve posted endlessly about the famously watery beer for the past three years. My Instagram feed was once a veritable shrine to Rolling Rock. My friends gave me four cases of it for my birthday last year. Heck, my Twitter fan club (yes, it’s still weird to me, too) uses a picture of Rolling Rock as its header image! I know how to advertise my love for a product.

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Owl Post: 2-3-2012

In Defense of Katniss Everdeen:

risa-rodils-catching-fireCatching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games trilogy, has set theater records, and like its predecessor, it’s an impressive, gritty film. Suzanne Collins wrote a gripping series of young-adult novels, and the film adaptations have been well cast and well directed, especially the choice of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the film’s star and protagonist. Lawrence manages to easily embody both Katniss’s tenacity and also her youthful ignorance at the high-stakes politics of her situation.

Why Harry Potter is Great Literature:

harry-potter-series-books-7I enjoy spending time with people who appreciate great literature. The number of my friends who are intimate with Dante or Tolkien or Austen is, as Oscar Wilde would say with a wink, “considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance.” My book-loving church regularly ships in world-class English professors to give lectures and field the usual round of questions about Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Aragorn and Faramir.

And I’ve noticed that in these circles, it’s often a faux pas to admit that I, like nearly every other Millennial in America, own extremely well-loved copies of all seven Harry Potter books. And I would lose all credibility with many of these people if I suggested offhand that I think the Potter books are in the tradition of the great English novels, deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence, and are easily the most morally and socially insightful works of fantasy published in this generation.

The Real Truth about ‘Boring’ Men:

10298738-silhouette-of-a-man-on-a-mountainSo not every guy proposes with lip syncingrolling cameras, and a choreographed entourage.

Yeah —  so what if  your Dad didn’t?

He just pulled that beat-up Volkswagon Rabbit of his over in front of Murray Reesor’s hundred acre farm right there where Grey Township meets Elma Township, pulled out a little red velvet box, and whispered it in the snowy dark: “Marry me?”

How Doctor Who Survived 50 Years:

Untitled-1When it started in 1963, Doctor Who should not have succeeded. A committee created it, to fill a time slot. It had a small budget. The BBC intended for it to be a children’s educational show focusing on science and history. Oh, and it debuted the night after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

And yet it worked, as seen in the incredible hype preceding Saturday’s 50th anniversary special—an extra-long, star-filled special called “The Day of the Doctor.”

Gospel-Centered Sex?

I recently read an article from a prominent blogger on the subject of the new “gospel-centered” emphasis in books. He commented on various books that applied the gospel to every area of life from the ivory towers of theology, to the mom caught up in the chaos of home and family. One quote at the end of his blog got me thinking: There is not yet a “Gospel-Centered Sex” book; however, it is probably on the way and may well be very helpful! If a couple consistently applies the implications of the gospel to the marriage bed, they will inevitably have a healthier marriage.”

How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home:

Every Imperfect and Normal Family wants their kids to turn out right. So, we establish goals for character development and try to create an environment where our kids can mature. Church, school, sports teams, family relationships… each of these provides a context where our kids can learn to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Too many times, (Christian) parents have it as their goal to make their kids good and moral. It is as if the entire purpose of their family’s spiritual life is to shape their children into law-abiding citizens who stay out of trouble. The only problem with this goal is that it runs in stark contrast to what the Bible teaches. The gospel is not about making bad people moral, but about making dead people alive. If we teach morality without the transforming power of the gospel and the necessity of a life fully surrendered to God’s will, then we are raising moral pagans.

Stopping An Affair Before It Begins:

At one time or another, most of us witnessed the devastation that comes through infidelity in marriage. We have seen marriages stretched almost to the breaking point and we have seen marriages destroyed by an unfaithful husband or unfaithful wife.

Affairs do not begin with sex. Falling into bed with a man who is not your husband or a woman who is not your wife is simply one step in a long chain of events, one decision in a long series of poor decisions.

J.J. Abrams at TED in 2007: The Mystery Box

Harry Potter, Easter and the Passion of the Christ

“Harry understood at last that he was not supposed to survive. His job was to walk calmly into Death’s welcoming arms.”

Harry willfully walks in the the embrace of death to protect those he loves. He surrenders himself to his destiny and in the end defeats death by death. He has a choice, he could run, but he gives himself freely for the greater good.

As I was sitting in church today, I was thinking about this scene from Harry Potter over and over again. Some people might think it strange that I would be thinking about a movie while sitting in church, so I will explain why. The sermon today was all about surrender. The pastor talked about Jesus and how his whole life was nothing but surrender. First he surrendered his place in heaven to come to earth as a human. Then, he surrendered his comfort to grow up and live his life in the backwoods of the Roman empire, not really heaven on earth. And most importantly, he surrendered his life to the will of the Father and gave himself up to be nailed to a cross when he could have called down twelve legions of angels to wipe out all who would dare touch him. Jesus surrenders it all to do what I cannot.  He pays the price for my sin, but he also gives me what I need to change; because here’s the thing about surrender, I can’t do it by myself. The power to lay down myself does not come from me, it comes through the work that Christ does on the cross and the power of his resurrection. Tullian Tchividjian says it like this,

 “Therefore, it’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the complete work of Jesus for us. The fuel to do good flows from what’s already been done. So again, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.”

So when it comes to surrendering all to the Father in the way Christ does, I must look to what Christ has done and know it’s not about what I do, but it is about what he has done. Therefore it is through the power of the gospel that I can lay myself aside and follow him with everything I am. I can surrender, because he has already surrendered himself for me, and has given himself as a ransom for many.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV)