Sunday, July 19, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Just saw Harry Potter and enjoyed the movie, as I knew I would. The juxtaposition of the life-and-death action with the tween-romance humor was a bit odd, but entertaining. The movie was dark, but that's true to the spirit of the book. Although it makes me think if you'd just seen the first movie and then skipped ahead to this one, it'd be almost unrecognizable as part of the same series. It's an interesting effect that mood of the series changes (grows up maybe?) over the course of the seven books. I thought the editing was well done and the movie was visually awesome, as usual. My cousin, Drew, says that the last book will be split into two movies - I think that's fine - more chance of getting in the details and extending the Harry Potter world for a bit longer.

Actually, thinking about how long the Harry Potter saga has been going on is pretty crazy - I distinctly remember a number of Harry-Potter-related milestones in my life.

I didn't immediately join the Harry Potter craze (the first book was released in 1997). I first read it on a plane ride when my Mom gave it to me, insisting I would like it. I think it was on a plane home from Germany after eleventh grade (July 2001). I know that I finished before getting off the plane, and was completely hooked from that point on. Lucky for me books 1-4 were already available, so I could read them all immediately. (The third was, and still is, my favorite.)

Since then, I've read the first book many times, including out-loud to Paul Colling while working at Marcus Cinemas - it was part of our research in creating promos for the release of the first movie. The movie actually came out during the Thanksgiving weekend of my senior year (Nov. 2001), and me, my mom, Paul, and his Mom, were all in London for the holiday. We saw it hours after arriving in London - at a theater in Piccadilly Circus.

The fifth book came out in June 2003 - I had just finished my freshman year at MIT and was living in Theta Xi for the summer.

The release of the sixth book posed a challenge for me, and I remember it well. It was released on July 16, 2005 - the summer I was living in a village in India. I was determined to get the book, though, so Pooja and I took a trip from the village into Pune, the nearest city. Though we had work to do the next day, I couldn't put it down, read all night, and was just finishing when Pooja woke up in the morning. Pooja, who had never read a Harry Potter book, was intrigued, bought the first book, and became an avid fan.

I also remember reading this particular book because it was just after I'd finished my year studying abroad in Cambridge. Though they hate to hear it (So many tourists, upon seeing the Colleges, exclaim "It's just like Harry Potter!"), all the gowns and old buildings, traditions and formal dinners, are very reminiscent of Cambridge. (Some scenes of the movie are filmed at Oxford University, actually.) I remember coming back from India and staying with Barney for a couple days in London. He gave me his theories on who R.A.B. might be (His theory was proven right when the sixth book came out), and we debated about whether or not Snape was really evil (I turned out to be right on that one). Thinking about Harry Potter is making me feel a bit of nostalgia for my year in England. (And is making me very jealous of Stephanie - who just visited Cambridge and went punting, and of Monica, who lives in England now!)

The seventh and final book came out on July 21, 2007. (Almost exactly two years ago!) It was during the summer when I was transitioning from full time work at Raytheon to begin the Masters program in Space Policy in DC. On Monday, July 23, I would be starting my two-week course on Space Weather at Boston University - a course intended to prepare me for my research job at George Washington University. On the morning of July 22, I flew into Boston and picked up the book in the airport. I remember being extremely paranoid about everyone around me. I was terrified someone would walk by and say, "Oh, I just finished that - can you believe XXX happened?!" or "How far are you - did you get to the part where XXX?" Or what if the people behind me on the plane had read it and they discussed it during take-off or landing, when I'd be imprisoned in my seat by that horrible seat-belt sign? So many disasterous possibilities.

Luckily crisis was averted on the plane, and no spoilers were revealed. Again, unable to put the book down for more than about 15 minutes at a time, I took a cab from the airport to the BU dorm where I'd be staying, and spent the next several hours reading. When I decided I needed sunlight, I went to a nearby Starbucks where I sat outside for another few hours until it started to get dark. Then it was back to the dorm for reading into the wee hours of the morning. Sure, I had red, baggy eyes for my first day of class - the proud and satisfied, red, baggy eyes of someone who'd finished the last Harry Potter book.

So I'm a fan of any effort to stretch out the Harry Potter experience a bit more - the last book is now two movies - great! I'm not asking for some sad, done-for-the-money book additions to the series (and besides, I have faith in J.K. that she'd never even consider it), but the movies have been well-done, and until they're all released, the Harry Potter saga continues. I can't wait!

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