I’m sincerely not trying to be terribly witty, cynical or controversial here, rather I simply wanted to share an “outsider’s” perspective on the Harry Potter series, the reflections of someone who doesn’t necessarily dislike the HP films, but who instead wonders quite what all of the fuss is about. I don’t hate the films (honestly, what is there about them to dislike that strongly?), but I do find myself coolly indifferent to them.

In the interests of placing my cards on the table, I have not read any of the books, nor have I in fact seen all of the films. I suppose that is sort of part of my point. Whilst it would be easy to dismiss my observations on the basis that I haven’t formed a wholly informed opinion, or haven’t given the franchise a decent chance to affect me, surely the fact that I can’t be bothered to see Half Blood Prince or Deathly Hallows Part 1 means something? No, not that I have poor taste in films, rather that for some people the franchise just is not that engaging.

Each successive film has been trumpeted with the “this one’s much darker” fanfare, which is all well and good, but does not really make any difference to the fundamental appeal of the films. I remember sitting down to watch Prisoner of Azkaban, assured that a fresh pair of directorial hands (the acclaimed Alfonso Cuarón of Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men fame) was going to inject some much needed flair into the franchise, after Chris Columbus’s workmanlike efforts. What I was left with at the end was 2+ hours of “someone has escaped prison and is after Harry, actually he’s a goody, let’s do a bit of time-travel”. I ask you. What an uneventful waste of time. Perhaps if I were of a different age and had been captivated and enchanted by the books, or wonder-struck by the world of Hogwarts as evocatively presented in the first film, it might have all been very different.

But alas it has not. We have had some of the very best of the world’s acting talent on show in the course of HP1-7 (Gary Oldman, Richard Harris, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Timothy Spall, Jason Isaacs, Ralph Fiennes, Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson, John Hurt) and some genuinely accomplished directors have held the reins too, but the three principals have never been up to scratch and the effect has been obvious and jarring. Long ago, a review of one of the earlier films rightly decried the inability of the screen-writers to turn JK Rowling’s three-term book structures into conventional, fluid three-act film structures. Too often the screenplays have simply progressed through the narratives of the books, covering the right ground, but failing (or refusing) to make difficult or daring decisions in the way the best novel adaptations have (LA Confidential, Lord of the Rings, anything based on the work of Raymond Chandler) and the results have been painfully ordinary.

I am sure multitudes out there will disagree. Heck, I can think of a couple of the writers for this site who are not going to agree with me at all, but there has just been nothing in this franchise that has remotely excited me. It’s all been very serviceable, very predictable, when the films ought to be scintillating, electrifying. Now admittedly, the trailer for HP7 PtII looks outstanding – epic, thrilling, barn-storming – maybe it will the darkest and best yet, but frankly we’ve all seen enough thrilling trailers for duff films to last us a lifetime. Remember Pt I looked ace, then most of the critics went “meh”.

I recognise of course that the world is full of films on which many sensible-thinking people have held wildly divergent opinions. What I find interesting is that the HP franchise is such a juggernaut, such a massive hit with so many and so fascinating for so many and yet, despite me being what I would consider to be a devoted and heart-felt film fan, I have remained utterly impervious to its charms. It’s clearly not to do with its genre, as I have deep, abiding love for the Lord of the Rings films, nor is it on account of the youthful cast. The Goonies and Bugsy Malone number among my favourite child-populated films, so I haven’t got it in for child stars. So what is it? Why don’t I care about HP?

All (polite and well-mannered) suggestions would be gratefully received below.

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Dave Roper
Dave has been writing for HeyUGuys since mid-2010 and has found them to be the most intelligent, friendly, erudite and insightful bunch of film fans you could hope to work with. He's gone from ham-fisted attempts at writing the news to interviewing Lawrence Bender, Renny Harlin and Julian Glover, to writing articles about things he loves that people have actually read. He has fairly broad tastes as far as films are concerned, though given the choice he's likely to go for Con Air over Battleship Potemkin most days. He's pretty sure that 2001: A Space Odyssey is the most overrated mess in cinematic history.