Monday, September 28, 2009

Some Thoughts on Harry Potter # 7

Let me preface this review by saying that I enjoyed all the books, and enjoyed the ride. That being said, here's what I thought about the 7th volume of Harry Potter, which I finally got around to reading (yeah, slowpoke.jpg, I know). There are spoilers here.

The book was quite a bit longer than it needed to be, mostly because the main characters have no initiative whatsoever. None. They literally spent months sitting in tents in the woods. Instead of looking for horcruxes, they talk about where they might be. How amazingly useless. Instead of trying to gather some information, or doing some research, they sit in tents and waste amazing amounts of time. The plot always has to come and find them, never the other way around. In fact, the reason it was so easy for Dumbledore to keep running things after his death, was the main characters never do anything unless they're beaten into it by the plot-bat.

Voldemort and Snape were both right when they said there was nothing special about Harry. He sucks at magic, and even in the face of actual necessity, he doesn't try to improve. None of their time in that infernal tent was spent trying to learn new things, just rehashing old information. He's pretty damn useless.

Harry has some damn useful friends, though. The supporting cast are the ones I actually want to know about. Their stories would be really interesting. I want to know what Bill and Arthur Weasley have been doing. Tell me about Neville and Ginny, tell me more about the rest of the Order. They are the ones that take initiative, they are the ones who move the plot, who fight the battles.

And seriously, did I miss something, or why do our dear three dense drop-outs have to wear the necklace, instead of just keeping it in the bag? Must we really rip off Lord of the Rings that much? If we know that it makes us irritable, don't wear the damn thing. Seriously.

The whole captured by the death-eaters event felt very contrived. It made me think of running an RPG, when the GM thinks “Well crap, they're getting nowhere on their own. Time to bring out the rail-road tracks!” I really enjoyed the break-ins at the Ministry and Gringots, because our dear main characters were actually doing something. And hey, an exit on a dragon is stylish.

I was a little perplexed by the casual use of the unforgiveable curses. They were not arbitrarily unforgiveable. Total control over someone, magical torture, and instant murder are horrific things. In a non-magical setting, the imperius curse is the equivalent of holding someone’s children hostage, and forcing them to do your bidding. What, suddenly because there’s no law against it, it’s ok to use it liberally to get your way?

The ending, however, was awesomesauce. That is how a showdown should go. Again, I more admire the supporting cast than the main characters. Neville, the Weasleys, Lupin and Tonks, and the Hogwarts teachers are properly badass.

But here’s a question? Why is the killing curse outlawed? Surely, killing is what should be outlawed not the curse itself. Shooting, stabbing, or cursing, the person is still dead. This is something of a gun control question, but here it’s slightly different. Anyone with a wand can perform the killing curse. Making it unforgiveable just ensures that criminals are the ones who will use it. It’s like giving someone a gun and saying “if you shoot anyone with it, that’s a life sentence, but its less evil to club them to death with it.” And if it’s arbitrarily ok to use the imperius curse now, we may as well pull out all the stops. These things only popped into my mind while I was thinking a bit more in depth about them. I didn’t consider the hypocrisy until I started writing this.

They may as well rename this book “Just as Planned.” For my appreciation for the supporting cast, I do not like Dumbledore, or what Rowling did with him. I don’t mind having him die, but I do mind him still running the show. He’s arrogant and presumptuous, acting as though he believes he’s the only one with a brain in his head. Unfortunately, he is right, but it’s mostly his own fault. Rather than teach people to be self-sufficient, and to think for themselves, he teaches them that they are incapable of acting without him. Then, he moves them around like pieces on a chessboard.

All that being said, however, I enjoyed it as a whole, despite my complaints. It was a pleasure to see the characters grow up, and the whole thing was well put-together. Good stuff, I suppose.

1 comment:

  1. No you didnt miss anything. It's very unofficially know that Harry Potter is the worst character in his own series. There's a reason that in 5th grade we all thought he was lame.
    Main characters to me generally are.. which is kind of why the Harry Potter series didn't feel unusual to have a main char that was prone to 'don't go through that door!' moments.

    I liked how Dumbledore is really the main character in a way. I like his flaws and I liked him. /shrug. (I somewhat wish there was a meaningful book about his young adult life, that seemed to be intensely interesting, although I dont think she could write it as well or darkly as it should come off.)

    Honestly I think parts of this series were the biggest flukes of JK Rowling's life. She's a wonderful person and if you read/watch her interviews she does come off as very creative and such- but she also comes off as Harry, she's incredibly invested into that character. The books are essentially written by a Gryffindor, for a Gryffindor. The other houses have an unrecorded depth. She always passes them over, but you knoooww as the reader they're just as fascinating as Gryff.

    Same for her villains, she accidentally writes depth into her baddies. In interviews she said she was scared and a bit disgusted by the fascination with Malfoy. She states he's just a useless bully and essentially describes him how Harry sees him. Which is incredibly short sighted.. Malfoy has sooo much more development in character throughout the series than Harry, Harry never grows and evolves nearly as much as Draco. The hilarious bit is that that seems to have been entirely subconscious on Rowlings part. The only villain she delves into is Snape near the ends, and she does that fabulously. Although she turns around and says in interviews he shouldn't be considered a hero and that he was still a icky person even though he did one good thing. Boggles my mind.