I certainly didn't think it was the best of the "Potter" movies. There were some slow parts, and a few WTF moments.** My favorite movie was probably "Goblet of Fire" with "Prisoner of Azkaban" a close second. In many ways "Prisoner" was the superior film. The tone and look of that movie changed that entire franchise, setting it upon a solid adult footing. The first two films were fine, but they were puff pieces, glazed confections lacking heart and soul. "Prisoner" gave the Potter franchise its heart. The only reason it's not my favorite of the films is because the story is pretty weak. "Goblet" works pretty well as a stand alone story.
Before the first movie came out I thought I should read the first book, which I thought was pleasant enough. I passed it along to Ari and then one of my roommates who then proceeded to read the rest of the books as quickly as possible. I managed to just read one a year until about "Goblet" when I finally gave in to Ari's yelling at me to read the rest so she could talk to me about them.
Unlike some of my friends I'm not convinced that J.K. Rowling is a "great" writer. The Harry Potter books are fun, and enjoyable, and I'm all about anything that gets people to read. Rowling is certainly a talented writer, she's not Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) whose prose made my brain hurt, but I never saw her as the second coming of Dickens or DeVere. My biggest problem with Rowling is that I never felt much emotion for most of the characters. The death of Sirius Black felt like a non-event (in the movie too), and that's the kind of thing a truly great writer would turn into an emotionally moving moment.
In defense of Rowling, as the series went on her writing continued to improve. The death of Doby for instance, a character I didn't really care for, did pack some emotional punch there at the end. Unlike a Meyer whose stories just grew more and more absurd, at least Rowling continued to get better. Her writing grew with her audience, a good thing to quote Martha Stewart. By the time the fifth book came out Rowling was worth about a billion dollars too, so she didn't have to improve, but she did. Kudos.
When "Hallows Part Two" finished up Saturday evening I stayed in my seat for a bit enjoying the score as the end credits rolled. So much of Harry Potter the directors and producers just got right, or lucky with, depending. The whole series was just superbly cast, from top to bottom, and the "kids" grew with their rolls. There was always the chance that Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, or Daniel Radcliffe might have turned out to be horrible actors, incapable of handling the more mature things later on, didn't happen. The music was always a treat, having John Williams (Star Wars, Raiders) compose the initial themes and then handing those themes off to other composers later in the series created this amazing aural palate of light and dark.
Back to those end credits though, as they played I couldn't help but think of all that has Harry Potter has done for the Pagan and occult communities, which was absolutely nothing. I love that Harry Potter had no real "witchcraft" or sorcery in it. Despite the idiotic howling of a few idiots on the Right, Harry Potter has been no gateway into the occult. Potter was a modern fairytale, pure and simple. My Methodist grand-mother liked Harry Potter, the only people who didn't were the ones who were just looking to hate it.
One of the most curious aspects of Potter is how unreligious the entire series is. The only holiday that really gets celebrated or mentioned is Christmas. At Hogwarts Christmas seems to be an entirely secular affair (keeping with the tone of the books/movies) and only once does it ever come across as anything more (Christmas Eve in "Hallows") and then only barely. Gods aren't talked about, magick circles aren't cast, and quarter aren't called. Magic is about potions and wands with unicorn hair in them, it's fantasy at its best.
Now I'm sure that somewhere along the line some teenager went from Harry Potter to "Teen Witch" but those kids were going to find "Teen Witch" at some point anyways. Besides, if you read Potter and then tried to recreate it with modern Wicca you'd be super disappointed. I know Oberon Zell has tried to market himself as Dumbledore, but I don't think it's really gotten a whole lot of traction outside of our little community.***
People who are attracted to Paganism are going to be attracted to it, period. There's no one "gateway" book or anything. It attracts religious seekers. We don't proselytize (or shouldn't, and if you do, please stop) it comes to who it will. If Harry had truly been a Pagan gateway . . . . . stop and imagine the chaos for a second. Millions of teenagers begging for to join your circle or coven and to be taught "Defense from the Dark Arts" classes. I would have converted to Catholicism.
With those words I wish you well Harry Potter, and we'll see you again when you become a saturday morning cartoon series or J.K. writes another book set in her wonderful, magical, non-religious world.
*According to the informal "lots of people said nice things about it online" poll I conducted inside my head.
**Spoiler: The biggest WTF moment happened at the beginning where Luna Lovegood is at the beach-house hideaway with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and then suddenly at Hogwarts when the "Big 3" decide to go there. My question: how did she get to Hogwarts? And once she got there, why wasn't she on a torture rack?
***Though if we are going to have a Dumbledore, it might as well be Oberon, though (I had a comment here and then thought better about writing it. It wasn't all that mean either, I like Oberon, but decided not to post it, feel free to ask me in private).