Mary Arline (queen_of_kithia) wrote,
Mary Arline
queen_of_kithia

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Why do people always have to tear something down in building something else up?

This week's issue of Entertainment Weekly (which again, for the record, I receive as a gift subscription) is devoted almost entirely to a retrospective on the Harry Potter movies (and, peripherally, the books) in anticipation of the upcoming final installment. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but what I have read has been fascinating for the most part. However, there is one item that bothered me enough to want to address it here.

I'm going to have to quote a whole chunk of text here because I'm having trouble summarizing it:
Further proof of how extraordinarily unique the series is: the graveyard of post-Potter page-to-screen fantasies that tried (and failed) to duplicate its success. Lemony Snicket. Eragon. Legend of the Seeker. The City of Ember. "It comes down to one simple thing: seven brilliantly written books," says [Chris] Columbus [...] "With all due respect to those other authors, their books just aren't as good."
Now, of those "other authors," I have only read Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, but I don't think it is at all fair to say that those books aren't as good as the Harry Potter books. It's hard to compare the two series because they are so different in tone and rhetorical purpose. I do think it is fair to say that SoUE isn't a fantasy the way that HP is a fantasy, nor is it trying to be. It defies genre classification in a way that Harry Potter does not. Probably the most notable aspect of SoUE is the metafictional aspect of it. The fact that it is smartly satirical (if there's such a thing as satire that is not smart) and rich in literary allusions is what kept me coming back for more. It works on the level of children's literature even as it simultaneously parodies the conventions of children's literature. I definitely do not believe that it was a lack of literary quality that kept them from making a Series of Unfortunate Movies. Nor, for that matter, do I think that it was a lack of cinematic quality because the movie was VERY well done. In fact, I would say that the SoUE movie was better than most of the Harry Potter movies. Certainly better than Half-Blood Prince.

That wasn't entirely fair either; let me say that another way. I think that the movie based on the Lemony Snicket books was a truer adaptation than most of the Harry Potter movies have been in that the filmmakers seemed to have a better understanding of the source material than most of the filmmakers involved in the Harry Potter movies seem to have had. Again, just my opinion.
Tags: books, films, harry potter
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