During the Thanksgiving holiday The Wife proposed a Harry Potter movie marathon. I’ve never considered myself much of a Potter-fan. During the books’ popularity over the last 15 years I resisted reading them. And while I saw six of the eight movies during my film critic days — and appreciated them individually — the franchise as a whole never inspired devotions to the level of the pop culture cults of my childhood and teen years, Star Wars and Star Trek.
So I welcomed the chance to give the series a second look, fueled by The Wife’s enthusiasm. She read all the books and knows the arcane details backwards and forwards. The Potter books arrived for April, a few years my junior, as a receptive older child, for me as an angsty teenager looking for “mature” books.
Last Wednesday night after wrapping up the day’s editing I made a run to the library to pick up the four titles we didn’t already own (The Half-Blood Prince) or have recorded on the DVR (Prisoner of Azkaban and both Deathly Hallows). And so began our epic Thanksgiving Potterfest with The Sorcerer’s Stone that night; which we carried on at a pace of three films both Thursday and Friday before concluding on Saturday morning.
My conclusion: young geeks nowadays have much better options than previous generations. Compare the eight Harry Potter films with the six Star Wars and eleven Star Trek. By any “objective” measure — box office, percentage of positive reviews, or number of award-winning actors featured in the films – Harry Potter wins. And does any Jedi or Trekkie want to argue that by the “subjective” measure — just sitting down and watching all the films in the series — Harry fails to triumph over Luke, Han, Kirk, and Spock?
Every single Potter film stands on its own two feet. When The Wife and I acquire the Blu Ray box set linked above, we won’t skip any titles when we redo our marathon someday. Pressed to name the weak link in the chain I cannot. They’re all fun, exciting, family-oriented adventure films drawing from the collective mythologies of Western civilization.
But even during my intense adolescent days of Star Wars and Star Trek obsessive fandom I — like virtually all geeks — readily acknowledged their shortcomings. The nails-on-a-chalkboard dialogue and cardboard characters of the unwatchable prequel trilogy. The strange way only the even numbered Trek movies performed. Skip The Motion Picture, The Search for Spock, The Final Frontier, Generations, and Insurrection and you won’t miss much. And with the failure of the last Trek film, the even-numbered Nemesis in 2002, it seemed to signal the death of Gene Roddenberry’s vision on the big screen. Thankfully J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot Star Trek points toward a more promising future.
But it’ll still take 7 more Abrams-style Star Treks or George Lucas-free, Disney Star Wars sequels to bring the franchises back up to the level of consistent quality that Harry Potter already delivered.
It looks to me like the main competition to the Potter films’ cinematic supremacy will come from a different direction…
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