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Cinema

By the book

Toby Young on Harry Potter

16 July 2011

12:00 PM

16 July 2011

12:00 PM

I must confess to being completely unmoved by the Harry Potter phenomenon. The books strike me as derivative and bland, and the film versions are, if anything, even worse — faithful adaptations of schlock. Pulp fiction can be transformed into art, but only if the film-makers treat the source material with a healthy amount of disrespect (see The Godfather). The various writers and directors who’ve worked on the Harry Potter franchise behave like Talmudic scholars adapting the Holy Book. Or, rather, seven Holy Books, God help us.

Some grudging acknowledgment is due to David Yates, director of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, the latest film in the series. Splitting the last book into two parts was probably a cynical ploy by Warner Bros to extract one more egg from the Golden Goose, but it’s freed Yates from having to compress 500+ pages of narrative into 120 minutes. For once, the spectacle and magic aren’t sandwiched in between the building blocks of some interminable plot. All that guff about rendezvousing with Dumbledore at Ravensbrook before Voldemort can release the Tormentors is kept to a minimum. (Note to Potter fans: I deliberately got that wrong.)

Daniel Radcliffe is as leaden-footed as ever, but Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman are there to lend the proceedings a bit of class. The Potter franchise has been praised for providing these old British warhorses with lucrative employment. Let’s hope they’ve now earned enough to retire and won’t be tempted to whore themselves out again for a son-of-Potter franchise.

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