Well, the sixth installment of the Harry Potter movie franchise, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, debuted last night just after midnight. My local paper here in Bloomington, Indiana (which unfortunately you cannot access without a subscription) reports that a large group of Potter fans gathered for the day at one of our movie theaters to celebrate the release. Not a small number arrived in costume.
It’s intriguing to have read the local report on the heels of the New York Times review of the movie, which is much less celebratory. The piece opens by noting how the Potter franchise has “begun to show signs of stress around the edges.” Indeed, it’s been two years since the release of the seventh and final chapter of the book series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and the plan for its film adaptation includes not one but two separate installments. I happen to have loved Half-Blood Prince — the book — but according to the Times the movie feels a whole lot like “filler.” I may wait to see it on video.
Could it be that after a dozen years worth of books, movies, and merch, Harry Potter fatigue has begun to set in?
What’s intriguing is how adamant Harry Potter’s rights holders have been about policing their copyrights and trademarks. (I discuss this at length in chapter 5 of Late Age of Print.) One of their goals in doing so has been to mitigate the boy wizard’s over-exposure. But if the Times is to be believed, then it would seem like Rowling and company have done a pretty good job of over-exposing Our Hero all on their own.
As someone who experienced Harry Potter fatigue a while back, I was intrigued by the NYTimes characterization of *this* particular film as “filler” (I thought that many of the films have been visual filler, none really exploded the possibilities of imagination available in Rowling’s text). I wish the reviewer had contextualize this fatigue as not necessarily specific to HP but as part of the inevitable shift that happens when a book series completes its run and the films lag behind but not long enough behind to have an established, long-term fan base e.g. Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia (though Narnia poses an interesting question because beyond Lion, Witch & Wardrobe which has for a while been treated as a stand-alone book, like The Hobbit, it seems as if the juggernaut of Narnia films might be extinguished before it even gets going).
This is a lag time that seems more acute when book series become feature films as opposed to television series (True Blood springs to mind) where the production turn around time is shorter and where there’s a way to maintain (and even extend) subplots which tend to get truncated severely to fit a feature’s (even generous at 2.5 hours) running time.
The overexposure of the *character* seems oddly juxtaposed to the overexposure of the *franchise* which, in my opinion, is Rowling wanting to have it both ways: elevate a rather derivative (though cleverly so) story of an orphan boy with special powers to the status of “literature” while accepting licensing agreements with conglomerates, licensing which, ironically, drains anything particularly special *out* of that story, ironically, exposing it as something that may have less staying power in the genre *and* the public consciousness. So having it both ways becomes a lose-lose situation.
I now stand back and receive any and all flames from Harry Potter devotees (I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies, BTW!)
Your point about Rowling’s “wanting it both ways” is exactly right on the mark, Jules. And I’m pretty sure that, in the end, it is more about the money indeed.