Project Potter: Chamber of Azkaban

May 29, 2009

I finished Chamber of Secrets a while ago. For that matter, I also finished Prisoner of Azkaban. I’ve been terribly neglect in keeping blog posts up to date on my progress.  I guess I haven’t wanted to spoil any comments I might make on the podcast segments. I guess I have to get over that hurdle and blog as I read. Anyway, here’s my thoughts on books two and three of the Harold Potter epic.

Chamber of Secrets:

Plagiarism 1: The flying car was bad enough before it freaking turned into Herbie the Love Bug.

Plagiarism 2: Aragog the giant spider is not only a cut-and paste of Shelob from Tolkien, she isn’t even used to full effect. Half the book is spent building Shelob, I mean Aragorn, er, I mean Aragog up as the monster only to entirely discard it 6/8s of the way through. The final battle at the end would have been way more epic if it’d be between a giant freaking snake and a giant freaking spider instead of a giant snake versus a weepy bird and a blubbering emo git.

Ridiculous contrivance 1: Tom Riddle‘s name being the lamest riddle ever didn’t add much to the scene. If you’re going to play the anagram name game, you need to do a few things. First, you have to give the protagonist and reader all the clues early enough on in the book that there is even a point to having the riddle in there. Springing it at the 11th hour just seems pointless. Secondly, the name needs to be believable enough to not be obviously contrived to make the anagram work. Movolo is not only worst made-up middle name in fiction, it’s doubly bad that it’s only there because it’s the best Rowling could come up with to spell out something to do with Voldemort. A much better anagram of Voldemort is Dr. Tom Love.  No one would suspect Dr. Love of being the dark lord.

Plagiarism 3: At some point they start talking about wizards “going over to the dark side.”  Steal the concept, sure.  But come up with your own terminology at least. Shameful.

Ridiculous contrivance 2: Why the hell does Harry have to go back to live with the Dursley’s every summer. Surely Hagrid, the Weasleys, the Grangers or even Dumbledore would take him in for the summer if they knew the extent of the psychological abuse he was enduring. Or does Dumbledore think it’s character building? Does it keep Harry’s ego in check? Is this ever explained? Mandi suggested there’s a protection charm on their house, but I think she got that from a fanfic. At the very least, it couldn’t be safer than Hogwarts.

But also, after battling Voldemort, giant snakes, werewolves, giant spiders and Dementors, you’d think Harry couldn’t take Uncle Vernon as a serious threat anymore. Even if Harry isn’t allowed to use magic against Vernon, you’d think he’d view the man as a total joke after what he’s been through. “Sure, bellow at me in  ALL CAPS. What-ever, you fat pathetic fuck of a loser. I just killed a fucking giant snake with a fucking bejeweled sword and killed it’s master with it’s fucking poisoned tooth.” Harry is an actual teenager, right? He needs to take a page from James Tiberius Kirk‘s book.

Plagiarism 4: Dementors = Nazguls. Cut and paste.

Ridiculous contrivance 3: I guess we’re into Prisoner of Azkaban territory now. Remus Lupin is raising Rowling’s cornball naming conventions to a new low. Mrs. Sprout the herbalist was bad enough but a werewolf named Lupin is shameful. Naming him Remus is even worse. Especially since he doesn’t come from a werewolf clan, he was bitten as a child. How his brother Romulus, or anyone in that world unfortunate enough to be named Wolfgang, escaped being bitten is beyond me. Apparently if you’re a wizard, names are entirely prophetic. Or, at least, maddeningly contrived. If your last name is Welles, don’t name your kid Trip.

Ridiculous contrivance 4: Though it’s nice they used time travel to rescue Buckbeak, there was no need to use Buckbeak to rescue Sirius Black. They didn’t need a flying creature to get up to his window when they all have freaking broomsticks. I guess just like all the times they forget they have an invisibility cloak to better drive the plot, they forgot about the broomsticks. Fair enough, it was more fun to read about than a simple, intelligent plan.

Ridiculous contrivance 5: I’d like a little more information about the wizard judicial system because it seems to be a kangaroo court that operates on circumstantial evidence.

Now, there were things I enjoyed about these two books. I would hate for you, dear reader, to think its been one long torturous slog I haven’t been enjoying. Not so. The books are fun and entertaining. And though I take issue with some of Rowling’s more contrived plot machinations, she does write with a well-paced flow and is a master of foreshadowing. She can write a satisfying page-turner, I will give her that. She’s not bad a light humour either. I can’t actually remember anything I did like especially. I guess just everything except what I’ve listed above.

In some ways, I’m not sure why Harry Potter brings out the critic in me. After all, I can swallow Star Trek lock, stock and two smoking phaser-banks. I think Potter is a classic nerd hurdle for me. Classic in that it’s the fervent passion of the fans that get my critical back up and make me say, “Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa! It’s not that good. And here’s why…”

Next up: Goblet of Quiddich. It’s not all about freaking quiddich is it?

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