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Entertainment 'I celebrated Harry Potter's birthday by re-watching the films and I still think Quidditch is stupid'

09:30  31 july  2022
09:30  31 july  2022 Source:   getsurrey.co.uk

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If you're a true Potterhead then you will know that this Sunday (July 31) is a very important day on the calendar for everyone's favourite boy wizard - although it's a bit of a stretch to call him a boy anymore. Harry Potter turns 42 this weekend according to canon in the wizarding world, and his journey into middle age comes at a time when the legacy of his creator J.K. Rowling has been the subject of much discussion thanks to her interventions into the debates around trans rights.

While I don't want to mark the occasion by wading into those arguments, this does seem like a good moment more generally to revisit Hogwarts and see if it hits any differently a quarter of a century after the first book was released. Today's world would have seemed scarcely recognisable in 1997, and I wanted to know whether spending some time hanging out at Hogwarts would still elicit the same emotions as it did when I last entered that universe several years ago.

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Sadly I didn't have a spare fortnight to get through all seven books (Order of the Phoenix is so massive that I still use it as a doorstop in my house), but I did find time during a couple of days off to binge the eight movies for probably the first time since the last of them was released a decade ago, and a few things stuck out to me - some that I remember thinking when I was reading and watching the stories the first time around, while others were new.

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So without further ado, here is my list of six observations from re-watching the Harry Potter films. Hopefully you agree with some of them, while I have no doubt that others will spark fierce disagreements... particularly if you're a Hufflepuff.

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1. Quidditch is stupid

I realise this will enrage a lot of people, but I've always thought it was true from the first moment the wizarding community's favourite sport was explained to me. For the uninitiated, the basic rules of Quidditch are these: two teams fly around on broomsticks passing a ball to their teammates and trying to throw it through hoop-shaped goals at the opposition's end of the stadium, with each goal being worth 10 points.

So far so normal (except for the broomsticks) but here's where it gets silly: there is also a "golden snitch" flying around, which is a small ball that scores you 150 points if your team catches it and brings the match to an end. All well and good, but what if your team is 160 points or more behind? Why would you want to catch the snitch and condemn your team to defeat by bringing the game to a close while you're still trailing? It's daft, and I am glad to finally get it off my chest.

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People playing Quidditch in real life © Jack Taylor/Getty Images People playing Quidditch in real life

2. I prefer the first Dumbledore

No offence intended to Sir Michael Gambon who is something of a national treasure, but there is something quite wonderful about the performance of the late Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore in the first two films. I think the man may have actually been a wizard - he looked and sounded exactly like how I imagine a magic old man in a pointy hat to be.

Unfortunately Harris died after he completed filming for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which was the second and last of the Potter movies to be made by Home Alone director Chris Columbus. After that Sir Michael stepped in and did an admirable job playing the Hogwarts headmaster until the character met his maker four films later at the top of the school's clock tower, which frankly is still too upsetting to talk about.

3. The time turner in Prisoner of Azkaban is problematic

So, here's a problem I hadn't really considered first time around. At the end of the epic third instalment in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it turns out that Harry's super-intelligent best friend Hermione Granger (played by the brilliant Emma Watson) has been using a 'time-turner' to travel back through time so that she could attend two classes at once because she loves learning so much. With Harry and Ron she then uses the device to save the day during the final chapters of the story.

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Not to get all geeky here, but if you're suddenly going to decide that time travel is possible in your fictional universe then you're opening up a right can of worms. Most importantly in the context of Harry Potter, if the characters are able to travel back in time then why in the blazes didn't someone pop back a few hours on the evening when baby Harry's parents were killed by Voldemort and maybe, you know, suggest they spend the night at a friend's house?

4. Hogwarts wouldn't pass an Ofsted inspection

Perhaps because I now sometimes report on them, I'm more acutely aware of school inspections than I ever was before I worked for SurreyLive. One thing that therefore immediately struck me when watching the films back was that if Hogwarts was subject to the same standards as our muggle schools then it would be shut down immediately.

Perhaps the most obvious example is in the fourth book/film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. A student is magically chosen by the goblet to represent Hogwarts and each of two visiting schools from continental Europe that have casually migrated their student populations to Scotland for almost an entire academic year. Then they compete in a series of potentially deadly challenges including a showdown with a dragon, all of which is endorsed by the school. Ofsted simply would not stand for it.

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The entrance to the Hogwarts Great Hall at Warner Bros Studio Tour near Watford © Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images The entrance to the Hogwarts Great Hall at Warner Bros Studio Tour near Watford

5. Gryffindors are definitely the best

Look, I get it: if you did the Sorting Hat quiz and ended up in Hufflepuff then it's only natural to try and convince yourself that they're the best house to be in because they're loyal and are good friends. Those are important traits, of course, but who honestly wants to be Robin when they can be Batman? I cannot begin to tell you how disproportionately happy I was when I went on the Pottermore website all those years ago and found out I was a lion rather than a badger.

The fact is that the vast majority of the heroes in the Harry Potter universe are members of the red team: the Potters, the Weasleys, Hermione, Neville, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Sirius, Lupin, Hagrid. It really is an open and shut case. Ravenclaws might think we're reckless and Slytherins might think we're self-righteous, but deep down we all know the truth: they hate us because they ain't us.

6. There's a lot here that still rings true in 2022

I had actually forgotten how dark the story turns as it progresses: we learn that the parents of one of Harry's friends were tortured to death when he was an infant, we witness a boy being murdered as part of a ritual to restore the Dark Lord back to full life, and one particularly sadistic teacher punishes students by making them write lines with magical pens that carve the words they write into their hands in blood. It's an unexpectedly bleak turn for a series that was - at least originally - intended for a young audience.

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But actually, there is also stuff in here that perhaps people should learn quite early in life even if it's uncomfortable. You can never assume that evil has been permanently vanquished, and while some grown-ups will rise to the occasion when their mettle is tested, it might ultimately be left to the youngsters to clear up their mess.

Harry Potter is ultimately a seven-year parable that teaches us about the importance of love, courage, friendship, resilience and hope. There's a pretty strong case that in these complicated times we need those qualities more than ever. And if that all seems like too deep of a point to end on, can we can all at least agree on this: having a scroll delivered through your window every morning in the claws of an owl would be a much cooler way of receiving messages than email.

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