"Will you be with Harry in the end?" Yeah, it's cheap marketing, but I like it, for some reason...
First of all, I would like to start by saying that the spoilers I linked to previously turned out to be correct. I apologize for any part I played in ruining the ending for anyone who read it - but then, to be fair, you had to be looking for spoilers to find it, as was I. Personally I think, from what I've seen, the end of Potter 7 is a letdown, especially since Rowling said two major characters would die. A lot of us were thinking two of the "three" - Harry, Hermione, and Ron, that is. It seems a lot of Rowling's grim foreshadowing was overhyped, but then I have not actually read the book - and eagerly await its paperback release. (Jen confirmed the ending, went to Walmart and skimmed it.)
But, unlike so many other authors, I didn't come here to talk about the end of the Potter saga, but rather the beginning. The year was 2001, and if I remember correctly (memory is so often replaced by technology these days) the first three books were out. I didn't take them seriously at all. The fad that was the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was fading, and Pokemon was just starting its rise, or perhaps at its peak. Off in the peripheral sights was this popular childrens' series that I heard about, inadvertently through the Church, ironically. This was when they started protesting the books. I was curious, but not curious enough to read a kiddie book. The first film had just come out, and while it looked interesting, I had no intention of seeing it.
One day at work - well, at a temp job I was working between jobs, actually - a guy was being fairly generous with some bootleg DVDs he had. Nothing he had really interested me, but I saw he had the (then) new Harry Potter movie. He loaned it to me, on 2 discs, with the promise I'd bring it back the next night. I was still living at home at this time, and my mother really had no interest in it. I tried to copy it to my computer, but couldn't figure it out. (I would later come to understand that it was a Video CD, and all I had to do was copy the big .DAT file over, and rename it to whatever.MPG, maybe join the two and compress with something like Divx.) So I tried to watch it with Windows Media Player, and miraculously, it worked. The film held my attention from the start. When dinner was ready, I could barely pull myself away. I took supper in my room, and when the movie was over, I wanted to watch it again. But not in the same night.
I returned the movie as promised, and on the next day off I got, I went and saw it in the theater. Big mistake, or at least the timing. There was no fewer than three grade-school classes on field trip in there, kids in second, third, fourth grade giggling at every scene. Lucky for me I knew mostly what was going on. I'd just wanted to see it in the theater, better quality and all.
Naturally, I have another story, for when it came out on DVD. We still had our very first DVD player, which is its own story (in short, we won it in a drawing at Hollywood Video for renting one several months prior). I had bought the craptacular Planet of the Apes remake, with Mark Wahlberg, and it would freeze up now and again. It was explained to me that movies were starting to come in the dual-layer format, and the first-generation DVD players could not handle that. So we needed a new DVD player. I also needed a new Playstation - my first one was starting to go out. So I dropped $250 on the new PlayStation 2, which also served as a DVD player, and I was assured it would play the dual layer discs. For years, our DVD player was a PS2. I bought the remote and everything. Barely a month went by, and Sony dropped the price to $200. I was mad, until I went into Best Buy, where I bought it, and they told me they guarantee low prices, and gave me $50 in store credit. Another month went by, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone released on DVD, and was included with all DVD players, including the PS2. In other words, had I waited 2 months, I would have paid $50 less and gotten a free Harry Potter DVD. I ate the difference that time, simply buying the Potter movie separately.
Since then, I've bought each movie (widescreen edition, as always) near the time they come out on DVD. I missed Chamber of Secrets (the second one), still burned by the theater experience with the first one. With Prisoner of Azkaban (Potter 3) I wised up and caught the midnight showing. And Jen and I saw Potter 4 (Goblet of Fire) together.
But let's backtrack some, shall we?
After seeing Potter 1 in the theater, I wanted to read the books. I had all three read by the time Chamber of Secrets came out in theaters. After Goblet of Fire came out in paperback, I bought it and then read all four books. I read and disliked Order of the Phoenix (Potter 5). Unlike the first four, it was not a page-turner, and was very dark, which is fine - but not so much for the Harry Potter series. At one point, I intended to read the four again, but only got the first three, quit partway thorugh Goblet. I very much enjoyed Half-Blood Prince (Potter 6). Now that the spoilers are on Wikipedia for Book 7, I'm not sure how much I anticipate it. Oh sure, I'll get it, but will it top Potter 6? Sure, I'll enjoy it, but will it be an ending worthy of such a great saga? Only time - a year at least - will tell.
I lost my books (perhaps left them behind) when I moved to North Carolina. Since then I've found the first two in the standard paperback size. I'm hoping to complete the collection in that size, actually, because they're so much easier to carry. And they look a little more professionally done, less like kids' books.
All in all, the Potter saga has been an enjoyable experience so far, and I'm sort of kicking myself for having not discovered it until later. But that's fine, better late than never, eh? If you're looking for a start, a way to "break in" to the excitement, rent "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" on DVD, and watch it. The movies are pretty good as far as book-to-film adaptations go, especially the first couple. If you thought the first one was flat - well, its primary purpose was to introduce the characters. If you thought the first one was at least decent, but it left you undecided, check out "...Chamber of Secrets". Those two should give you an accurate reading as to how you'll take to the series. After that, 3 is a little darker, and 4 is a little more expansive, but it's really much of the same - which is not a bad thing if you find yourself liking the series.