Ever heard of fan art? Fan fiction? Even fan pornography? Fan of course being the contraction of fanatic, these genres of quasi-creative endeavour constitute the pastimes of obsessives. Favourite subjects for fan-made mash-ups are generally the would-be geeky and marginalised empires that somehow make it main stream and go on to manufacture belt buckles, pencil cases, and plastic figurines. Think Star Wars, Buffy, Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, the Millenium Triolgy, Seinfeld, the Simpsons, the Matrix, Dan Brown novels, the Chronicles of Narnia, and most recently, the phenomenon of Twilight.
Fan fiction happens because enthusiasts know everything about their preferred universe like the back of their hands, and finding they have exhausted the series, miss the feeling of anticipation. Making use of detailed fictional worlds with extensive hosts of characters, these fan-written devotions are not innovative. They do little else than rearrange existing narratives. Say, a novelette in which Neo discovers that he is actually a software program and has to back himself up on floppy disc. Maybe a short story about a teenage Gandalf making his first suit of armour that Tolkein never detailed. Perhaps an erotic poem where Harry Potter and his ginger buddy compare wands in the owlery.
Whilst in no way as poorly conceived or realised as any of these fan ideas, the new Harry Potter film, called HP7.1 by the die-hards, is certainly approaching the same level of creative bankruptcy as fan fiction. By this I mean that the likelihood that this film will touch you deeply, warm your heart, truly surprise you or really make you think, is next to zero. Like fan-fiction, it’s all about recreating that tantalising, original hype.
This latest film sees Harry (the “Chosen One”*), Ron and Hermione* leave Hogwarts*, to go on the run from the corrupted Ministry of Magic* in a mobile, magically expansive tent. They search for Voldemort’s* Horcruxes*, which are objects they must destroy to help in the fight against evil. Meanwhile Deatheaters* are wreaking havoc and morbid disappearances increase among the muggle* and wizarding* communities alike.
* - Please see all other Harry Potter films, and/or read all Harry Potter novels
After six other films, what can you do, really, other than produce a film “a lot darker” or “more sexy” than the last film. No great departures are made, and even those that are present, such as a charming animated sequence, or the inclusion of a conspicuous Nick Cave track.
The truth is, the Harry Potter films are on a trajectory that was set when the first film was released, and are bound to it by the oppressive, yet worthy insistence of their literary origins. I don’t doubt that fans of the books will take is as give that they’ll see each film. Unfortunately, I don’t anticipate they will be doing so with much gusto, as the original target audience for Harry Potter (who where the same age as Harry when the books were published) are now in their early twenties, so by the time HP7.2 is released in 2011, they will have outgrown the characters too far to meet the no doubt momentous conclusion with the same excitement as they once might have.
Non-fans will be less interested, especially if they are not up-to-date with the other films. When my distinctly non-fan boyfriend asked me what HP7.1 was like, I explained to him thus: Yes, it is darker than the last. Yes, there were better special effects. Yes, I saw a little more flesh and a little more stubble. Yes, more veteran British comedians and ensemble actors starred. Yes, more main characters died. No, I can’t tell you anything you haven’t already heard. No, you do not have to come to HP7.2 with me.