In the long list of fads and obsessions that have captured the imagination of children over the years, the Harry Potter series stands a little aloof, separated from the rest of the Power Rangers/Sailor Moon/Star Wars herd by the fact that they’re books – spectacular, can’t-put-it-down, wish-it-were-real books that have earned more praise (and money) than any children’s book in the history of the genre.

What the Harry Potter books lack in firepower and flashing lights, they more than made up for with stories so mind-blowingly creative that they literally come to life in your mind. In these televised times, where even George Lucas felt compelled to explain away The Force in Star Wars as a bacterial infection, it’s a rare and beautiful thing for someone to leave anything up to your imagination.

So of course it couldn’t last forever. Although you get the sense in interviews that the last thing Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling wanted to do was sell out her vision to Hollywood to make more money, it becomes impossible to say no – most major publishing contracts these days include provisions for books going to film, anyway.

As disappointed as I was that Harry Potter had to go down the same commercial path as other big trends with games, action figures, lunch boxes, an official soft drink and a major motion picture, I at least hoped that the commercializers would do the book justice.

Last weekend Warner Bros released the first movie for the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and broke all first weekend records by earning $93.5 million U.S. in its first three days.

As expected, the movie was unable to adequately capture the wonder of the book, and because they couldn’t possibly put everything in, the movie jumped from event to event with very little continuity. A narrator might have helped to tie the scenes together better, and if I hadn’t read the book even once, it might not have made any sense.

Perhaps the biggest drawback is that Harry Potter was a book before it was a movie, and readers had preconceived ideas of what everything looked like, and went to the movie looking for things that never materialized – the Sorting Hat’s song, for example; the roller-coaster trip to Harry’s vault at Gringott’s Wizarding Bank; Peeves the Poltergeist (axed at the last minute); the giant squid, and Fred and George Weasley’s practical jokes. The funnier characters in the book, like the win-obsessed Wood and the twins, were dulled down completely.

Rowling also depicted Harry Potter as a small, skinny kid with wild hair, and Hollywood gave us a regular-sized kid with a bowl cut.

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