So, this week, with Cyn away, I decided to finally sit down and read the Harry Potter books all the way through (Until this week, I'd only read the first four) and watch all the movies. And Cyn's Vermont lecture is on setting (and I've been working on a sci-fi/fantasy novel), so I've been thinking about that a lot recently.
I'd forgotten just how much Hogwarts is almost a character itself. In the books, Hogwarts is of course more than merely backdrop -- being there over the school year drives some (much?) of the personal dynamic and fleshes out the conflicts with Snape and Malfoy and other students and faculty. Thus, Rowling gives us the intensity of quidditch matches and the drive to win the "House Cup," which makes the loss or gain of points due to behavior, academic achievement, or the biases of faculty resonate more. There's also time to develop Harry and the rest's relationships with individual teachers. With each volume, you also get the feeling you've been there for a full school year (I would've liked to see more of the place in book 7, although I can see why they don't get there until the end).
But that's also why the movies don't quite work for me. They're visually stunning, sure (and the casting and costumes are perfect), but despite their length, you don't get the feeling of settling into place. It's almost as if Hogwarts is merely a board on which the characters are moved around in a jerky, frenetic manner as the movie tries to capture all the major plot points. The House Cup all but disappears after the first movie and Harry's relationships with the faculty and even with Dumbledore and Hagrid seems underdeveloped...Oh, well, maybe there'll be an extended version...
Final thoughts: so, is it pronounced "Hog-wortz" or "Hog-wertz"?
Final, final thoughts (and SPOILER):
Doesn't it seem odd that, nineteen years later, none of the gang of three are faculty?