Saturday, July 14, 2007

Harry Potter

Before I knew whether or not I was a real nurse or a very embarassed want-to-be-nurse, we went to see the new Harry Potter movie. Now it should be said that I am something of a fan. In the last week I read the first two books, watched all four movies, and had read 200 pages into book five to get ready for the movie. I'd have waited another day until I could finish book five, but David was having none of that, so we went today. Major spoilers ahead, so you might not want to read this if you haven't seen the movie yet.

Order of the Phoneix is my least favorite of the books (my faves so far are 1, 4 and 6). On an intellectual level I understand that Harry is growing up and teenage boys go through moody phases (except for me of course, as I was an Infallible Angel of Virtue don't forget.) But it isn't all that interesting to read about, my hero being all lamely emotional and fighting with all his friends. But the movie accomplishes some nifty magic of its own here - not only does it simply cut most of it out, but it explains the remaining bits away by tying it directly to Harry's mind connection with Lord Voldemort. Movie one, book zero.

Cut to the chase, while the book is my least favorite of the six, this movie is my favorite of the five. I had such a great time! After watching the other four movies, it is just so much fun watching these kids grow up. Obviously lots of great stuff was cut out, but that was expected. But what remains is the essence of the story, and results in some great filmmaking. From the beginning the series has been helped along by a very shrewd casting director. And when I heard Imelda Staunton was playing Umbridge I was excited. But give that woman an award now, she was so delicious I couldn't stop grinning every moment she was on-screen. She chewed it up with gusto, and left me hoping Umbridge has more to do in the last book. The scene where she tries to kick out Emma Thompson was a master class in good acting by three amazing women. Also crazy good was Luna. Where the heck did they find her? I fully expected her to be somewhat of a cartoon (sort of like Ron), but her honesty really blew me away, and so surprised me in a few places I almost wanted to cry. (Good art does that to me sometimes.) I wonder how old she is really, I just can't believe that a 15 year old would have that kind of depth and self-awareness to give a performance like that.

What else? Other than one little bit that sounded suspiciously remniscent of "Les Miserables", I thought the music was especially effective. All of the DA montages were spirited and had just the right sense of urgency. And this is the first movie where I was really excited when the final battle drew near, which I thought was excellently done. Yes, there were loads of cuts. But rather than just acting out the book, I was totally in the moment. I loved the smoky whizzing around in the air stuff, what a great visual. And how much do I love Dumbledore? I was so concerned when Richard Harris died and they had to replace him, but I love the energy and vigor Michael Gambon brings to the character. His and Voldemort's battle in the end was exciting. I am of course going to have to finish the book to remember just what was cut and changed, but I love it when Voldemort sends a volley of glass at them and Dumbledore puts up what looks like a shield and then the glass cuts through anyway but then you realize that he has changed the glass to sand - brilliant! Smarts over brutality.

A few nitpicks - I didn't like the shaky-camera crap, this isn't "Cops". And remember back in the 90s when Helena Bonham Carter was a good actress? What the heck happened to her? Not that she was terrible or anything, but compared to the rest of the near-perfect cast, she was a definite weak addition. Mercifully her scenes were few. Everyone else though - Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Jason Issacs, Julie Walters - was awesome. And after not seeing him for a few movies, how fun to see Dudley grown up too!

Oh, and how much did you love how Sirius' house was clearly designed to be a haunted house ride for the new Harry Potter Themepark? Yeah, haunted mansion rip-off to be sure, but still I loved it (and can't wait to go!)

A better writer than me could, I believe, make some very interesting commentary on how even politicians in the wizarding world will do whatever it takes to maintain power whether it is good for the people or not. But I'll leave it at that.

Ultimately, I though book five was a let-down from the brilliant excitement of the final few chapters of book four. The movie, on the other hand, captured that momentum and hurled it farther forward. Book six was excellent as well, and now I just have one short week to wait until the final book comes out.

A prediction: Snape is a good guy. He isn't nice, but I refuse to believe he is evil. I don't know exactly how it will work out, but I fully expect him to save Harry in some way in the final book.

I do wonder how they will market the last two movies? Right now everyone is all caught up in it because we still don't know how it is all going to end. Once we do, will the movies still be as exciting? I wonder.


  1. ok, i need to know how you, a self proclaimed Harry Potter Fan, have enjoyed the "smoky whizzing around in the air stuff". that was the single worst change in any of the HP movies. where in any of the books did Rowling ever describe that phenomenon? NEVER. Wizards can apparate it's true, which someone has a clear sense of because they did Fred and George's apparition perfectly at the beginning. the whole point of it is to turn, disappear and reappear in another place, not to fly around faster than you can run while still being able to cast spells beneath your smoky exterior. (whew) it was ridiculous. plus why did Harry hear the prophecy before Malfoy walked up, that made eveything else completely pointless. especially Malfoy's line "don't you want to know? all the answers are inside there" NEWS FLASH-Harry just heard all the answers!!!
    the dementor attack was all wrong as well. firstly (although they corrected the awful Patrounus of the 3rd movie, because it actually charged down the dementor instead of just radiating energy)i never saw a stag, merely a blob of light moving very quickly (big mistake) also there was no sense of urgency whatsoever. Mrs. Figg just walked up all calmly and said (in the most docile and pleasant voice she could muster)"don't put your wand away Harry, they might come back" THERE WAS JUST A DEMENTOR ATTACK IN LITTLE WHINING, HOW COULD YOU BE CALM!!!? she was supposed to be stark-raving mad for Mundungus Fletcher leaving his watch on Harry, screaming in outrage and haste.
    the Dumbledore VOldemort fight was awesome yes, but i didn't like seeing Dumbledore struggle that much, he was presented as perfectly in control, no fear or hesitation, but one amazing spellcaster who kept Voldemort on his toes throughout the battle. it is not until the next book that we discover how much of a toll that fight really took on our favorite headmaster.
    i liked this movie, don't get me wrong, but wow! did they make some mistakes. i think for a non-reader, this movie would be perfect, but having known what is truly supposed to happen, it was a let down. i guess i'm just a better Harry Potter fan than you
    P.S. Congrats on your exam, it'll be really nice reading the last book while you're stuck at a hospital taking temperatures :)

  2. First of all, even if I wait to get the book until Saturday morning, it will be finished long before I have to start work on Monday. heh (And have you ever been to a hospital before? Fat chance I'll ever have the opportunity to sit down and read a book!)

    And yeah, they made some changes, but mostly it was pretty minor stuff Kyle. Now that you mention it I will agree the dementor attack was a little weird. I kind of liked that Mrs. Figg wasn't so crazy, but you are right that she was far too calm. And it was weird that Harry heard the prophecy, not that it makes much sense really (another reason I've always found the fifth book somewhat weaker than the others, is that I didn't think the prophecy really revealed anything that important, so who really cares?)

    But what's so wrong with the smoke? It looks awesome, and that is what the movies have to concentrate on more than the books, making everything visual.

    I'm surprised the whole Cho thing doesn't make you mad. And who the heck is Nigel? Am I just forgetting a character, or did they have to replace the actor who was playing Colin Creevey so they just gave him a new name?

    Anyway, I love the books, but they aren't the Bible. As long as the changes are minor and to the point, I'm fine with that. You know Rowling had to approve every change, so if she is ok with it, what's it to you?

    What do you think is going to happen with Snape in the last book? Are you in the "Harry is going to die" camp?

  3. i was very angry about the whole Cho thing but seeing as i had already written so much i figured i proved my point. the whole Nigel thing was kinda wierd but i don't really care that much about him. yes, the smoke was visual and it was very cool, but it wasn't Harry Potter. i don't want to believe that when you're a powerful wizard you just become smoke, the whole ppoint is knowledge of the spells you're casting and the reflexes you have in which to make the appropriate wand movements and defend yourself from your enemy. Sirius punching Malfoy was totally cheesy but the more i think about it the more i smile.
    I really want Snape to be bad, i know he won't and i guess i'm ok with that, but all the anticipation from 6 books of naive children coming to the conclusion that he is evil, while the every adult has been preaching of his genuine goodness would just make it so much better to show that he had really hoodwinked them all.
    Harry will NOT die! Rowling still has two movies to think about as well as the millions of fans who would literally storm her house and lynch her if she killed him. Voldemort is a gonner, most likely Snape as well in some redeeming act that saves Harry. Ron and Hermione will have a baby (much later on of course) and name it Harry. if she is truly malicious and hell-bent on killing any resemblance of a father figure to Harry then Hagrid and Lupin will die as well. i really hope that doesn't happen but i'm preparing myself for anything. i'm still curious about how she will fit everything into one book. i'm seriously ready for the opening line to be "'Whew!' said Harry to Ron and Hermione. 'I'm sure glad that we found out that RAB was REgulus Black and found and destroyed three HOrcruxes already. All we have now is the Last HOrcrux and Voldemort...oh yeah it sucks that all those people already died!'" ...maybe i'm being a little facitious :-)

  4. Lupin could be in trouble I suppose, but I would be flabbergasted if she killed Hagrid. He is just too sympathetic.

    But really, Kyle, "the whole point"? heh I think the whole point of the books are to have fun, not to make some specific commentary on magic technique. I mean, why does it take the Order so long to get to the Ministry anyway? The kids have time to fly all the way to London and start fighting before the Order can jump through their fireplaces? There are a gazillion holes in the books themselves, but we overlook them because that isn't the point. The movies may shift things around, but I don't necessarily see one as "right" and one as "wrong".

    Regalus Black huh? Which one is he again?

  5. I'm sorry, but, do you ever sleep? How the heck do you have time to do all these activities?!?! Blog, pass big 'ol hard exams, read the Harry Potter series, paint your apartment, sight see, travel to NY, catch every new summer release and watch reality tv? I get worn out just thinking about it ;) But then, I'm just a lazy butt, I suppose.....

  6. I am completely a lazy butt by nature, but I get bored with being lazy for too long and have to get out and do something. But I can't wait until work starts next week, with a schedule I think I'll be more productive and less reliant on silly pop culture to keep me entertained.