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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

So... Harry Potter. (Part 2: Movies)

Screw the Harry Potter movies. Did I come off too forward?

The concept of eight movies chronicling a seven-year period is a monstrous, nasty, ugly thing. You need talent that will flourish as it grows. You need memorable actors that give consistently solid performances. You need to stay faithful to the source material. The Harry Potter movies deserve a medal for TRYING to get all of that shit right. But, in my opinion, did they get it right? (Spoiler: No.)

Now, don't get me wrong. There are some characters that were handled well, some damn good actors, and some truly faithful scenes. But when dealing with massive, 700 page books, you can't possibly fit every detail into the movie. Which is exactly what they did- cut shit out.

Before I move on to this tirade, however, I have a disclaimer. I love Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets. And, to a much lesser extent, Prisoner of Azkaban. See, with the earlier movies, they didn't have to cut stuff out because the books were shorter- now, it may be a fault of Rowling's that her writing became more and more wordy, but that formula doesn't work for a movie adaptation.

"But Evan," You say, "What about one of that greatest movie trilogies of all time that is based on a book series? Lord of the Rings?"

Lord of the Rings had a ton of time to do what it had to do- and it was only three movies. In fact, that's where the main problem with the Harry Potter movie series lies- they had to release these movies within a limited time-frame. It was kind of an unspoken rule- get your asses on it, or your kids will grow up.

And grow up, they did. I'm not sure if seeing the onscreen counterparts of these characters soured my view of them when reading the books or not. I mean, when they were young'ns, you couldn't help but love the shit out of them- they're little kids, battling evil! There's something to be said about Rowling's writing, though, and its that she can make us hate her characters, even her protagonist. But I just get this ridiculous goody-two-shoes vibe from Harry in the movies. At first, he's just a mischievous little kid- which is cool. But then he just starts becoming this ignorant good kid- god forbid he looks anything less than heroic. Also, Ron comes off as way more of a dumbass in the movies- which was something I really didn't get from him at all when first reading- I thought he was a normal, albeit financially burdened kid, who simply wasn't as clever as Harry- especially when he owns at Wizard Chess, which I'm assuming is a lot like real chess and is actually a thinking man's game. Plus, all of Ron and Harry's fights become stagnant onscreen, because there's nothing at stake, really. I'm totally bullshitting you though, because the fight they have in Deathly Hallows was prime.

I suppose my real problem with the movies is that they fluctuate in quality so much. Then again, each movie has to have its own tone- Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets have this thrilling, nubile magic feeling, Prisoner of Azkaban is a wonky horror-ish drama with silliness and seriousness throughout (more like siriusness... I really should just start replacing it). Goblet of Fire is just nonstop "HOLY SHIT LOOK AT WHAT'S HAPPENING SPORTS", Order of the Phoenix is all fuck-the-po-po, Half-Blood Prince is supposed to be this dark look into Voldemort's past, and Deathly Hallows is just supposed blow your fucking mind. With the numerous directors and new characters that need to have prime actors, you really can't expect quality throughout.

Now, I can find anything in a movie that I like. I like Harry and Ron's fight in Deathly Hallows 1. I like a lot of the set pieces in Goblet of Fire.  I can watch any movie and see something I like. Which is how I feel most critics felt when they went to see these movies. But if you like one part of the movie that doesn't mean the whole package is fantastic. There are some damn good scenes in Prisoner of Azkaban- but there's a lot that miss the mark, in my opinion. That being said, there's a lot of things I like about the Harry Potter movies, but they mostly fail to impress me. They're rushed. They're cut to the point of becoming bare-bones versions of the original characters. They take some of the best parts of the books and destroy them. But the majority of people fall into two groups-

A) Those who have read the books and love them and overlook the shallowness of the characters onscreen because they know them so well on paper. They take ambiguous silences and imagine the thoughts that Rowling wrote into the book and put them into those. They enjoy the movies because they are a visual representation of their favorite characters, and overlook their flaws.

B) The average movie-going people, who have not read the books, and enjoy the movie because they're directed by capable people and feature recurring characters and good special effects.

I belong to subsection A1, which is...

A1) Those who have read the books and are overly butthurt by the movies' inaccuracy.

But I'm not as rabid as some fans, so I fall into a secondary subsection, A1Z...

A1Z) Level-headed observers of the books and movies that find flaws and moments of beauty in both.

Hope that was convoluted enough for you. However, being an actually level-headed fan of Harry Potter, I do have some pretty important gripes to point out. This is where we move past the "smart" section of this essay and start being goofy fanboys/girls.

-WHY DID RICHARD HARRIS HAVE TO DIE. He embodied the peaceful, wise Dumbledore to the last letter, and also looked like a stereotypical wizard. Sorry, Michael Gambon, you did a damn good job putting your own spin on it, but Harris was quintessential.

-WHY IN GOD'S NAME IS THERE NOT MORE HAGRID. Dude's the shit. His portrayal onscreen is completely different from the compassionate behemoth I imagined. Maybe that's just me.

-WHY TAKE OUT DOBBY AND TO A LESSER EXTENT WINKY. I bet the filmmakers were smacking themselves in the head when they read Deathly Hallows and realized what a damn important character Dobby was.

-WHY DON'T YOU LIKE ALAN RICKMAN. He's the fucking boss. Why minimize this actor and character's screentime when he plays such a pivotal role in the books? He loses a lot of dramatic effect, even in the finale.

-WHY. OH WHY. WOULD YOU CUT PEEVES. Peeves. He's like, the greatest character of the entire franchise. I don't even need to say anything else. I'm disgusted.

-WHY DOES EVERY FILM SEEM TO UNDERPLAY (OR CHANGE) SOME INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT SCENE. I mean, the deaths at the end of Deathly Hallows part 2 were even LESS of a blow than they were in the books. And Snape NOT DYING IN THE SHRIEKING SHACK, the place where his entire character was practically born? Dubs tee eff.

-If you're going to change something, let it not be the most important fucking showdown in the entire series. If you think the same way as me, you know when scene I am referring to and why it loses all power, special effects be damned. (Hint: It's in Deathly Hallows part 2.)

That being said, my feelings on the movies are just about as mixed as the books, though I seem to have more of a negative feeling towards the movies. Personally, unless you're the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you're not good enough. This is nothing against the directors, actors, writers, or any of that junk. I had an image of what everything looked like in Harry Potter when I read the books, and it jarred me to see another vision of it, unlike the LotR trilogy, which actually pretty much nailed every conception I had on the head. It's weird to see things that you already have imagined onscreen, different. So, yeah.

Plus, Radcliffe is better at stage-shows.

HOW I RATE THE HARRY POTTER MOVIES FROM BEST TO WORST (You'll never know why. Actually, you might. I miht go back and edit this):

Deathly Hallows part 1 (WTF I LIKED IT MORE THAN THE FIRST)
Sorcerer's Stone
Chamber of Secrets
Deathly Hallows part 2
Goblet of Fire
Prisoner of Azkaban
Order of the Phoenix
Half-Blood Prince (Surprise! Filler book makes a crappier filler movie.)


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