Thursday, August 27, 2009

Harry Potter movies lag behind the books. Quel surprise.

This is from 9August2009. Sorry, I’m on computer over 10 hours a day five days a week, so I don’t always log on in my off time – as I warned the friends who repeatedly invited me onto Facebook. Unfortunately, where I work there will never be a Wallace Stevens writing poetry in his desk drawer (soon there won’t even be desk drawers); there’s just a firewall on the computer to block everything I’d rather be doing than working.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is fun. That is not to say good. That is not to say faithful to the book. Nevertheless, the ending did to me just what it was supposed to do. Yes, I’m a weeper. If the movie didn’t get me at those penultimate scenes, no one would have been doing their jobs – including me as viewer with an imagination. Knowing what’s coming from the books – or even from the way the movie is set up (any movie) doesn’t make the shock less affecting. So I cried as is proper when [spoiler alert for those who have not read the book or seen the movie] Dumbledore died. No worries on that score.

Disappointments: Plenty. Including the utter lack of clarity about the Phoenix. Dumbledore’s Phoenix was a fixture and embodied a feeling. At the end of the film, its presence and departure can only be surmised by those who read the book. And we’re disappointed. Those who haven’t read the book haven’t a clue. And that’s a great loss of such a marvelous symbol. It really irked me.

A friend of mine mentioned missing Richard Harris particularly in this film – and he was right on the mark. I’ve always liked Michael Gambon as an actor and understand how difficult it must be for him to take on this beloved character after Harris’ death. This film in particular shows what this intellectually adept actor lacked: Richard Harris’ heart. We LOVED Harris’ Dumbledore. We respect Gambon’s.

TomFelton as Draco was fabulous, he’s growing up well – Felton, that is, not Draco. He’s not really growing up at all, just getting taller.

Alan Rickman was underused as were Gemma Jones and Maggie Smith.

Why, you ask? Because this film is more concerned with teenage and ’tweener love than with the saga of the past six films. Young love (as well as ‘not-love-but-spells’) is important here, but should not negate the rest of the story elements. The filmmakers negated those by leaving them out and adding extraneous scenes outside of the time arc of the series. Are they bored with the magic? Are they bored with the Weasleys?

Anyone who’s bored with Weasleys has no business participating in a film version of a Harry Potter book.

Daniel Radcliff does a very good drunk scene when he drinks the luck potion, but those early scenes in the pub made me want to be in one. I yearned for a pub more as the film went on.

What was lacking in this film: It ran 2.5 hours but seemed to skip over any storytelling that would build tension in favor of splashing emotional mishaps (and their numerous comedic moments) across the screen -- of all those cute kids growing all too blatantly to adulthood. Ron is funny as ever, but Hermione and Ginny seem like tweeners, still children. Ginny is a tall tweener and seems younger than her character ought in comparison to the others. The Weasleys are given short shrift in their manufactured domestic tragedy instead of their real one (“real” meaning the one in the book). The portrayal of the sad remainder of the Order of the Phoenix couldn’t even show us the gaping hole left by Sirius’ death -- all these building blocks were missing from this film, so how will the story be accomplished in the next. With its mighty obvious cliffhanger ending, this film is incomplete without whatever will follow.

In essence, this film makes me want to re-read the books for the real story, and the pictures JK Rowling allowed my brain to paint. So I will.

− MM, turning off the computer, but not the light − I have reading to do.

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