Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Harry Potter and the HBP (the movie) Rant

My Friends:

Here is the long and winding road that is My Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the movie) Rant. Honestly, if you are not familiar with the books, this will have little meaning for you. So, if you’re a muggle (and if you’ve seen the movies but haven’t read the books, you’re still a muggle) I will have to say “muffliato” and talk to the witches and wizards who know.

First of all, generally speaking, I like the Harry Potter movies. I’m not one of these fans who complains of every single thing that they leave out or change from the book. As someone who works in film and spends most of my waking time planning out movies I hope to make some day, I realize you can’t have 12 hour movies to tell the complete story, and that sometimes changes need to be made. Having said that, Harry Potter VI failed on a level that none of the other films did.

HPI and II were well made movies that captured the magic and wonder of a kid finding out he’s a wizard and everything that goes with such a discovery. They are not great films, but they are very good. Then we come to HPIII, the best of the films in my opinion. Alfonso Cuaron, who directed Y tu mama tambien and The Children of Men is one of the best directors on the planet and Harry Potter III reflects that. Tightly woven, wonderfully shot, and the CGI is amazing—especially the Dementors and Buckbeat. This film was the best reviewed and is still fascinating to me after several viewings.

HPIV isn’t quite as good but is my second favourite in the series (however, I cannot fathom Gambon’s bizarre take on Dumbledore in this film—shaking Harry and screaming at him, “Did you put your name in the Goblet!”—unforgivable!); nonetheless, the “re-birth” of Voldemort scene is amazing. Then we come to David Yate’s HPV, a slight step back in the series, starting with the CGI being considerably worse than in any other movie (shouldn’t special effects get better, not worse?). Look at how lousy the Dementors look in V compared to III, and look at the dragon in IV compared to Grawp in V, it’s just kind of … bad. Also, watch the final battle between Voldemort and Dumbledore, the CGI they use to erase the nose from Ralph Fiennes face is always obvious, it looks like a there’s a smear across his face for most of that scene, unlike in IV where it’s nearly seamless. But more important than the less than stellar CGI is that in this movie we see the beginnings of the big problem with V that gets much worse in VI. It seems to me that David Yates just doesn’t get Harry Potter and his world. I bring up that battle between Voldemort and Dumbledore because in the movie it ends with Voldemort having the upper hand, knocking over Dumbledore and then possessing Harry. The battle was fairly well shot and acted but Voldemort did not dominate Dumbledore in that fight! The title of that chapter is The Only One He (Voldemort) Ever Feared. Voldemort doesn’t bowl over Dumbledore; he barely escapes from him! He has to enter Harry to escape and he’s also hoping that Dumbledore will kill Harry in the attempt to kill him. The movie turns that around completely—that’s not an edit to save time; it’s changing the story and the way the characters relate to each other and with a story this carefully put together, it’s a wrong, frustrating and annoying decision.

Sorry for the unbelievably long intro, but now we can go on to HPVI and everything that’s wrong with it.

However, let’s start with what's right. These movies have the luxury of some of the best actors the UK has to offer. Indeed, the acting throughout the series has been quite good and the young actors have matured well as performers. I like all the leads, but I think Emma Watson as Hermione understands and portrays her character the best. Also, the fire FX in the scene where they retrieve the Horcrux is amazing, and the wintry Quiddich scene is the best Quiddich scene in all the series; however, like much of the film, they blow it by not showing Harry catching the snitch to end the game, which would have only added another two seconds to the film.

Now on to what's wrong—where to begin? How about at the beginning when they skip Dumbledore coming to the Dursley’s. They should have had that scene for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s funny. Secondly, it allows Dumbledore to explain many things that are essential to the story, like the protection around Harry while he calls 4 Privet Dr. his home. Moreover, what they replaced this scene with—Harry picking up a waitress in the subway system—is a perfect example of David Yates not “getting” Harry Potter. Harry’s life is in danger; Voldemort is back and in the open and wanting to kill Harry. Harry’s only protected while at home (for the love of Pete he was attacked by Dementors the last time he wandered from home!) but in this movie he’s wandering around the subway system because he’s bored. This highlights one of the major problems with the film. Yates misses an opportunity to build tension and create drama and replaces it with adolescent hormones running amuck. The book certainly has that, but the movie is dominated by it. We needed more conflict between Harry and Draco and more Pensieve memories and the importance of hunting down Horcruxes and less people removing toothpaste/blood/butterbeer from each other’s mouths; more mystery and thrills, less love potions.

Horace Slughorn:
Jim Broadbent is one of my favourite actors, but this portrayal is utterly wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m sure it’s not the actor’s fault, but Slughorn is not a bumbling old fool. He’s cunning, he’s been on the run from the Death Eaters for a year, he’s the former head of Slytherin House and though he has his weaknesses, he’s smart and crafty—not old and daffy. And usually in the movies, they at least try to physically match the characters to what’s portrayed in the books, but not here. Slughorn is very fat, short, bald and has a huge walrus moustache. Jim Broadbent’s Slughorn is none of these. Ironically, Broadbent’s role in Moulin Rouge is closer to Slughorn than this portrayal here. Again, I do not blame the actor; I know he’s more than capable of playing a role like this, I just think the director blew it, totally.

Wow. Rarely has a movie added something that was so wrong, and not just because it didn’t happen in the book—it’s goes against everything that’s in the book! The Burrow is strongly protected, especially when Harry’s there, the protections don’t fail until the ministry has fallen and Scrimgeour is dead. While the ministry is strong and Dumbledore is still alive, there’s no way in the world that two Death Eaters could attack and destroy the Burrow. However, it’s not just wrong because it ignores the protection around the Burrow. It’s also unbelievably wrong because it shows two Death Eaters (really one Death Eater and a werewolf) outwitting and overwhelming no fewer than NINE wizards and witches. Harry, Ginny, Ron, Fred, George, Arthur, Molly, Lupin and Tonks were all apparently helpless while a measly two Death Eaters destroyed their home. Even if you argue that five of those people were young wizards, you still have four members of the Order! Lupin, a D.A.D.A. teacher, Arthur, Tonks (who’s a freakin’ Auror!) and Molly, who is the very person who eventually kills the mighty Bellatrix … yeah, none of these wizards and witches could stop the Burrow from being destroyed. This is what Yates doesn’t understand. Obviously as fans, we’re willing to suspend our disbelief for a movie and book like this—but you still have to follow the rules within that universe. Maybe you can bend them a little but you can’t shatter them completely. This added attack also highlights one of the major problems with the film—it doesn’t take into consideration what happens in Book VII, which means there’s going to be a lot of tedious exposition in the two VII movies to help things make sense. If you destroy the Burrow, where does VII even start? Where’s the wedding? Are they just going to “magic” the house back together? What’s really frustrating about this is that unlike all the other movies, the final book was out when they made this film, so they have no excuses that they didn’t know something was going to be important. Speaking of which, since when can Death Eaters fly? Yates unfortunately established that in the fifth movie, in which members of the Order also flew, but he really shows it here, with Death Eaters flying all over the place. This ruins the big battle in the seventh book/movie where everyone is on brooms or Thestrals, except Voldemort. The fact that only Voldemort (and later, Snape) can fly makes that battle much more thrilling, now it won’t make sense. And since in the fifth movie Tonks and Lupin could fly, why didn’t they fly after the Death Eaters in this scene? Obviously, this scene is one huge can of worms Yates should never have opened.

Horcruxes and the Pensieve Memories:
I read an interview with Yates where he explained that he added the Burrow destruction because he needed something “exciting” in the middle of the movie. He also said that he ran this by JK and she said ok—I find this surprising but I don’t know how much control she has and maybe she has to pick her battles. However, let us get back to his original reasoning--he needed to juice up the middle of the film. Well, the film’s plodding is no one’s fault but his. Yates’ insistence on concentrating on lesser matters grinds the movie down. He needed an exciting scene? How about the Pensieve memory where we see Voldemort’s mother, grandfather, and uncle? A dead snake hanging from the door, creepy, threatening characters speaking in Parseltounge, the scene that introduces the ring that becomes a horcrux! Not only would this have been a cool, almost disturbing scene, it would have set up some needed info on what they have to do in Deathly Hallows. In addition, they missed another Pensieve memory that is fascinating, thrilling and exceptionally important, and it would have been a great excuse to bring in Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. That scene, of course, is the scene where the half transformed Voldemort comes to Dumbledore to apply for the D.A.D.A. job. That would have been an exciting scene they could have put in the middle of the movie instead of the ridiculous Burrow attack and it would have helped set up the last movie much better. Also missing; Voldemort’s discovery of Hufflepuff’s cup and the murder he commits to get it—just more exposition they will have to add in the seventh movie … sigh.

Dobby and Kreacher, Nowhere to be Found:
Ok, here’s a problem they’ve had since the fourth movie. Dobby is in Books II, IV, V, VI, and VII; however, they have only shown him in the second movie. The sixth movie was their last chance to re-establish this very important character and that goes for Kreacher too. JK said in an interview that she had to insist on Kreacher being in the fifth movie, well Yates had the last chance to show Kreacher and especially Dobby again before their crucial roles in the last movie(s). So now, when the seventh movie is released and Dobby comes to save everyone, audiences who don’t know the books are going to say, “Who the hell is that?” Again, no excuse for Yates. The last book was out before they made this movie, he knew how incredibly important Dobby was, and he still didn’t put him in this film to re-establish a character that we haven’t seen in years—dumb decision.

Harry Not being Frozen at the Top of the Tower:
Again, Yates just doesn’t get these characters. There’s a reason JK had Harry frozen and invisible while witnessing the death of Dumbledore. Harry would have acted, that is his nature. It’s also considerably more dramatic to have Harry visible only to the viewer, frozen and agonizingly unable to help while his mentor, hero, and protector gets killed by the person he hates the most. Instead, we have Harry pacing underneath doing nothing. This is followed by one of the most bizarre decisions in movie history—THEY LEAVE THE BATTLE OF SNAPE AND THE DEATHEATERS FIGHTING THE ORDER AND DUMBLEDORE’S ARMY OUT!!! The freakin’ climax of the book is left out! He puts a battle in that makes no sense and leaves out one that would have been exciting, and which sets up much of what happens in VII—unbelievable.

There are many other smaller things that were annoying. Like Luna removing the cloak from Harry by magic when we know that spells don’t affect that cloak. Aragog being about 1/3 the size he was in the second movie. Harry and Ginny’s kiss being secretive and anti-climatic instead of the full-blown eruption in front of the entire Gryffindor common room. Dumbledore being surprised and shocked about the horcruxes instead of just confirming his suspicions; but these are small things compared to the major mistakes. I know there are other things but I think I’ve said enough … my apologies, but thanks for reading my remarkably long diatribe.

Oh, by the way, I did not go see the movie on the opening midnight screening (as I usually do) or even the next day. I was protesting the ridiculous decision of delaying the movie eight months until the summer simply to make more money. As if this series doesn’t make enough money for Warner Brothers, so I did my little protest by waiting till the second week. Will I go see the next two movies? You bet, and at the midnight screening too! The good thing about these movies is that it’s like visiting old friends, and I’ve really enjoyed nearly all of them, it’s only VI that has so many problems.

1 comment:

  1. hey Jerry! i agree with pretty much everything you said :P again, i've never had such a passionate conversation with someone about harry potter haha! maybe you should have made all the HP movies instead :) sounds like you know the books inside out.

    oh and by the way i totally went to the midnight screening.. heheheh

    I'm curious to see the final movies... how much will they screw up this time? we can only speculate!

    see you around soon hopefully!

    Erin (...asian chick from butler!!)