Day Report (& Harry Potter 3 review)
Well, this morning just dragged on and on. I got up early so I can finally get ossian's bday present mailed. Managed to get out of the house at like... 8:30 or so.
Spent ~2 hours just figuring out *how* I was gonna do this. What with packaging and boxing and whatever. I think I spent maybe 1 hour of it in the car just wrapping/packaging. Maybe 15-30 minutes of that time was spent on the road... specifially, spent on getting lost on the road. Driving by memory for me isn't really a good idea, even in my home city, which is a really really sad testament to the state of my memory. ^_^;;
Then spent half an hour or so in line at the post office and then sending the sucker off. I used express mail, since I spent so much time on the thing already that I might as well make it worth my time. This means that it'll get to the destination really fast (hopefully). It *should* get to Edmonton on Monday, or at least that's what the ads claim. But at the very latest it ought to get there by early next week. I think you may have to sign for it though, ossian, so let's hope it gets there when you're home, else you might need to drop by the post office for it. :p But hey, at least it'll get there on time.
After that I decided that since it's close to noon, I might as well grab some fast food and go see a movie. Since I figured there'll be eateries next to the theater, I went there first...after some more confused directions and driving (*sweatdrop*). Got a ticket for the 12 o'clock Harry Potter 3 showing, which left me with like 30 minutes to run down a block or so to Burger King and grab something to go. I finished a small chocolate milkshake on my way back (it's really hot out today) and managed to sneak in a to-go bag with a 8-pc box of chicken tenders to the theater. I'm so bad. :p
So, the movie. I supposed I liked it. Well, I didn't *dislike* it. It was alright for a popcorn flick, I guess.
I think the main problem it had was that it simply cut out too much. In order to condense such a huge book/story that is HP3, it had to take a freakin' chainsaw to the book. I understand this, since the movie was pretty long as it is. However, the problem is that even if you only try to cut out the non-neccessary stuff from the book, the sheer *volume* of stuff you have to cut out are still going to affect the quality of the story. The book created such a rich and.. well.. *interwoven* tapestry of people and events, that the movie in comparison seemed really, well, shallow. Hollow.
They got rid of the Snape/James Potter blood debt. They got rid of the *emotion* behind the Snape/Remus antagonism AND the Snape/Black hatred. Heck, they got rid of the entire history that James, Remus, Sirius, and Snape had in regards to the Shrieking Shack. They didn't even put in the fact that the "Marauders" who created the Marauders Map were the close circle of friends that consisted of Sirius, Remus, James, and Peter. You don't get the feeling at all that, though we're told that James was friends with Sirius and Peter, and Remus mentions Lily and James fondly, that they're anywhere the close circle of friends that Harry could (or should) actually identify with in Ron and Hermione.
Of course, since the major theme behind the third book was the "mistakes of the past come back to haunt the present", and the idea of "great friendships and great betrayals with great consequences"... well, it basically cuts out the *heart* of the story.
Now, I'm not a book purist by far. Heck, the last time I actually read Azkaban was like... what? High school? Still, it's not the nickpicky details of the movie that bothered me the most. But even outside the context of the book, the movie runs very shallow. I suppose that it's all the well for a kid to see it, whether or not they've read the books. But part of the reason that I think that the HP series are well liked by older youths and even adults is because that, underneath the surface story for the kids, lies deeper themes and concepts that provokes much more thought.
In those respects, HP3 didn't - couldn't, really - live up to the depth of story telling and deeper themes. There just wasn't enough room to do in in the context of the timeframe it had. As it is, the passage of time felt pretty rushed as it was. The season-changing shots from fall to winter to spring centering on the Whomping Willow felt like it was happening way to often. By the last change, I was thinking "what? already?"
Okay, plot aside, I think a lot of the saving grace in this film were the actors, despite the fact that with the really rushed timeline and the wholesale cutting out of parts, a lot of the major characters were neglected.
Harry Potter... gotta start with him. I have to admit that I entered the theater with some biased expectations *against* his character, based on his characterization from the 5th book. However, despite the fact that in the movie Harry *does* act a bit like his future-double from the book - in terms of having an anger problem and not thinking out his actions - Radcliffe's acting made those flaws seem... well... more natural and empathetic. That's somewhat ironic, though, since when I see Radcliffe in the movie, I have to keep reminding myself "he's 13, not 17. he's 13, not 17", but yet the air of petulant anger and unthinking recklessness he has *feels* just *perfect* for a 13 year old boy who's bereft of any positive role models in his life and is still growing up.
When Harry blows up his aunt Marge, I get the impression that it was *not* as much an accidental magic burst of anger (as in the book), but a deliberate excercise of revenge. Now, morally speaking, I don't agree with his action, since I don't believe the "punishment" fit her "crime". Furthermore, it was an action that could have really dire consequence. Harry couldn't have *known* that she'll be eventually retrieved by the Ministry. Yet he didn't seem to have a shred of worry or concern that she could have floated off into the sky forever, doomed to die eventually of exposure or thirst/starvation - a grisly way to die, and a death that *certainly* she would not have deserved, no matter how much he hated her.
However, would that be in character for someone in Harry's place? I think so. He's a boy who hasn't matured yet, and maybe is only on the very verge of maturing. He's got a history of being bullied and neglected (at best) by a "family" that hates him, and he now has the power (literally) to stand up to the "normals". True, he doesn't think things through when he's in a temper. But really, how many kids do? It's much easier to realize later that, "oops, maybe that wasn't a good idea", but only hindsight has that kind of clarity. And that's only if they're knocked on the head about the consequences of their "follies" too.
However, one quibble about Radcliffe's acting was Harry's love for his parents. Seriously, in the movie, it comes across less as love and more as some kind of morbid hero-worshipping obsession. Which... now that I think of it, could work, really; I'm sure there's much fanfic fodder in that concept. However, I doubt it's supposed to be how that particular "relationship" was *supposed* to be characterized.
Moreover, Radcliffe's failure to establish a believable *love* for his parents leads to an even more forced scene where Harry, in anger after learning that Sirius supposedly betrayed his parents to Voldemort, exclaims that "I'll kill him!" Well, that whole scene just came across as very forced and awkward to me, and I just find it unbelievable.
Now, Remus Lupin, on the other hand... David Thewlis did a wonderful job displaying intercharacter relationships in Lupin's role. When he reminisced about Lily and James for the first time with Harry on the bridge, Thewlis did with half a dozen lines what Radcliffe couldn't do for the entire movie. He put such a depth of feeling in to his words and body language that, well, you couldn't help but really believe that there's some serious depth of emotion there.
My inner fangirl also noticed that his words could also be used to fuel Remus/Lily speculations, for those members of that ship. *grin*
For that matter, his reunion with Sirius was wonderfully done too. In just a couple of minutes, those two guys had some serious chemistry going. And Snape even says on-screen, (paraphrased) "quit arguing, you two are like an old married couple". Ha! The Remus/Sirius ship is also in heaven with that one!
Speaking of Snape... sadly, most of his role from the book was cut out. Which just goes to tell you how much they did cut from the book, since book 3 was the most Snape-centric of the series when it comes to recurring supporting characters so far. Plus he was also central to the plot/background/storyline in the book as well. Well, not so in the film, sadly. He only shows up a couple of times, and it really feels like they just threw him into those scenes without much reason or motivation for his presence at all.
Check that on the motivation part. This movie joins the ranks of the previous two of making Snape a much more "good" and "heroic" character than in the books. We don't see a bully and former victim of bullies. We don't even really see an unreasoning and utterly biased maliciousness against Gryffindors. What we do see in the movie in the... 3 or 4 scenes that Snape shows up is:
1) A teacher *rightly* patrolling the corridors after curfew while there's a threat to the school, and *rightly* interrogates the student out by himself in the middle of the night, who also has a *history* of getting himself into mortal danger, and who's the friggin' target of aforementioned threat. He rightly confiscates the magical parchment Harry has, because it *is* magical and has secrets magically hidden from him... and thus *should be* very much a matter of concern for him as a staff member of the school.
2) After being part of the staff members who were searching for Sirius after his assault on the Gryffindor doorway, Snape and Dumbledore talk about what might need to be done if the danger gets worse. Then, it's *Snape* who asks if Harry should be told more of what's going on, since technically it's his business too. So really, in the movie universe, Snape at least has more confidence in Harry's ability and maturity to handle the situation more than most other adults do - an opinion, whether correct or not, that Harry himself shares.
3) Snape arrives in the Shrieking Shack to catch Sirius and Remus there. Not soon enough to hear the bit about Pettigrew being alive (and thus Black innocent). Naturally, he's going to be antagonistic when facing this threat and (as far as he knows) murderer, even if we're ignoring the history that he no longer has with Black and Lupin in the movie-verse. Again, in the movie we don't see an obsessive and nearly unreasoning insane hatred of Black (and Lupin). We don't see an unbalanced mind revelling in violence and revenge. Instead, we see a cooly composed professional, confident in his moral high ground, and for whom revenge (an unspecified revenge at that) is merely incidental icing on the cake.
4) When Lupin goes werewolf, Snape manages to come to earlier than he did in the book, and now plays the role of *protector*. Good gods! How can you consider a man not *heroic* when he throws himself in front of his students, arms stretched out to keep them behind him, while he faces down a rampaging werewolf out for blood!! Without a wand, at that! He even took the first blow (a claw strike) for them, and *still* threw himself back in front of the kids. (If we figure in the history he has with this particular werewolf from the books, it'd be even more heroic, considering that he'd be willingly reliving a traumatic living nightmare from his own childhood!) *totally wallows in the Snape love*
You know... if I ever see Snape being antagonistic to Potter in a future movie, I'm seriously not going to be able to hold it against him. He rushes in to save the kids from a mass murderer, and then stands between the kids and a werewolf... and what was his thanks? He gets assaulted by Harry Potter, who then runs off by himself *after* the werewolf that was trying to kill them all. (And no, I don't blame Snape either for not going after Harry then. He obviously also has a responsibility to see to Hermione, and Ron - who's *wounded*. It'd do little good to leave the two of them undefended out there in case the werewolf circles back, to chase after a boy who's obviously *trying* to get himself killed.) Also, in the end, what punishment does Harry get for assaulting his *teacher*? Nothing! I can't really think that, from Movie!Snape's perspective, that such a thing should go unpunished. We're not even talking about unfair treatment now. No matter that Harry's actions were right in the larger view, they are also deserving of punishment from a teacher who's not in the know.
Back to the movie... Hermione and Ron were wonderful in the movie. Hermione especially stole a lot of scenes. She's also building up very well to the "know-it-all" that comes across very blatantly in book 5. Sirius... well... he didn't get much characterization at all, so I can't say much about him. He looked believable as a fugitive though, and his heart-to-heart scenes with Harry were pretty believable, emotionally speaking. Dumbledore... eh, I didn't notice too much of a difference with the new actor, so I guess he passes muster as well. Hagrid, I think, is conceptually the closest to his book self. Which is to say that I like the big lug, but I also think he has no business to be teaching (well, actually I have a lot of issues with the teaching methods at Hogwarts, but that's a rant for another day).
There were several notable minor characters as well. Fred and George and the most awesome pair of twins ever. They carried off the whole "twin telepathy" and "finishing each other's sentences" thing very nicely and naturally. I loved that scene! ^_^ Neville gets his cameos, and does pretty well playing the nerdy fumbling dork that you just pity and emphasize with muchly. Trelawny is a batty fruitcake, like she should be. Draco... well, aside from having Radcliffe's problem of looking like he's 17 instead of 13, Draco does the pampered brat bit very well, as well the coward bit that comes from being a spoiled princeling, so to speak.
Now the ambience... well, those who complain about the new director changing the palette and yaddayaddayadda... well, I honestly didn't notice. Then again, it's been how long since I've seen Chamber of Secrets? :p I think the ambience is just fine. The wizarding world of the movie was filling with lots of wonders and gee-whiz moments that's what a good fantasy world is all about. I loved the scene of the Leaky cauldron (that nameless extra reading a book while magically stirring his drink was rather cute ^_-). I loved the little touches of magic in Hogwarts - the ghostly knights "crashing" through glass panes and chasing each other around the tables... the starry montage of the Great Hall... and so on.
And then there were the creatures of CGI-magic. Buckbeak the hippogriff was absolutely *beautiful*. Sirius the Grimm, while not maybe perfect, cut an appropriately frightening figure. The dementors were very nicely done, even though they're not groundbreaking CGI anymore after the Nazgul in LOTR. Harry's patronus stage was brilliant (pun intended) and did great justice to the vague descriptions of the spell in the book.
There were a couple of disappointments though. Scrabbers the rat looked pretty fake. I can't see why they couldn't have used a real rat, at the very least for the scenes when someone was holding the thing. Or if they did use a real rat... well, that's gotta be some skill for making it still look so fake. :p Lupin's werewolf form, as well, was disappointing. It looked like a toothpick that could snap under a sudden wind, for goodness sakes, which really cut down on its threat-factor. But then, I guess the thinness could be some reference the the fact that Lupin was poor and malnourished. Still, that doesn't excuse the fact that his facial structure, pose, etc. didn't make me think "werewolf" at all. He didn't even look like he had fur! Good gracious, why they didn't just take a copy out of Underworld or something and use that is beyond me.
Backing up to the patronus charm bit, I think that even before then, Potter-verse magics have always been stronger and more spectacular in the movie than in the book. I mean, I think I've seen more acts of *intentioned* wandless magic in just this movie than in the entire series of books so far. Plus the stag patronus? In the book it was just running around and chasing the Dementors away. In the movie, it's just a hallucinatory side effect seen by Harry's past self, while the real power of the patronus is just radiating semi-spherically out from his wand like a... like a spiritual Dragon Slave! It was actually *incinerating* the Dementors caught in its way! That's like... whoa. I'm thinking that movie-verse HP matches on Rumbles is gonna become a lot more interesting in the future.
Well, that's enough yakking for now. I'm pretty much out of stuff to say. Hope that review was informative. Maybe I'll go see Shrek 2 some other time.