Friday, November 19, 2010

Obligatory Harry Potter Movie Post - Top 5 Edition

While many of us will be trying to avoid all things Harry Potter, we all know this is its weekend. The stage has been set (kind of) the chess pieces moved into place (for part 2), it's time for Univarn to throw in his two cents on the Harry Potter discussion.

Top 5 Reasons to Watch/Read The Harry Potter Series:

5. Quidditch > All Sports?: Let's be honest if Quidditch was a real sport the line at schools for tryout sessions would be miles long. Mostly we'd all want a shot at flying around on brooms, but there's also the incredible fun factor gained from reading Rowling's vivid descriptions of the actions. On some level I wish Rowling would have dedicated more time to Quidditch and less time to other things (clothes for the house elves? zzzzzz) but the movies, when they have the time, do a fabulous job of bringing the sport to life. Such a creative spin on it all, I can't help but smile a bit.

4. Quick, Charge the Reverse ACCENT MegaCollider: Strictly a film based thing, but if you want a fun weekend note the inverse relation between accent and acting talent in the harry potter series. As the films go on the actors get better while their accents slowly get weaker and weaker. Coincidence? I think not!

3. I'm Not Dead Yet: One of the more fascinating aspects of the Harry Potter series is its dealings with death. Very few of the characters who die throughout the series (exception to the final book) aren't brought back at some point later on. Even in death they serve as guides, loved ones, never truly lost. Harry is consistently facing death, often losing many a loved ones too it. He has to make the most sacrifices. Rowling really captures the difficulty of dealing with death at a young age, especially amidst the many personal changes.

2. It's a big world out there, stop and look around: Rowling's novels do a great job of creating a world within a world, the movies do a great job capturing it. Each director concentrates on something different, but each time they honor that aspect of the film. We know it's not real, but the interspersing it with our world creates an added sense of connection. In the trailer you see places you may want to visit, may live at, or have visited. You see these things you associate with reality destroyed, attacked, fear. The reader/viewer latches on to that, and accepts what is happening as important to more than just the world of the novel.

1. Magic? We Don't Need No Stinking Magic: One of the best things each director has gained a greater appreciation for lay in the characters. We live with them, love with them, hurt with them, it's a truly engrossing experience. The magic is there and it's always fun to see Rowling's new spin on classic magic genre. Yet the glue to the films and books are the characters. Their inter-dynamics are the driving force behind it all, the good and the bad. At times Rowling struggles to develop, but she always understands.

Top 5 Harry Potter Books:
I know this is a bit of a cheat since there's only seven but still.

5. Deathly Hallows: While reading Deathly Hallows I, to mixed results, couldn't help but think of the elder wand as some variation of Tolkein's one ring. Meanwhile you really get an opportunity to deal with the core three characters. They're isolated, caught in crap situation, and forced to deal with feelings they've managed to repress throughout the series. Deathly Hallows wonderfully blends nostalgia for the previous books while sticking to the story and characters at hand.

4. Chamber of Secrets: The first Harry Potter book did an amiable job at displaying the possibilities of the Harry Potter world, Chamber of Secrets began the task of entering them. A real sense of foreboding, violence, and childhood issues emerge here. In many respects Chamber of Secrets became the framework piece for what would eventually evolve into the better, later, entries into the series.

3. Goblet of Fire: Rowling made a smart decision with GoF she expanded the world. Doing so Rowling let us know that there was far more to the world of Harry Potter than we could ever dream of. Schools among schools, witches and wizards across the globe. It does leave us with the burning question as to why everything good and bad happens to the British, but much like American superhero flicks we take certain things for granted based on the writer's origin. Goblet of Fire brings Harry head to head not only with the expanding world, but also with death itself, reigniting the childhood instance that brought this whole story to life and beginning the process of tying the story together.

2. Prisoner of Azkaban: What I love most about Prisoner of Azkaban is not only that its the only Harry Potter film where Voldemort isn't the predominant villain, but it serves as two counterpoints: On the one hand its the complete maturity of Rowling as a developed author with a distinctive voice while on the other hand it's really the final exercise in innocence for our three main cohorts. Following this story there is no turning back. Things will begin to crumble, friendships will be put to the test, and relationships will be formed and lost.

1. Half Blood Prince: Finally some answers! Finally some insight. Half Blood Prince does an outstanding job of not only allowing us into the mindset, and backstory, of Voldemort, but we also gain some much needed building on our characters. Half Blood Prince may at times suffer from being a setp up installment, but in and of itself the story it presents is captivating, emotional, agitating, and enjoyable. Meanwhile we also deal with Harry's growing pains over the very personal death from The Order of the Phoenix, and in the end the recognition that until he stops Voldemort he will always be trapped by death. Half Blood Prince is the emotional weight that carries Deathly Hallows to the end.

 The Harry Potter Movies

I would do a top list here but seeing as two (or two halves depending on your POV) are still waiting to come out I figured I'd say a thing or two about each movie.

Philosopher/Sorcerer's Stone: The opening installment to the world, directed by Christopher Columbus, is great in that it really loves the magic of the world. Unfortunately Columbus misses a bit on the characters, and the first time actors aren't developed enough to carry it. Luckily the story exceeded where others falter, making for an enjoyable time.

Chamber of Secrets: It wasn't until CoS that I really started to respect the Harry Potter films. Until then I enjoyed boasting about the superiority of LOTR, and while I still will (:P) I have to gain a great appreciation for HP as a whole.

Prisoner of Azkaban: I find this the most interesting installment of them all. Visually there's no other match for Cuaron among the series many directors. He captures the mood and fantasy with amazing clarity. However I've noticed this film really divides fans. Some feel it misses the point entirely, others feel its as accurate an adaptation as the series has seen. Personally, as of now, it sits as my #2 (much like the book) favorite.

Goblet of Fire: Out of all the films this one is my current favorite. I love what Mike Newell did with the characters. He really siphoned out all the things I loved about this book while at the same time not harping on many of the things I found a bit dull. There's something about the way Newell approached this story that not only made it fun and exciting, but also made it all really come to life. Many may praise Yates, but I fully believe without Newell's actor approach the following films would have gone south quick.

Order of the Phoenix: Yates did a fantastic job of cramming 800+ pages (which is an afternoon's read for fans of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire - just saying) into a simple, straight forward, narrative. Yates drops a lot of the touchy emotion in favor of moving the characters magic skills along, seeing as they sat a bit on the back burner for the previous films. Meanwhile the actors really start building on the promise of Goblet of Fire. This is also the only case where I feel the movie is better than the book (or at the very least handles the climatic emotional scenes much better).

Half Blood Prince: HBP suffers from having way too much to do and not enough time to do it in. The main reason: Order of the Phoenix was made prior to Deathly Hallows and therefore cuts made for timing ended up being more important than they realized. Even with that Yates still prefers to leave a lot of core plot points on the editing floor, which I can only imagine will get shot at the viewer of DH at 500mph, in favor of character development. The movie does a fine job of building the Dumbledore-Potter relationship, while also taking the characters just to the very edge of where they need to be for the final installment. HBP was one of my favorite films of last year, and I believe stand-alone it's absolute great, but I fear in the context of the series people will likely hold it accountable for not explaining everything that needed to be explained.

Well that about does it for my big Harry Potter spectacular! Hope you enjoyed it, and catch the film this weekend. If by the end of this you're thinking, OH FOR THE LOVE OF ENOUGH ALREADY, I'm sure AnswerMVP would kill me if I didn't mention the other film opening this weekend was The Next Three Days, starring Russell Crowe (which did get a fine review from FlixChatter so check that out).

Have a good one everybody!

7 better thoughts:

Cheri Passell said...

Ahhh, interesting about the accents.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Chamber of Secrets and Goblet of Fire are my two least favourite films. The former is just really awful at times (that ending, yikes) and since the latter is the adaptation of my favourite book of the series it was damned from the get-go. Incidentally, even though I hate how inconsistent Goblet of Fire is with the adaptation Half Blood Prince is my favourite movie though it doesn't do a good job of adapting what's in the novel. Go figure.

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

What no obligatory movie post? This is all simply to spite the release of the new Russell Crowe film isn't it? Well just for that I won't see Harry Potter and I'll see the new Crowe film instead! HAHA! Wait... I was going to do that anyways...

Brittani Burnham said...

Deathly Hallows is my favorite book (and now movie as well) but I always enjoyed Order of the Phoenix as well. That was my favorite Potter film until yesterday. It was also the only film Steve Kloves didn't adapt the screenplay, that's probably why I liked it so much. Like you said, they did a good job of cramming 800+ pages into a movie.

Simon said...

I love the first one as long as I watch it on VHS, where my mindset is still that of when I was seven. I don't think it'll hold up as well if I ever see it on DVD.

Goblet of Fire is my favorite. I liked how the movies themselves aged with the characters, going from magic-and-wonder-blah kid movies to almost-teen-romantic-comedies/action things, and now have matured into Serious Business.

Univarn said...

@Cheri: Indeed

@Andrew: That's only because you have no imagination :P. To be honest I try and judge each film in context which is hard since HBP is such a setup story, book-wise and film-wise

@MVP you know me, always out of spite (I made sure to include the link at the bottom just for you! *cries*)

@Brittani See I always thought Deathly Hallows was a bit bland, and really lost me in its matrix-revolutions like double and triple talk self explaining out any potential plot holes. Then again, the whole elder wand thing, as I mentioned in the above post, kept giving me LOTR flash-backs.

@Simon VHS > life? Then again we're always prone to love things the first way se saw them. I still have Star Wars and Unforgiven on VHS, no desire to change at all :)

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

@Univarn - I missed that... probably because I wasn't about to read a long post about Harry Potter! Had you put that in the first paragraph I would caught it! ;)

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