Monday, July 11, 2011

Potter Rewatch: 4-5

In the fairy folklore, one of the ways fairies mess with mortals is to steal them out of their beds at night and take them to the fairy realm, where they dance all night at a great revel, and then they take them back to their beds, where they wake remembering nothing except maybe something they think was a dream, but they're weary, as though they spent the night dancing instead of sleeping. Well, I must have been at a truly epic party last night.

I am proud to report that I successfully repaired my faucet. I'd been planning to replace the whole faucet because it was hard to shut off and tended to drip, but replacing the handle seems to have fixed that. I'd thought there might be problems because when I turned the water back on it only came back as a trickle. But then an hour or so later it was back to normal. The handle feels looser than it was, but since it works better, I'm going to assume it was wrong before.

Tonight starts the channel formerly known as Sci Fi's summer season, with the return of Eureka and Warehouse 13 and the start of a new show. This is a pretty packed week with all the new TV (including the return of Haven on Friday), the end of Friday Night Lights (if you don't have satellite or the DVDs) and the premiere of the final Harry Potter movie.

I've been rewatching the Harry Potter movies in preparation for the final one. This weekend, I got through movies 4 and 5.

The fourth film is one of my least favorites, although that book is one of my favorites in the series. I didn't dislike it as much this time around as I recalled, but there's still some disappointment there, and I've been trying to figure out why. For one thing, there are the truly awful hairstyles sported by most of the boys. They look like they're trying to do a drag production of the 70s version of Charlie's Angels. One of the twins pretty much has the Farrah do. That alone is enough to make the movie very distracting to watch. Another thing may just be me. What I like about that book is the "human" side of the story, and those parts of the movie actually do work pretty well. I'm not sure that I've ever been that crazy about the "plot" parts, and I think those are the weaker parts of the movie. It's easier to skim past the less interesting parts in a book than it is in the movie, and I might not like the book so much if I had to read every word every time I read it.

But I think another problem is something that lingers from the first two movies but that is made worse by the fact that this book is so much longer. It tries to be a fairly literal translation of the book, just cutting out a few subplots, but that means that many of the scenes are just touched on, like they're just there to be there, and then they're gone. And yet some of the scenes are extended far beyond the way they are in the book. The dragon fight, in particular, gets tedious.

The real reason that I don't think this movie works as well as it should is that subplots were cut without following through on the ripple effects, which meant scenes that didn't really need to be in the movie and a bunch of logic problems. One case in point: the way Barty Crouch Jr. was handled. The way he got out of Azkaban and then escaped to pull off his scheme was pretty complicated, and I could see why they wouldn't want to deal with all that in the film because it would have meant a long exposition scene after the story climax (one of the weaknesses in the books is that they tend to come down to a scene in which the villain explains what he's been doing through the whole book to Harry), and it doesn't really matter HOW Junior escaped, only that he did. EXCEPT ... we'd just had an entire film about how horrible and unprecedented it was for someone to escape from Azkaban and how they did this huge manhunt that everyone knew about, with Wanted posters everywhere. So, without the explanation about how his parents smuggled him out in a way that made everyone think he died in prison, we're left with the question of how he got out and why no one has been looking for him. Meanwhile, the main plot reason for the whole World Cup segment (aside from the spectacle of the magical world) was because that created the circumstances for Junior to escape his father's house arrest. But in the movie, he's already escaped and reported to Voldemort before the World Cup, so then there's no real point in that whole segment in the film, other than the spectacle of the magical world, and we barely touch on it. It's like "look, here's the World Cup!" just so the fans won't riot over not seeing it at all.

On the other hand, Order of the Phoenix is my least favorite book in the series, and yet I love the movie. Most of that comes down to Imelda Staunton. Umbridge in the book is so loathsome that the book is unpleasant to read. But Imelda Staunton manages to be just as loathsome as in the book while also being hysterically funny in the role, so what's unpleasant to read becomes fun to watch. It's also a little less unpleasant to see Harry in PTSD mode than to read the pages of PTSD Harry shouting at everyone. Really, everyone seems to have brought their A game and seems to be having tons of fun working on this movie. I think this script works pretty well because it got away from being so literal, so that a lot of similar scenes were combined or plot elements were covered in montage form (like the way they got through all the training scenes and Umbridge tightening her hold on the school, summing up a few hundred tedious pages of the book in just a few entertaining minutes). I can barely make myself re-read this book, but I found myself actually watching this film instead of reading and using it as background noise.

I'll get to the next two films later this week.

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