Thursday, July 14, 2011

Revisiting Harry Potter: Number Six

I've been reviewing the book I'm about to rewrite, and I think I've figured out how to fix it. I'll let it stew a bit and then start the rewrite next week. Today, though, I have to write a song. There's a song that plays a role in the story, and in the earlier draft, I talked around it, but I think I need to actually know the song. There's a folk song melody I think I'll use as a basis and give it new words that fit the book.

I've been continuing my Harry Potter movie rewatch, and last night was the sixth film. I remember calling this one "Harry Potter and the Teenage Hormones" or "Harry Potter and the Story Where Nothing Actually Happens," but I still found myself pretty captivated by this movie. I was trying to read while watching it, but kept ignoring the book. There are three big exceptions, but otherwise, I think this film works. There's not a lot of action in this story, but there's still a lot of tension and suspense. I think the human side of the story is also interesting here and enough to sustain a lot of the film. That part is helped by the fact that by this time, there's a real comfort zone among the kids so that they really do feel like best friends. Some of the better moments in the film are rather quiet ones where they're getting a rare chance to just be kids.

One thing that I think helps this story is the fact that, for a change, Harry has very clear-cut goals from the beginning and he's active in pursuing the goals (instead of him just stumbling into things). Dumbledore gives him orders to get close to Slughorn and then later to get the crucial memory from him. Meanwhile, Harry has his own goal. He's sure that Malfoy is on some kind of mission from Voldemort and is behind the near-fatal attacks on classmates, and he's determined to prove this. The problem is that Harry thinks his own goal is more important than the goal Dumbledore set for him -- after all, people, including his best friend, have almost died -- and that's distracting him from carrying out his mission for Dumbledore, which is what's actually more important in the grand scheme of things. Dumbledore does have his ongoing tendency of withholding information from Harry, and in this case, I'm inclined to think he was right because if Harry had known for certain that Malfoy was on a mission for Voldemort, he'd have been even more distracted and would have thought that was all that mattered. Dumbledore didn't know what the memory was about, exactly, so there wasn't much more he could have told Harry about that.

Visually, this film is lovely. There's a sense of looming darkness and an atmosphere that permeates everything, with the twins' store being the lone bright spot.

But there are three major things that irk me about the screenplay:
1) The big blow-up between Ron and Hermione was so perfectly developed in the book, and the screenplay missed the point entirely. In the book, Ron heard Hermione accuse Harry of giving him the luck potion before the Quidditch game, and he heard Harry explain that he'd just pretended so Ron would have confidence. Ron was deeply wounded that she'd believed he couldn't have been that good without the potion and angry that she'd ruined his moment of triumph. That was what eventually led to him going off with Lavender (with some stuff in between, including Ginny revealing that Hermione had kissed Krum). Considering that the conversation between Harry and Hermione was in the movie, it makes no sense that it was changed so that Ron didn't hear it, which meant he went off with Lavender for no good reason. It wouldn't have taken any extra time to have given some motivation to the whole meltdown. In the movie, there's no good reason for Ron to run off with some other girl when he so clearly is into Hermione. In the book, the fact that he likes her is the reason, since that made her lack of faith in him hurt even more.

2) The attack on the Burrow didn't need to be there. This scene wasn't in the book. On first viewing, I said that it must have been added to put some action in the middle, but now it really bugs me because it was gratuitous action just for the point of having action. This attack meant nothing to the story and has no lasting impact (the Burrow seems perfectly fine in the next film). If you can cut a scene without changing the story at all, then it doesn't need to be there. Ron's near death not long afterward makes a better midpoint because it is a big turning point that matters to the story in both the big-picture plot (it's part of Malfoy's activity) and in the personal plot (it brings Ron and Hermione back together). The time dedicated to this pointless scene would have been better used for the climax of the story. Which brings me to ...

3) Why did they minimize the climax of the story? In the book, there was a big running battle through Hogwarts, with some of the students and with Order of the Phoenix members joining in. In the movie, it looks like Death Eaters can just wander into Hogwarts, kill the headmaster, trash the place and then leave without anyone doing anything. If they'd included at least a bit of the fight, then it would have given the other characters something to do (Ron and Hermione pretty much vanished for the last 45 minutes of the movie, aside from the ending wrap-up scene). It might even have made the endless drinking water scene less tedious if they'd cut back and forth between that and Harry's friends keeping an eye on Malfoy in his absence. I also thought it was important that Dumbledore froze Harry when Malfoy arrived on the tower, so he really was helpless during all that and he knew Dumbledore was dead when the spell broke and, again, I can't see the point in changing that. It changes the meaning of the whole scene and it doesn't take any less time.

I'll discuss the seventh film as a whole after I've seen part 2 tomorrow morning. Rewatching these films plus also rewatching some episodes of Haven in preparation for the season premiere and my usual indulgence in CSI reruns gave me some weird dreams last night. I dreamed what I was sure was a scene from one of the books that was left out of the movie, and it involved the characters going to a very haunted town to investigate something. It took me about an hour of thinking about it after I woke up before I was absolutely certain that it was just a dream and that it wasn't in any of the books. Though I guess the dream that Maggie Smith was in my church choir should have been a clue.

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