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Harry Potter and the Unrealistic Expectations (or: I have how many pages? To fit into 3? hours?)


I will preface my comments with the following information so you can know how seriously to take me. It’s like on Netflix, how it shows you the percentage of commentor’s scores that agree with yours.

My least favorite of the Harry Potter Books was the Fifth, Order of the Phoenix.
My favorite movie of the series was the fifth, Order of the Phoenix.

David Yates took a book that had a lot of interesting stuff in it and made it a tight, lean war story. And this was the first of the movies that felt like it was taking place in a world that was real, one that inhabited the corners, shadow regions , just-beyond the edge of your sight spaces in our own. A lot of people thought the production design was lackluster after the epic scope of Goblet of Fire, but it worked for me. This was a world like ours, gearing up for the ultimate war. So, I was really happy that they gave Yates the rest of the movies to direct. These last three books (four movies) are really one story, and it needed a consistent tone.

But for this movie, he was working against the material a little. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, while it was more successful as a novel that Order of the Phoenix, still has the same problem: There’s a lot stuffed in it. There’s the developing War, and there’s the flashbacks through Voldemort’s life, there’s the mystery of the Half-Blood prince, and the political changes at the ministry of magic, and several love stories, and the introduction of the quest for the Horcruxes, and there’s Malfoy’s secret mission and there’s … well, you get the point. There’s a lot going on. And its a good book, as all of them are, but its hard to boil down into one film that adequately hits even a majority of all of this.

So, the question was, would Yates and Kloves focus on the stuff that mattered, boil it down to the strongest bits? The answer : eehh … kind of?

You have to accept the fact that this story is not the book story. I read comic books for years. I can accept a divergent continuity. This is the movieverse, not the bookverse. You need to accept that and move on, and enjoy them each for what they are.

I think focusing on two things: the war (which encompasses Malfoy’s mission and Snape’s conflict), and the stirrings of romance was wise. We kind of get to the Horcruxes, and the half-blood prince mystery is sort of dealt with (I have a feeling that if it had not been in the title, it probably would have been cut, which may have been appropriate), but the movie picks its subjects and sticks with them. It might actually give short shift to some of the romance plotlines (one of which I really missed), but here all all the romances crammed into this book: Harry-Ginny-Dean, Ron-Lavender-Hermione, Remus and Tonks, Bill and Fleur, Neville and Luna (wait–that one was a fanfic I wrotesomeone posted on some strange website I most certainly have never visited (what?).

So, Ron-Lavender-Hermione gets most attention, Harry-Ginny kind of not really happens–Remus and Tonks just rocket through the nonsense and are presented as a couple. Bill and Fleur and the whole werewolf plotline … um … not there at all. Actually we haven’t seen Bill or Charlie at all in these movies, have we?

Anyway, we also lose most of the Voldemort backstory. I wonder why they included any of it at all, frankly, because without most of what they cut, it was kind of pointless.

The battle at Hogwarts was … a couple of death eaters yelling in the hallway. So … not a win there

I really liked the movie, but it did seem to meander somewhat, I don’t know how they could have done what I really wanted, which was to make it both 30 minutes shorter but put back in Bill and Fleur and make the ending battle more signifigant, and bring some clarity back to the Half-Blood Prince thing. Maybe cut some of the Quidditch/Slughorn stuff? I don’t know.

I see why they made the cuts they made, but they kind of removed some of the urgency, and should have given us more of a payoff for the Harry-Ginny stuff.

I don’t know… they did, at least, keep the zombies, so that was a win there. Maybe I’m not that hard to please after all.

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Posted by on July 23, 2009 in culture


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