Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wondering if the early films influenced the later novels

I was watching the special features on some of my Blu Ray editions of the Harry Potter movies today and was surprised to find that there are some that I had not yet watched (including deleted scenes from the first two movies. Wow!).

In an interview on the Prisoner of Azkaban disc, one of the producers mentioned that the shrunken head character they added to the Knight Bus was enough to convince J.K. to introduce shrunken heads in a later novel. I hate to admit it but I can't recall which later novel shrunken heads appear in but I'll have to check.

The comment got me wondering, however, about something that I have thought about from time to time in the past: since the movies started being released while she was still writing the later novels, how much (if at all) did the film versions of her world impact how Rowling wrote the final three books.

The first film was released in 2001, just after the publication of the fourth novel, The Goblet of Fire, but while Rowling was probably still writing the fifth book in the series (The Order of the Phoenix). That means that the final three books were written after Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint had started to inhabit her main characters, after Hogwarts had been made real for the films, and after her early plots had been tinkered with to make them more filmic.

In fact, four films had been released by November of 2005, about the time when one expects Rowling was working diligently on the final novel.

So did the films have any impact on her writing? It's an interesting question. I wonder what J.K. would say about it. She's probably been asked so I might do a little on-line research to see if she's given an answer.

But we have to remember: even the author's thoughts on a question like this are not definitive. A writer can be influenced without even recognising it is happening.

I'll have to think about this one and get back to you. Meanwhile, any thoughts?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What's Mrs. Figg doing in a raincoat?

I think there's a continuity error at the start of the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Think about the opening sequences of that movie. It's a brutally hot, sunny day and Harry encounters Dudley and his gang in a local playground. A terrible storm suddenly develops, bringing howling winds, pouring rain and finally Dementors, which attack Harry and his cousin in the underpass leading from the playground back to their neighbourhood. It's a sudden, freak storm that no one could anticipate. So sudden and so freaky that Dudley automatically thinks Harry has created it.

Harry fights off the Dementors and, in a key plot point, old Mrs. Figg appears at the end of the tunnel in a rain coat, umbrella in hand, to help Harry home.

Are you with me?

We've got a sudden, freak storm on a broiling hot, sunny day. Yet somehow Mrs. Figg is dressed for rain when she arrives. Strange, isn't it? And I don't think you could argue she saw the storm brewing, put on her raincoat, then walked all the way to the underpass in the time available. She's too old and slow and the storm and attack both happened too quickly.

I think the filmmakers blew it.

Please note, in the book, Mrs. Figg arrives panting and in her slippers. One of her cats warned her that Harry was out and that Mundungus Fletcher had abandoned his guard duty. She immediately set off to find him and was as caught off guard by the storm and Dementor attack as Harry was.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Harry Potter and the Borrowed Wig

I've just watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Not a bad movie but not great. I think we lose too much of the Rita Skeeter subplot, which is too bad because Miranda Richardson does such a great job with the role.

The one question I have, though, is: what's up with the hair? Especially the hair on Harry and Ron? Harry looks like he stole Chekov's wig from the original Star Trek series. Seeing as their hair was a lot more conservative in both the previous and following films, I don't get why the Goblet inspires this kind of silliness.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Draco's Redemption? How can he just walk away?

I wrote some time ago about Draco's redemption. I talked about the scene in Part 2 where Draco and two of his cronies (where's Goyle, by the way? or is it Crabbe who's missing? I can never tell them apart) catch Harry as he searches for the Diadem in the Room of Requirement (Room of Hidden Things version). Confronted, Harry asks Draco why Draco didn't identify him to Bellatrix back at Malfoy Manor (you remember, in Part 1).

The discussion makes it clear that Draco recognised Harry but refused to turn him over to the Death Eaters.

I thought perhaps that this was a sign of Draco's redemption. He couldn't kill Dumbledore. He couldn't turn Harry in. He was actually a decent sort after all.

So what do we make of the fact that, in the final confrontation between Death Eaters and Hogwarts defenders, Draco leaves his schoolmates and joins his parents on the side of evil? Is this simply an indication that Draco is evil but lacks guts? Is he only about saving his own skin?

And what about the fact that Draco and his parents actually abandon the scene even before the final battle plays out?

I can't figure it out. What do you think? Use the comments function to tell me how you interpret all this.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kloves' Harry-Hermione hug scene is a nice addition

Stephen Kloves invented much of the film's final act, straying quite far from J.K.'s original version in the novels. I have to admit, I'm not altogether happy with much of what Kloves did but I do like one scene: the one where Harry tells Hermione and Ron that he's going into the Forbidden Forest to die.

That's not in the book. Rowling is very careful to make this a personal, lonely decision for Harry. In fact, he admits in the novel that, if he were to stop to tell them, he probably could never gather the will to leave them again. He encounters Neville on his way out of Hogwarts and tells Neville that, whatever happens, the snake (Nagini) must die. He also sees Ginny but chooses not to stop for her. Again, he likely would not be able to go on with what he must do.

It's a moving passage in the book and beautifully written.

Although I don't thank Kloves for straying so far from J.K.'s terrific original, I do think the screenwriter does a nice job in that little scene on the stairs of Hogwarts between Harry and his two best friends.

I can't recall the dialogue word for word but Harry tells them that he has learned he carries of piece of Voldemort's soul. "I guess I've known for quite a while," he says, then turns to Hermione, "and I think you have too." They both finally acknowledge what they each had figured out on their own: that Harry must die.

It's a lovely moment. A true moment between three good friends.

Daniel Radcliffe plays it very well. He's calm, reserved, almost non-chalant when he says it, which is exactly how I think Harry should be. And Emma Watson responds perfectly. As the calm, fairly rational Hermione, she allows her emotions to flare briefly in the hug but makes no effort to talk him out of doing what she knows he must do.

I'm not sure what instructions Rupert Grint got on how to play his part but he tends to drop into the background in this scene. I'm not sure if we're supposed to read that as to mean that Ron doesn't know what they're talking about, doesn't understand what Harry must do, or that he's working hard to contain his emotions by standing back and watching.

Ron does eventually join the other two but not until after the hug is coming to a close.

I think it's a really nice scene. I think it gives us, the viewers, a much needed moment to take part in the emotional relationships of our hero trio, to see in front of us the devastation that Harry's fate causes for them.

Of course, I still think that Rowling's choice (not to have any such scene for the sake of realism and to put the focus on Harry's personal journey) is the more elegant, subtle one.

But I understand why Klove's added this scene. And I enjoyed watching it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kingsley Shacklebolt impresses in my second viewing

I'm just back from my second viewing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. This time, I caught the 2D version and, frankly, I think it was a big improvement.

I'm still not entirely sold on the revisions to the ending but I came away feeling better about the film. I just loved Helena Bonham Carter channeling Emma Watson in the Gringott's scene and I thought the more emotional passages (especially Snape's memory montage and the Resurrection Stone scene just as Harry enters the Forbidden Forest on his way to his own death) were exceptionally well done.

I have to admit, I was also impressed with Daniel Radcliffe's performance in this film. I have often been critical of his acting in the earlier movies but I think he does a pretty good job here.

Kingsley Shacklebolt is rapidly rising in my estimation as a character in the films and I think George Harris brings him vividly to life every time he gets a chance. I just love the way he emerges from the white swirl in the battle scene of The Order of the Phoenix (a tough, proud man at the top of his form) and I think he provides that same sense of strength in the final film. Too bad Harris wasn't given more to do.

I also noticed this time through (something I missed the first time around) that, when Pansy Parkinson screams for people to grab Harry and turn him over to Voldemort at the beginning of the Battle of Hogwarts, the first four characters to step in front of Harry to protect him are female: Ginny, Hermione, Luna and I think Cho Chang. I am not often impressed with the roles given to female characters in the novels or the movies so this was a really nice moment for me.

I have to think more about this film, both its really great points and the stuff that still bothers me. And, I have to admit, midway through the movie when a guy near me decided he just had to rattle his popcorn bag for about five straight minutes, I found myself thinking: boy, I can't wait to get this on Blu Ray!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Prisoner is Hermione's film

Next up on my film festival, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban. I have to admit, I am one of the many people who think of this movie as one of the best, and possibly the best, in the series.

I love the direction and editing, the very artistic transitions between scenes and the intense atmosphere the director creates throughout the picture.

But mostly I love this film because, let's face it, Hermione owns it. This is her film. Emma Watson is coming of age and so is Hermione, and both dazzle us in this third movie.

In the first movie, it was mostly Ron and Harry and, even when Hermione gets a chance to shine, she lets herself take a back seat to Harry. I hate it when, as Harry prepares to move on to face Quirrell and Voldemort on his own, Hermione dismisses her own impressive powers as mere "cleverness", telling Harry that he is the true hero. Yuck.

In The Chamber of Secrets, Hermione is petrified for most of the important events, leaving it to her male colleagues to carry the day.

So it's just great that, in The Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. puts Ron on the injured list and leaves it to Hermione and Harry to set things right, with Hermione firmly in the lead. I love the punch (both in the book and in the movie) and I love the fact that Hermione is the one who is in control as things get crazy at the end.

In this film, the kids are starting to grow up and the stakes are getting high. Emma Watson is proving herself to be the best actor of the three leads and it's nice to see that the script gives her a meaty role with which to show off her increasing skills as an actor.

She just continues to get better as the series progresses but it's in The Prisoner of Azkaban that both Emma and Hermione get their real first chance to flex their muscles and take over.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Chamber of Secrets is one of the weaker films

I am slowly working my way through the first seven Harry Potter movies in preparation for seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, for a second time in the cinema.

To my surprise, I found that the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is starting to lose its luster for me. It lacks the charm of the first film and, but for a scintillating climax, it also comes across as slightly self-indulgent. Whereas the first film offered us the wonder of a first-time look at the magical world, this second movie tries but fails to recapture that magic. And I think the acting, particularly of Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, is definitely not as good.

One of its biggest drawbacks is the overbearing presence of Gilderoy Lockhart, played by Kenneth Brannagh. I'm not saying Brannagh doesn't do well with the part; I'm just saying that the silliness of the Lockhart character in the film is too much and detracts from the effectiveness of the entire movie.

Now, as I said, I do think the ending of the film is powerful, perhaps even powerful enough to save the entire movie. Harry's encounter with Tom Riddle and the Basilisk, over Ginny Weasley's dying body, is gripping. In particular, I think Fawkes, the Phoenix, is beautifully created, so fantastic that you wish the bird had a bigger role in later films.

I also like Harry's final encounter with Mr. Malfoy at the end of the movie. I still can't believe that Lucius actually intended to use the killing curse on Harry before Dobby intervened. What a great way to tell us all that the stakes are getting higher awfully quickly.

And it's also a nice reminder of just how powerful Malfoy was in the beginning. I've gotten used to him as the fallen Death Eater he becomes in the later books.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Seamus is the one for Luna, not Neville

The son of a friend of mine attended the first showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, dressed in a bulky sweater with a big "R" attached to the front. With his flaming red hair and ready grin, he made a passable Ron Weasley at Christmas time.

The guy is 17 and a huge Harry Potter fan. And, apparently, he's really unhappy with the movie. My friend says he's constantly pointing out tiny details of the film and how they differ from the book.

Sounds like me, doesn't it?

Speaking of stupid little changes, can someone explain to me why the filmmakers had to add that ridiculous, useless moment in the film when Neville declares his love for Luna? I have a feeling Matthew Lewis felt like an idiot delivering such a stupid, out-of-character line and I know I felt like an idiot listening to it.

I always thought, if Luna were to end up with any of the Hogwarts kids, it would be Seamus. I'm not sure why (and I haven't looked back into the books for any hints about it) but I have just always felt that Seamus was the one for Luna.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In defence of our hero trio's performances in early films

I'm sitting at home, not feeling well, watching the Harry Potter movies through from the beginning. It's not just fun: it's also educational.

I have just finished watching The Philosopher's Stone and now have The Chamber of Secrets in the Blu Ray player.

And I'm checking out the acting. Several people have said to me recently that they feel the acting of the three young stars in the early movies is really bad.

From what I can tell (not having studied their acting careers), Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone represented the first real movie roles for Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. They were all around 11 years old at the time so that's not really surprising.

Are they bad in this movie? I'm not so sure. First, it is their first real acting experience. Second, they were acting in a huge-budget film, for which expectations were extremely high. Third, they were acting alongside some of the greatest actors and actresses of their age, beside whom they couldn't help but come across poorly.

But those simple answers are not, I think, the only reasons. Think about it. You're 11, you're in your first major role and you have to do much of your acting in front of green screens, imagining the scenes and magical characters that will be created by computer graphic imagery later.

That's not easy for anyone, even the most experienced of actors.

On top of that, if you watch the performances of people like Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Richard Harris and Alan Rickman in that first film (consummate actors all), you'll notice that even they are hamming things up a bit.

This first film was made specifically for children. Most movies aimed at a younger audiences involve broader acting performances, over-emphasized voices and movements, and all that. It's a regular part of these films.

If you were to compare the performances of Coltrane, Smith and Rickman in the last couple of movies with their performances in the first film, you'd probably see a significant difference. As the target audiences of the films matured, so did the performances of all the actors, not just the youngsters.

The later films were made for adults, so the performances were quieter, more subtle, more realistic than those in the earlier entries in the series.

I'm not saying Radcliffe, Watson, Grint and the other "first years" are deserving of acting awards for their work in The Philosopher's Stone. I'm just saying that, for a variety of reasons, I don't think we should judge them too harshly.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The film's Voldemort becomes a sad and silly caricature

What did they do to Voldemort?

I mean, honestly, what were Stephen Kloves and David Yates thinking when they decided to rewrite Voldemort for the final film (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, in case you forgot)?

First, they decide that the destruction of each Horcrux must affect him, either physically or psychologically. Not only is this contrary to J.K. Rowling's original novels, it's also contrary to their own earlier movies.

When Dumbledore destroyed the ring between films five and six, we see no evidence it had any impact on the Dark Lord. When Ron smashes the locket in Part 1, Voldemort doesn't howl in pain (either physical or psychic).

So it's not even internally consistent in the films that the destruction of Hufflepuff's Cup and Ravenclaw's Diadem would somehow damage Voldemort. And yet, there he is, damaged. Weakened, enraged.

This leads to the second, and even more significant, problem I have with the rewriting of Voldemort in Part 2. Instead of being a controlled, imposing, absolutely and resolutely sane villain as he is in the novels, Voldemort of the films degenerates into a giggling psycho.

Remember Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs? We feared him because he appeared so sane, so in control, so intelligent and charming and well-spoken, and yet he was capable of such monstrous evil.

That's the Voldemort J.K. created in her novels.

In Part 2, however, he loses that mystique. In the scene where he leads his army to the front doors of Hogwarts to show the school's defenders the apparently dead Harry, Voldemort prances and giggles like the worst version of Batman's enemy, the Joker. He's no longer scary but silly.

Worse, Voldemort's silliness fundamentally changes his encounter with Neville Longbottom. When Neville steps forward in the novel, Voldemort recognises in him all the characterstics he, the Dark Lord, admires: courage, loyalty, purity of blood. Voldemort speaks to Neville with a tone of respect and says he will make a fine Death Eater.

This makes Neville's continued resistance, his resolute commitment to Harry and the cause, even more significant. Neville has spent his life trying to prove himself, to himself, to his grandmother, to the wizarding world. Harry Potter's cause seems to be lost and here is the apparent new ruler of the magical world, extending an invitation to him to join the new regime, to take a respected place in that world. And Neville refuses. His loyalty, his commitment to all things good, make him reject the very acceptance and recognition that he has long hoped for, even if that rejection will likely cost him his life.

In the film version, Voldemort sneers at Neville, treats him with disdain, makes fun of him. This new silly, giggling villain is so lost he can no longer even recognise in others the qualities he has long claimed to admire and respect.

The film's depiction of this scene is, unfortunately, an insult not just to Neville but to Voldemort himself. It's too bad. Kloves and Yates don't seem to have the artistic sensitivity to recognise the elegant subtlety and depth of J.K. Rowling's original novels and the final film in this epic series suffers greatly as a result.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The film sacrifices depth of meaning for cheap thrills

My first major issue with Part 2 is this: whereas J.K. was very careful to make sure that it was absolutely clear that most of the wizarding community was against Voldemort and his Death Eaters, the filmmakers took great pains to make us believe that it was only Harry, Hermione and Ron plus a small group of others who opposed the Dark Lord in the end.

In fact, in the novel, Harry's final duel with Voldemort occurs only after the Centaurs, House Elves and hundreds of witches and wizards from outside Hogwarts had arrived to turn the tide of the battle decisively against Voldemort's followers. The Death Eaters were losing badly when Molly Weasley killed Bellatrix Lestrange and Harry finally revealed that he was alive and ready to take on Voldemort personally.

And I think that this was a central theme throughout the novels and especially in the final two books: this was not just Harry's fight. The majority of witches and wizards opposed the Death Eaters but were forced by fear and intimidation to keep quiet. Once open warfare was declared, they came forward to join the fight.

It was important that Harry duel Voldemort on his own, true. That was his fight. But the rest of the magical world was right there with him and, in fact, had already won the battle before Voldemort finally died.

Filmmakers Stephen Kloves and David Yates clearly made a decision that the ending would be much more dramatic if the odds were stacked heavily against our heroes, right to the very end. So the film has no assault by the Centaurs, no rampage by hundreds of wand-carriers from Hogsmeade and beyond, no joyous entrance of House Elves, led by Kreacher, joining the fray.

It was just Harry, Hermione and Ron, plus a small group of students and staff from the school and an even smaller group of members of the Order of the Phoenix, taking on the massive army Voldemort had at his command.

Dramatic, sure. And the filmmakers did gesture toward a weakening of Voldemort's support by having a number of Death Eaters disapparate when Harry re-appeared, alive and well, outside the school.

But, in my opinion, the movie undermined one of the main and most important themes J.K. incorporated so carefully into her novels: that in the battle against evil, we are never alone.

They sacrificed a deep and meaningful message for cheap thrills. Not worth it, I say. Not worth it at all.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rewriting Remus really works, and other positives from Part 2

Before I move on to more criticisms of the new movie, I want to talk about some of the things I really liked about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

Because, overall, I really liked this film. Almost as much as I liked Part 1.

For example, I was really happy when the filmmakers included the scene where Harry, Hermione and Ron emerge into the Room of Requirement to be greeted with cheers from the students gathered there. I love that moment in the book and I think they did a nice job of presenting it in the film.

I liked the fact that they rewrote Remus Lupin's answer to Harry when the young wizard tells the returned-from-the-dead Lupin how sorry he is that Lupin has died so soon after the birth of his son. In the book, Lupin speaks only of himself. In the movie, he says something about how both he and "Dora" (Tonks) were sorry they won't be able to see Teddy grow up but trust he will know the important reason for which they died. I like the fact that Lupin, in the film, recognizes his wife's sacrifice as well, something he doesn't do in the book.

In fact, I think that whole scene with the resurrection stone is beautifully done. Well acted, well filmed, very touching and heart warming.

I was surprised and pleased that screenwriter Stephen Kloves added the scene where Hermione and Ron go down to the Chamber of Secrets to fetch the Basilisk fangs and destroy the Cup Horcrux. In the novel, H&R only tell Harry later what they've done: it was nice to see them get a chance for some screen time. The kiss... well, I'm trying to be positive here.

I thought Snape's death and the montage of his memories were really quite wonderful. It was an edited version of the chapter in the book but I thought it captured all the really necessary points. Again, the acting is great and the scene heart-wrenching.

I was also pleased and impressed with the scene between Harry and the Grey Lady. The editing was particularly good there and the scene comes off well.

As I said at the start, overall I was really happy with this film. I think it is a strong addition to the series and a particularly good way to end. The acting is improved over earlier films, especially that of Daniel Radcliffe, and I think the technical aspects of the film are great.

Remember that as you read later posts because, to be honest, I have always found it easier and more interesting to talk about the negatives than to glorify the positives. I don't want you to think I hated the movie as you read your way forward in this blog.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

So Harry can now sense the presence of a Horcrux, can he?

I had planned for my first real commentary on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, to focus on the positives, things I liked, things that worked well in the film.

And there were many. But I can't get my mind away from some little things that are really bothering me. So I'll get to them first, in hopes that with them out of the way I can get back to all the good things.

First, when Neville leads Harry, Hermione and Ron from the Hog's Head to Hogwarts' Room of Requirement, we find a number of familiar faces waiting for them, including Seamus and Cho. Just as in the book, the Room is decked out like the cabin of a ship, with hammocks and banners for the students who had been driven out of the school. Yet, shortly thereafter when Snape calls together the entire school body to interrogate them about Harry's whereabouts, Cho, Seamus and many of the others we've just seen in the safety of the Room are there again.

That makes no sense: if they were forced to flee the school and take refuge in the Room, why would they return to the school now? And it they were still safe in the school, why would they be bunking out in the Room, rather than their much more comfortable House common rooms?

Second, how is that, after Harry captures maybe two drops of Snape's tears/memories as Snape dies, Harry pours about a hundred drops of tears into the Pensieve shortly thereafter?

Third, if Harry can sense the presence of a Horcrux, even in a large, crowded room like the Lestrange's vault of Gringott's or the Room of Requirement (Room of Hidden Things version), why didn't he sense at least something in the diary when he handled it way back in The Chamber of Secrets or in the locket at Grimmauld Place when they were cleaning out the place in The Order of the Phoenix? In neither of those instances did he sense anything about these items, even though he was in close proximity to both.

These quibbles are minor, I admit, but they bother me and, in my opinion, they detract from the effectiveness of this film.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter and the Duel that Never Ends

Well, that worked out well.

I waited 36 hours and 20 minutes and managed to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, in 3D, in a half empty-theatre. No talkers, no people leaving all the time to get snacks, and only one guy who, once during the movie, rattled his plastic bag too much.

I know, I know. What about the movie? 90% great. The ending, well... not so happy.

Why or why do the filmmakers have to make everything so big, so splashy, so long?

Compared to the long, drawn-out duel between Harry and Voldemort in this film, J.K.'s novel version is a tightly-written, brief and satisfying encounter.

And the 3D version gave me a headache after about an hour.

More later. Gotta run.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I just love the way Emma Watson whips out the Sword of Gryffindor

By now, many of you have seen the final film. How was it? Was it great? Did it meet your expectations, fulfill your hopes?

As you might have guessed, I have not seen it yet. My life just isn't allowing me time to go to see it. And it's killing me.

I watched the trailers and excerpts again on Rotten Tomatoes. And there were two more today. Both were little documentaries on aspects of the movie: one on Snape's life and the other on Gringott's and Goblins. Great stuff.

The second one gave me a chance to get a preview of Helena Bonham Carter channelling Emma Watson in the scene where Hermione has taken polyjuice potion to pose as Bellatrix for the break-in to the Lestrange vault. Bonham Carter is hilarious in the scene and it's fun to hear Watson's voice trying to sound Lestrange.

My favourite single moment so far, though, has got to be in the Lestrange vault itself when Emma Watson as Hermione whips the Sword of Gryffindor out of her little bag and tosses it to Daniel Radcliffe as Harry. Watson does it with such panache, such style. It's a cool moment.

Once I see the movie, I'll probably have more "cool moments" to talk about but, until then, I think I'll enjoy this one a few more times.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

32 minutes and counting until the last of the firsts

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, opens in local cinemas in 32 minutes. So why am I sitting here writing this blog instead of settling into a theatre seat, the excitement churning up my guts?

No, the showings are not sold out. At least, they weren't when I checked earlier this evening. But a trip to the mall where the theatres are located was enough to convince me I can wait another day or so.

A friend and I went to the mall at about 7 p.m. today, so about four and a half hours ago, to get tickets for the first 3D screening. Then we saw the crowds. The film is showing in three screening rooms tonight and, for each one, there was already a line of people waiting in the corridor of the mall, tickets in hand.

And the lines weren't short. There must have been 150 to 200 people in each one. This is not a big city and 450 to 600 of its citizens were lined up for this film five hours before it was set to begin.

Many of them were in some sort of costume, everything from simple robes to Hogwarts school uniforms to quidditch outfits. One guy, with bright red hair, was sporting a lumpy wool sweater with a large "R" on the front, just like Ron gets every Christmas from his mother.

And they looked like they had been waiting there for a while, especially the people at the front of each line. They had folding chairs, laptop computers, blankets, card games, and lots of snacks among them. And books. Harry Potter books. Everywhere.

The Toys R Us location past which the lines snaked was smart enough to put all of its Harry Potter merchandise on a table in front of the store, tempting the fans who were waiting in line.

It was really quite amazing. I wish I had brought my camera.

But as exciting and interesting as it was, it also served to convince me that I did NOT want to go to the first showing, even if tickets were still available. I'm a Harry Potter fan, just like them, and I respect the lengths to which they'll go to enjoy this new movie.

But I just worried that, instead of being able simply to watch and enjoy the film, this excited, exuberant group of fans would be overamped and would not be able to stop itself from whispering, laughing, comparing, reacting throughout the screening, maybe even talking about the film even as it's being shown.

And that would ruin the experience completely for me. So I'll leave these early showings to this massive group of ravenous fans and I'll wait until I feel confident I'll be able to sit in a quiet theatre and just immerse myself in the sensation, the excitement of enjoying a new Harry Potter experience for the first time... one last time.

Because this is truly the last of the firsts when it comes to Harry Potter. And I don't want anything to ruin that for me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Harry's confrontation with Snape has mixed results

I keep going back to Rotten Tomatoes to watch those excerpts from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, in preparation for the big premiere in two days' time. One scene, in particular, has caught my attention and I can't say I'm entirely happy with it.

In the scene, which is entitled "You seem to have a bit of a security problem" on the website, Snape has gathered the students of Hogwarts together to interrogate them about Harry's presence in the school. Harry appears out of nowhere (I suspect from under his Cloak) and defies Snape to his face. As the excerpt ends, we see the doors behind Harry opening up to reveal a cadre of teachers and members of the Order of the Phoenix, coming forward to protect Harry from the new Headmaster.

(Note, I suspect that, directly following this little snippet, Professor McGonagall engages in a brief duel with Snape before the former Potions Master flees. I've seen that scene elsewhere.)

The film excerpt on Rotten Tomatoes is an entirely new scene, not presented in Rowling's book. In the novel, Harry never faces Snape directly until Snape is lying, almost dead, in the Shrieking Shack. In fact, when McGonagall forces Snape to flee, Harry and Luna are nearby but under the Cloak, trying to keep out of harm's way.

It would appear that screenwriter Kloves and director Yates felt it would be better for Harry to have a chance, even a brief one, to face down his long-time tormentor in this way, while Snape is still powerful and his true allegiances are still unknown.

I agree it's a dramatic scene. And I think it has something of a narrative logic behind it: as viewers, we want Harry to get a chance to challenge Snape directly and Harry's courage here foreshadows his courage later in the Forbidden Forest.

Now, you can call me a Rowling-ite, but I still prefer the original. It's more subtle and more graceful. You don't always get the chance to face down your harasser. You can't always tie your emotional issues up in a neat bow and set them aside.

In the novel's version, Harry wants nothing more than to take a shot at Snape; he's filled with fury and anger and all that. But it's a sign of his maturity that he realises he has a greater duty: to his friend Luna, who is vulnerable in that moment. He sacrifices his need for revenge to protect her.

The film scene might be emotionally satisfying for both protagonist and viewer but the book's approach confirms much more important qualities of Harry's, qualities like loyalty, self-control and the willingness to put the needs of others ahead of his own. I wish the film-makers had seen the wisdom of sticking the original. It works much better.

By the way, it's nice to see Cho Chang and several other recognisable faces among the students in that scene: even if they don't get much more screen time, at least they're allowed to be there at the end.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Draco's redemption and the Room of Requirement

Three days to go and I'm starting to crack -- I am now thinking of going to the very first showing here in my hometown, which starts at just past midnight on Friday morning. I've just read too much good stuff about this movie to wait.

Meanwhile, I've gone back to to watch some of the excerpts from the movie again and one of them keeps jumping out at me. It's the scene in the Room of Requirement when Harry has just found the lost diadem of Ravenclaw. Unfortunately, the excerpt does not allow us to see how Harry manages to find the diadem in the first place (remember, in the film adaptation of The Half-Blood Prince, Harry never saw the diadem when he hid his potions text from Snape).

Harry stands, examining the diadem, when Draco Malfoy appears with two cronies, just as he does in the book, wands drawn on Harry, who is temporarily separated from Hermione and Ron.

At first, the dialogue between them is fairly close to the original novel (Draco demands his wand back from Harry; Harry asked whose wand Draco is using now; Draco says it's his mother's wand), but then it changes. In the book, Draco's cronies brag about cornering Harry and getting rewarded by the Dark Lord for doing so; in the film, well, Stephen Kloves uses this opportunity to explore at least a tiny bit of the wandlore that plays such a major role in the book.

When Draco demands his own wand back, Harry asks, "What's wrong with the one you have?" and Draco says, "It's powerful but it's not the same. It doesn't understand me. Know what I mean?"

I know that it is one drawback of films that they cannot explore the same depths that novels can. Kloves has been forced to cut out literally dozens of subplots and scenes from the movie script in the interest of time. But I like what he does here. In just a few seconds, he at least gestures towards the complexities of wandlore that Rowling so lovingly develops in the book.

I might not like most of the changes Kloves makes but I think this is a really good one.

And I like the direction he takes the next part of the confrontation between Harry and Draco. Immediately following Draco's admission that his mother's wand doesn't understand him, Harry changes the subject: "Why didn't you tell her?" he asks. "Bellatrix. You knew it was me. You didn't say anything."

Harry is, of course, referring to the scene in Part 1 where Draco refuses to identify Harry to Bellatrix Lestrange after Harry, Hermione and Ron have been captured by the Snatchers. Although Rowling never says it, I think a reader of the book is led to believe that Draco recognized Harry in that scene but isn't willing to admit it, knowing that Harry will be murdered if he does so. In the film version, the scene is less clear.

The excerpt from the film on Rotten Tomatoes ends before Draco is able to respond but I have to admit it: I'm glad that Kloves has Harry ask the question. I've often wondered it myself. Why doesn't Draco give him away? I think it's part of Draco's redemption, a redemption Dumbledore recognised was possible when he told Draco that Draco is not a killer at the end of The Half-Blood Prince.

All of that said, I like the fact that Kloves addresses the issue here. I will have to wait to see the movie itself to find out if Draco actually answers Harry's question but, by raising it, Kloves has highlighted the fact that Draco is no killer. It's an interesting addition to the scene and, once again, one I can't help but appreciate.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rotten Tomatoes offers a treasure trove to rev up your anticipation

With only four days to go until the opening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, here in North America, I've come up with a great way to get yourself even more excited about the movie than you already are.

Step one is to go to, the website for all things movies.

Step two: read all the reviews from Great Britain for the film, which has already been released there.

Step three: watch all of the video tidbits they've posted, which include movie trailers and scenes from the new movie.

If that doesn't get you revved up, nothing will.

The professional reviewers from Great Britain are unanimously thrilled with this final film. Several of them pointed out that this is a situation that almost always leads to disappointment (high expectations plus a long wait = a big let down), yet somehow the movie makers have managed to turn out a product that is both exciting and emotional. They all call the final instalment of the film series a fantastic way to end.

I'm most pleased by the fact that, according to the reviewers, the action doesn't overwhelm the emotion of this final film. Sure, Part 2 has tons of action (one reviewer said it has more action than the previous seven films combined) but it also allows the characters (and the fans) the chance to feel the end of the journey.

As for the video bits on Rotten Tomatoes, well, there are too many to cover here. Suffice it to say, some are amazing, some interesting and surprising and some suggesting of disappointments to come for fans of the books. Still, getting a chance to watch just a little bit more from the new movie has only served to crank the anticipation up even more.

Four more days. Wow.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Is Molly Weasley a fearsome or a sabre-tooth tiger?

Five days. Cinque jours. Wow. Time is both flying and crawling along.

I'm now reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in French. It's a lot of fun. In this book, we make our first visit to the Burrow, the home of the Weasleys, which in French translates to "Le Terrier". My research suggests that this is a fairly straightforward translation of the the phrase "The Burrow" but it sounds weird to me since, in English, a terrier is a dog.

At the start of this book, when Fred, George and Ron return to the Burrow in the flying care after rescuing Harry from the Dursley's, Mrs. Weasley storms out to meet them, furious. J.K. describes her for the first time in a manner that suggests the powerhouse she turns out to be in Book Seven: in French, the description is "une tigresse redoutable", which means something like "a fearsome tiger". In the English, J.K. describes Molly as "a sabre-tooth tiger".

I wonder why the change, the re-interpretation in translation. Perhaps French people wouldn't think of a sabre-tooth tiger as being particularly frightening.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My six favourite creatures with names

Six days left. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, is less than a week away. I offer my six favourite creatures with names from J.K. Rowling's books in recognition of the six remaining days of waiting:

6. Buckbeak/Witherwings, the Hippogriff;
5. Fluffy, the three-headed dog;
4. Errol, the Weasley's battered old owl;
3. Trevor, Neville's oft-escaping toad;
2. Hedwig, Harry's loyal snowy owl; and, finally,
1. Fawkes, the Phoenix, who saves Harry in book two and laments Albus Dumbledore at the end of book six.

There were many others who could have made the list: Crookshanks, Pig, Padfoot, Scabbers (well, not really, since he turned out to be the evil Peter Pettigrew), Hermes, Aragog, Arnold (the pygmy puff) and Norbert/Norberta. I'm sure there are others but I just can't think of them right now.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Maybe the nineteen-years-later epilogue did make the cut!

One week. Just one week until the final movie opens.

Exciting, isn't it? But have you read about the ticket sales? Apparently, many showings are ALREADY SOLD OUT, an entire week in advance. Do you have your tickets?

As excited as I am about the opening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, I am now convinced that I will wait until at least a couple of days after opening to go to see it. First, because I don't have tickets yet. And second, because I don't really want to see this movie for the first time in a packed theatre, possibly surrounded by people who will talk, or burp, or otherwise interfere with my enjoyment.

I did get some good news yesterday, however. While surfing the net, I found an on-line entry that suggests that the 19-years-later epilogue of the novel will, indeed, be in the movie. It was nothing definitive but one website, in providing a list of actors for particular roles, actually included the names of the child actors who play the "next generation" (like Scorpius Malfoy, Teddy Lupin, even Harry's children with Ginny: Albus Severus, Lily and James) in the film. These characters only appear in the Epilogue of the final novel!

I'm very pleased at the thought of this. Of course, they could have filmed the epilogue, then left it on the cutting room floor. Who knows?

Well, I guess we all will in just one week's time.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thoughts on deleted scenes and Spanish movie trailers

On the day that the last Harry Potter movie has its big premiere showing in London, England, all of the rest of the world must content ourselves knowing that we only have to wait eight more days to see the film.

Meanwhile, I was wandering through Youtube last night and I stumbled across two things that I had never seen before: first, a scene edited out of The Deathly Hallows, Part 1, and, second, the Spanish language trailer for The Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

The out-take scene that I found is likely on my Blu Ray copy of the film as well but, for some reason, my player struggles with the Deleted Scenes feature so I missed this one. It's the scene in the tent, just after the visit to the Ministry, with Ron lying on a cot, recovering from his splinching, and Harry and Hermione discussing the Horcruxes and where they might be.

The scene contains two massively important plot points, so important that I simply cannot believe the film-makers decided to save themselves at most 90 seconds by editing this scene out of the theatrical version. In it, Harry explains to Hermione Dumbledore's theories about the Horcruxes. First, Dumbledore believed that Voldemort chose objects of importance in magical history in which to hide his Horcruxes. Second, Dumbledore told Harry that the Dark Lord had chosen to hide his Horcruxes in locations that were personally important to him. Then Ron tells them that the name "Voldemort" has been tabooed and that the Death Eaters know immediately when someone uses it.

These are hugely important pieces of information. Without them, the film makes no sense to a person who has not read the book. I watched this scene last night in awe. Why did they take it out? It is so key!

As for the Spanish trailer, well, I was surprised to see that it was actually quite different from the English version. There are scenes and images in the Spanish one that you don't see in the English one, including several seconds of Harry and Voldemort, both on their stomachs, struggling to get to the Elder Wand, which is lying on the ground between them. This is a scene that is definitely not in the movie.

And that bothers me. It would seem that J.K.'s simple, almost matter-of-fact final end to their duel wasn't enough for the movie people. They have to turn it into an extended, epic battle.

Too bad. I thought the simple finality of Tom Riddle collapsing to the floor in the book was absolutely perfect.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Nine days and nine minor characters I liked

With nine days to go before the opening of The Deathly Hallows, Part 2, I thought I'd think about some of my favourite minor characters from the novels, characters I would like to have seen given bigger parts in the books:

1. Cho Chang, Harry's love interest in The Order of the Phoenix. I thought she worked well with Harry and I thought her confused feelings after Cedric Diggory was murdered were really interesting;
2. Cedric Diggory, of course, because it was nice to see another truly good, heroic character who wasn't part of Harry's circle;
3. Nymphadora Tonks, who was a cool combination of fun, clumsy and heroic. She was an Auror, after all, and Mad-Eye's protege, so she must have been pretty good;
4. Neville's Grandmother, because the brief glimpses we have of her suggest she's a pretty neat grandma, and tough as nails as well;
5. Professor Sprout, who comes across as a solid citizen but never gets a chance to show off the full range of her character;
6. Penelope Clearwater, the person with one of the best names. If she can put up with Percy, she must be okay;
7. Molly Weasley, the matriarch, who finally gets to strut her magical stuff in the final book;
8. Minerva McGonagall, the tight-wound Assistant Headmaster, who from time to time is allowed to show there's a sparkle underneath all that control; and
9. Luna Lovegood. I mean, who can get enough of Luna Lovegood?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ten days to go and ten things I like about The Deathly Hallows

Just ten more days to wait. And here is a list of ten small things I particularly like about J.K. Rowling's final novel:

1. I like the fact that Hedwig dies in an early scene, not because I have it in for the lovely owl but because her meaningless death sent a shiver through me when I first read the book as I understood fully that J.K. wasn't going to pull any punches in her final epic;
2. I like the fact that Harry, Hermione and Ron take off on their own for most of the book, giving us a chance to get to know them better, both individually and as a trio of courageous friends;
3. I like the fact that Neville keeps fighting at Hogwarts, at first with Ginny and Luna, and then after they are forced to leave;
4. I like the reception the trio gets when they enter the Room of Requirement near the end;
5. I like that Ron takes a bow when all of their classmates cheer them for escaping Gringott's on a dragon;
6. I like the fact that all of the other students refuse to let Harry keep them out of the fight;
7. I like J.K.'s description of the "Snape-shaped hole" in the window after Severus flees and the fact that she has McGonagall tell the school that Snape has "done a bunk";
8. I like how J.K. manages to make Voldemort's inability to recognise the value in others (like House Elves, for example) work against him in the end;
9. I like the redemption of Kreacher; and
10. I like the fact that J.K. slows the pace down and really makes us live Harry's experience of walking into the Forbidden Forest to die.

Monday, July 4, 2011

And we're down to eleven days...

And now it's eleven. Only eleven days until the new Harry Potter movie opens in theatres. I've been so busy of late that I haven't really noticed the time passing, which is great, but then a get a moment's pause and it comes crashing in on me again.

More questions are jumping into my brain. Will they show the entire scene between Dumledore and Harry late in the movie, or just a part (or even none of it)? Will Neville still be allowed to kill Nagini with the Sword of Gryffindor and enjoy his small part in Voldemort's defeat?

I can't wait to find out!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

13 days and counting

We're now deeply into the final two weeks. I'm looking forward to getting the answers to so many questions. I have a mixed feeling of anticipation and fear: anticipation, because I expect it to be a great movie; fear, because I'm afraid that the movie makers have once again made the wrong calls and failed to have faith in J.K.'s story rather than inventing new scenes of their own.

I expect it to be such an intense, action-packed film that I'll have to see it four or five times before I can start to feel I've taken it all in.

Weird as it may sound, I can't wait until it comes out on Blu Ray!

Friday, July 1, 2011

14 days to go

In just two weeks, the final movie opens. I am actually trying to keep myself busy to avoid thinking about it too much.

I'm trying to imagine what the first scene will be. My guess, at this point, is that the first image on screen will be of Voldemort, standing over Dumbledore's grave, the Elder Wand gripped in this hand.

That's basically where the last film left off. And it sets the scene for the last movie's plot.

Voldemort, then Harry, his scar burning.

What do you think?