Sunday, July 26, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Comprehensible Script

Went to see the newest Harry Potter film yesterday. Yikes, it was bad. I remember sort of liking the last one, even though I can't remember much about it. But this one was long, boring, goofy, and incomprehensible.

NOTE TO MOVIE-MAKERS: A film should not be a supplement to the book upon which it is based. It should be a stand-alone story.

A good percentage of the movie-goers will have read all the books, but for the rest of us, the experience is, how shall we say...less than pleasant.

Case in point: The opening scene of the movie. Three black smoke trails fly over London. Muggles look up in amazed confusion. The three trails fly into a back alley and magic world, nab somebody whose face isn't seen (there's a bag over his/her head), then fly back out, destroy a bridge (killing lots of Muggles), and flying off.

Boy, I can't wait to find out what the hell that was all about, I thought. Seemed like a pretty good opening. was never explained what the hell it was all about. After the movie was over, I asked my fellow movie-goers, all of whom had read the books. "Oh, those were minions of Valdemort kidnapping the wand-maker. There's some difference between Harry Potter's wand and Valdemort's wand that Valdemort can't figure out, so he wants to interrogate the wand-maker. That doesn't get explained until the last book." WTF? Now there is a scene where Harry, Ron, and Hermione are walking by the wand-maker's shop and they note that he's out of business, but so are 80% of the other businesses, so there's no reason for someone who hasn't read the books to make a connection.

How about this...for brevity and continuity's sake, put that scene in the next Harry Potter movie.

That's just an example from the first scene. It doesn't get much better from there. The movie is filled with lots and lots of silly teen romance stuff...a little of this goes a looooong way.

One of the appeals of Harry Potter is supposedly getting a sense of wonder at seeing things we've never seen. At this point, we've seen quidditch. We've seen floating candles in the cafeteria. We've seen nearly all the tropes there are to see, so the world just seems boring now. The only mythical beast we see this time is a giant spider, and it's dead.

So the movie is basically incomprehensible, full of silly teen romance stuff, and flat and boring.

Spoilers after the gap...

And, what part of the plot that did seem to fit together didn't make any damned sense.

If I were to summarize the main plot of the movie...Draco Malfoy is recruited by the bad guys to assassinate Dumbledore. Why, it's not said. Sure they hate Dumbledore because he's good and they're bad, but why now? Do they think he's getting too close to figuring out how to finally put away Valdemort? If so, that's pretty damned subtle, and this is supposed to be accessible to kids, isn't it?

Anyway, here's their plan, I guess: Get Draco to fix a broken vanishing cabinet in some storeroom of the school. Whether he brought the cabinet or it was already there is unclear. We see him putting in an apple, taking it out with a bite out of it, messing with birds, etc., but it's never clear that he's "fixing" it. Whatever. When it does finally work, it's supposed to be a path from another cabinet outside the school that let's in three of the bad guys. Why? Malfoy is supposed to kill Dumbledore, and if he fails, Snape has taken some super badass oath that he will do it himself. Why do we need all this bullshit with the cabinet? Are the three baddies just there for moral support?

Meanwhile, Harry and Dumbledore figure out that the reason Valdemort is so damned hard to get rid of is because he's divided his soul into 7 parts and hidden them in 7 objects, thereby making him invincible unless they're all destroyed. Okay. Dumbledore waves around a burned diary, which supposedly is one of the 7, and takes Harry to find another one, which they get, but which turns out to be a fake, swapped by some other mysterious figure. So the movie ends with Harry and friends dropping out of school to go look for the rest of these things, though how many are left is never said.

At this point, you could say, "Oh, you're not supposed to analyze the story that much, just enjoy all the cool fantasy stuff." Only, there isn't any.

So I'd tell you to avoid it for the stupid mess it is, but if you're a fan you're going to see it anyway, and the damned thing will still rake in truckloads of money. Sigh.


Anonymous said...

The movie I wanted to see was the one where Potter & Co. head out for the other bits of item-bound soul. The one we got seemed all preface and no payoff.

The only cool elements were the memory vials with the liquid visions and the menace of Tom Riddle of the past -- which I could have done with some more of in present.

Potter continues to be the Keanu Reeves of fantasy films -- it's called facial expressions, kid. Use em.

Kenny Wyland said...

Preface: I'm a fan and I've read all the books.

I agree with some parts and disagree with most of what you've said here. I definitely would have liked to have a scene connecting the opening bridge attacks and such, but really I think that was the only major bit that was missing.

Perhaps it would have made more sense if you had the previous movies fresh in your mind? At the end of the Goblet of Fire when Voldemort returns to full being we get a long speech from Dumbledore to the students that "war is upon us" or something of that sort. Then the next movie, Order of the Phoenix, is centered around the fact that the War HAS indeed begun but the Ministry refuses to admit it. Dumbledore is forced out of Hogwarts and goes on the war-path against the Deatheaters and Voldemort. The Order of the Phoenix is doing the same and the movie ends in a massive battle at the Ministry of Magic between the Order and the Deatheaters... and between Voldemort and Dumbledore.

The opening of this movie plays right into that. The War is on and now it's starting to have an effect in the Muggle world. Yes, I agree, I would liked to have a scene about that. In the book, the Minister of Magic goes and meets with the Prime Minister of Britain to tell him that there are dark wizards who are at-large. However, even without that scene, if you've watched the other movies (just the movies, not the books) you should understand that this is the third movie in an escalating war between the good and evil wizards... and the opening scene shows that not only are wizards being kidnapped but that the fighting is spilling over and affecting the Muggle populace. You don't need to read the book to get that.
As for moving the kidnapping scene into the last movie, I completely reject that assertion and the logic behind it. :) These movies (and books) are FILLED with back references and foreshadowing. Don't hate on the story for actually having a plan for the future. I'll take a well planned storyline that gives me an event now that doesn't make sense until later over the pull-something-outta-my-ass writing that Lost brings to the table.

Also, why assassinate Dumbledore? Really? Does that NEED to be explained to you? Cmon man. You're a really smart guy and this is really simple stuff. Even if you want to reach for "bad guy wants to kill good guy" it makes perfect sense. To answer the "why now" question though, I think it would make more sense if you had the previous movies fresh in your mind. Voldemort has ALWAYS feared Dumbledore because Dumbledore was the only one that Voldemort wasn't able to deceive and/or control. Voldemort was previously trying to kill Harry, but was foiled multiple times BY Dumbledore (in the Chamber of Secrets Dumbledore saved Harry via the Phoenix and the Sorting Hat, in Order of the Phoenix Dumbledore saved Harry at the Ministry by engaging in direct combat with Voldemort). So... gotta get Dumbledore out of the way so he can get to Harry.

Kenny Wyland said...

cont from below...

As for the fixing of the Vanishing Cabinet.. they actually handled that better in the movie than they did in the book. In the book we had no scenes of Malfoy in the Room of Requirement while fixing the cabinet. We just got the monologue at the end which explained it.

I will definitely agree that the reasoning behind why it has to be Draco is light in the movie and makes more sense in the book. The part with Snape making the unbreakable vow was never supposed to happen. Voldemort sent Draco to kill Dumbledore and Snape wasn't part of the plan. It was unfortunate that Snape was forced to agree to it to keep his cover. The truest point though is held in the description of how to make a Horcrux. Dumbledore doesn't want Draco to do it because he knows that it will tear Draco's soul apart. The three baddies were there in case Draco failed to kill Dumbledore then they could finish the job. They wouldn't step in though because Voldemort doesn't like it when people mess with his plans... and his plan was to corrupt or destroy Draco. His plan was, of course, only lightly discussed in the movie. It was definitely more clear in the books.

I would never say, "You're not supposed to analyze the story that much." :) I'm a story analyzer. It has to make sense for me or I think it's a cheap, lame trick. Potter doesn't fall into that category.

Ok, ok, I'll get off your lawn now.