June 13, 2004


On Thursday evening I went to see the third Harry Potter movie, having read the book on Monday. It's already become cliché to comment on how the series is "growing up", so I'll pass on that whole line, but I will say that (as usual) the movie was true to the book in spirit and largely in letter, without being a slave to the book. The tone and basic ideas carried over perfectly. A few of the details were modified, but usually to good effect.

(In the rest of the review, I'll avoid mentioning any spoiling info except inside a spoiler box, which should appear as a blank box you can highlight to reveal the text inside. A "book spoiler" is a detail common to both the book and the movie, so you can read it if you've read the book. A "movie spoiler" is something that might surprise you even if you've read the book, so you might want to skip those.)

Still, there were a few details I was unhappy about. In the opening scene of the movie, Harry is hiding under his bedsheet, doing magic! This is prohibited in the strongest possible way, as has been mentioned in the previous movies and indeed several times in this one. I understand that it made for a more visually stimulating show of him surreptitiously doing his homework, but it was still irritating that it was never even explained.

When Harry first sees the dog in the shadows, it really shouldn't be growling at him. It should be looking menacing and with the scary eyes glowing; but I disliked how they tried to make it more visual (I guess) by actually bringing it forward and growling and such.

BOOK SPOILER (highlight to reveal): I was also really unhappy about the look of the werewolf. We were told earlier that the difference between a werewolf and an animagus was subtle and needed to be looked for; but this werewolf was clearly quite different from an animagus dog or wolf. It's kind of a gangly CG nasty that doesn't really look like anything in particular. Disappointing.

But all that was easily brushed aside in light of the rest of the movie. The score was fantastic; clearly John Williams felt bad about slacking off a little in HP2, and tried to make up for it. The music is linked to that of the earlier two movies, but is a whole new score in its own right.

The scenery is---as usual---stunning. In a typical book/movie departure, a few scenes that were short in the book get drawn out in the movie as an opportunity for some awesome panoramic cinematography. (These scenes often, though not always, involve flying.) This is exactly the sort of thing I mean when I say that the movie was not enslaved by the book; purists might want it to be strictly an illustration of the text, but judicious use of this sort of variance is what makes it a creative work in its own right. It was a little alarming to see Hagrid's hut move from its former location in the first two movies, but one can imagine a story of some magical reason for it. Maybe the Hogwarts faculty transported his hut to its new location to better facilitate his new position. Whatever.

Book spoiler: A time-travel scene can make or break a movie. It is an opportunity for an otherwise good movie to go terribly, horribly wrong; but a time-travel scene well done makes a great movie outstanding. This movie is an example of the latter. It knits together the two time threads seamlessly, with many junction points between them for the sci-fi geeks in the audience to get thrilled by. And there are a few little twists that they throw in that were not in the book, that make this sequence even more fun.

Movie spoiler: For instance, I was initially a bit miffed at how they handled the werewolf scene the first time around---an ill-advised liberty taken with the script, I thought, and how were they going to actually get the werewolf away once Harry confronted it? When the other werewolf howled, I sort of sighed in disgust. What a cop-out! And it didn't even sound like a real wolf; the sound techs had really fallen down on their job. (Not kidding. I registered that it was a female human howling, and didn't make any further connections.) Then, of course, when Harry and Hermione were witnessing the Sirius-and-Harry conversation the second time around, it suddenly dawned on me what happened (and how they were going to actually get rid of the werewolf). Really cleverly done! The book was two-days fresh and I still managed to get roped in by smart, suspenseful time-travel play.

Oh, and speaking of knitting: in this movie, Ron is wearing the most amazing parade of really horrible sweaters that I've ever seen in my life. There must have been at least six or eight of them---competently knitted, but absolutely atrocious designs that just scream "my mother made this and I have to wear it!" Which, of course, is spot-on for the story. Just another example of attention to detail that me and, like, five other people in the world are likely to catch on to. :)

Some casting notes: Brilliant work on recasting Albus Dumbledore; Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney is lovely comic relief; Sirius Black was good, for all that we really don't see much of him. Prof Lupin seemed like a bad cast at first (my mental image of him was much better-looking), but he grew on me during the movie. (It took me nearly halfway through the movie to figure out where he looked familiar from---he's the bad guy in Moulin Rouge, and the characters were so very different that it just wouldn't register.) The various children, both major and minor, seem to be growing up at about the right rate, so I don't know what everyone is chirping about---when they're supposed to look fifteen, they'll look sort of mid-teens, when they're supposed to look eighteen, they'll appear to be, surprise!, young adults.

At this point in the series, we just need to hope that we can sustain the entire main cast through another four films. I'd hate to have to resort to the good old soap-opera "the part of Ron will be played by..." trick. :P

UPDATE: The guy that plays Lupin is, in fact, not the guy that plays the Duke in Moulin Rouge. I still say he looks like him, though.

"Miss Manners does not minimize the amount of self-control it takes to look on with equanimity while one's property is demolished. It takes practice. But it sounds as if the circles in which you move are prepared to offer you that." --Miss Manners

Posted by blahedo at 9:33pm on 13 Jun 2004
Hmm... I don't think the comments can do html. I'll check. Posted by blahedo at 1:48pm on 15 Jun 2004
I've gotten it to consistently retain the class="spoiler" thing in the version stored in the database, but I think it's getting stripped when it builds the HTML page. Alas. Posted by blahedo at 1:55pm on 15 Jun 2004
It's set. The software seems to be retaining the <p> but stripping the class="spoiler", unfortunately. Posted by blahedo at 9:32pm on 15 Jun 2004
Hmmm... maybe you're using a plugin that's killing it? Or perhaps sanitize is? Really, just guessing at this point. Posted by chaos at 10:59pm on 16 Jun 2004
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