Potty Potter Punters

By cjohnson | November 20, 2005 2:57 am

Well, I’m a bit disappointed. Just got back from seeing the new Harry Potter film. Went to see it at Mann’s Chinese Theatre (you know, the one with all the surprisingly very small handprints and footprints of the movie stars), which is pretty impressive as a movie theater (though overall not quite as good as the Arclight Dome, ten blocks away), an indeed the line did snake back three sides of a small block, and there was some buzz of excitement. But I am disappointed because there were no nutty fans with costumes or anything! What’s wrong with the Youth of Today?! I had thought of this excellent title (almost tops my Tut-tutting at Tut Tat one… only the best for you, dear reader….) for the post I was going to do with pictures of these people. Nothing. So this post is completely pointless (i.e., more pointless than usual). I just had to use the title anyway, as I don’t know when I’d get the chance ever again. Sorry.


P.S. Oh, the movie was pretty good. They finally got the movies working properly with the last one (the first two each being a howling mess), and this one keeps the third’s standard, although I still prefer the third. I must admit that for me there waas no real sense of dread at the Big Evil Climax, and it all seemed like a bit of pantomine by that point, but I suspect that is because I never read past the first book. (Ok, now scream at me Potter fans). This is different from say, Peter Jackson’s successful capturing of the incredible sense of horror and dread when the Balrog appears near the end of the Fellowship of the Ring. You want to just curl up and hide. But I suspect that was partly because that is how it hit me when I read TLOR as an 11 (?) year old, and then read them another 20+ times (I’m not exaggerating) almost annually. Every detail of those books were etched in my imagination long before the films. The point is that film, if good, serves to amplify things you’ve already read and imagined yourself. I did not have that to fall back on in this film. I get the impression that if you’ve read the book it is a fantastic film, with a truly vivid emotional range. As it is (with no book memory), it is a pretty good film, and certainly full of visual treats, good humour, and several genuinely exciting moments. I’m told that the book was rather large, detailed, and under-edited, so to make a coherent two hour film of it that works so well -and the fans of the book still like– is impressive.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellany, Personal
  • Dissident

    Excellent: an opportunity to disagree after a pretty dry stretch (what’s wrong with you guys?!). I definitely preferred the first two Potter movies over the third. THey had a sense of wonder which went missing in the third one in favour of a darker, almost depressing undertone. Haven’t seen number four yet (no time) but based on what I’ve read and on your reaction, I fear it will be like number three. :(

  • a.krug

    Why do they keep getting new directors? Do the old ones not want to continue? I thought Alfonso Cuaron did an excellent job with the feel of the third film.

    Also I suggest giving the books another try. I also read the first one and lost interest, but eventually was convinced to read them all, and they become much more fun and somewhat addictive. Fine literature they’re not, but they’re good yarns and create a lush and interesting fantasy world.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford


    Yes, I’ve been told that about the later books. I did run out of motivation since I found the first one so derivative, and since pressed for time back then, I preferred to devote the time (on that genre) to trying Philip Pullman’s books, which I much preferred. I will try the Potter books again…one day….but I have this huge huge huge reading list, and I cannot see me finding time any time soon. But I expect that I will one day.



  • janet

    I’ve continued reading the series kind of by default — they are quick reads, even the doorstop-sized installments. Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite. I found Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix padded and repetitive, with idiot plots only partially obscured by a lot of manufactured complication. The most recent one was a lot better. One of the problems with the series is that as the story, the world, and the characters get more complex, the original scaffold on which it was all built can’t really sustain it. And she keeps introducing characters who seem like they’re going to be important, and then dropping them.

    As for the movie, I thought the screenwriters did a pretty good job of paring down the script to its essentials. I suppose that if you’re not familiar with the book you might miss interesting points like why poor Neville is so freaked out about the cruciatus curse. Visually, I thought the quidditch world cup was the best part. (I saw the Imax version, which may have been edited differently than the regular theatrical version.)

  • spyder

    Oh Clifford, i can’t wait for your review of the new Chronicle of Narnia film. Hopefully those fans will find a way to dress appropriately.

  • http://www.woodka.com donna

    The Potter books are fun and my youngest enjoys them, but Tolkein *is* fine literature that practically invented the genre of fantasy. The films were a work of art as well – seeing the characters EXACTLY as I had always imagined them was amazing.

    And I also ate up Pullman’s books – another fine writer who is really a bit dark for children, although my kids enjoyed them. The anti-Christian undertones will probably prevent them from becoming a movie series, though.

    And I can’t wait for Narnia. I loved those books as a kid, and the animated version.

    I enjoy the Potter series, though, and whatever gets kids reading and imagining (!) is WONDERFUL by definition.

  • Chi

    I just read the first Pullman book, and am amazed that you could think he’s a fine writer. Maybe it’s meant for kids, but the exposition and dialogue coming out of the protagonists mouth is incredibly tacky. Paragraph long single quotes of “I was so disadvantaged but I overcame and now the world will survive and and and and”. Also, I noticed about 3/5 of the way though that the tone shifted, like he suddenly realized he wanted to drag it out into a trilogy instead of finishing it in one book. I’ll read the other 2 eventually, but I didn’t find Golden Compass nearly as inspiring or catchy as the first couple HPs.

    And call me Mr. Negativity, but the latest HP movie was a disappointment too [full disclosure: this is the first movie I’ve seen after reading the corresponding book–disappointed fan syndrome?]. The first three were very successful in projecting the joy, hope, and promise of those youngsters at Hogwarts–always looked forward to seeing them. I suppose I’m satisfied that they didn’t cut anything essential, but there’s definitely less imagination or creativity in this one. That, and none of the characters seemed genuine–Dumbledore, Harry, Hermione, especially. I guess a lot of the whimsy/flow just had to be cut, due to the enormous size of the book, and am hoping that the DVD release will be much more enjoyable.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/mark/ Mark

    I generally don’t find time to try children’s books, but I looked at Pullman last year and couldn’t put it down until I’d read all three of the “His Dark Materials”‘ series. Great stuff! Dark, anti-authority, a bit twisted – wonderful!

  • http://capitalistimperialistpig.blogspot.com/ CapitalistImperialistPig

    Clifford – I got a later start (age 22 or so) on Tolkien than you, but I guess I can match you on the number of rereads, and I have almost an opposite feeling about the movies. The Nazghul were a real disappointment to me, and the Balrog too.

    A. Krug – Why do they keep getting new directors? Do the old ones not want to continue? I thought Alfonso Cuaron did an excellent job with the feel of the third film.

    Because two in a row almost killed Chris Columbus. The movies are simply too arduous for a single director to do fast enough to keep Ginny Weasely from being an old lady by the end.

  • Dissident

    I for one loved the Balrog (and the excited discussions online afterwards; “wings, baby, wings!”). And the cave troll. The whole underground sequence, really. But the nazgul were at best indifferent, and the hyena-like “wolves” a real disappointment. Their appearance in a gratuitous action scene which wasn’t even in the book (and the extensive plot rewrite as a whole) certainly didn’t help.

    With Potter I have the “advantage” of not having read, and not planning to ever read, the books, so no expectations to disappoint.

  • http://jenniferhead.cfa.harvard.edu Jennifer

    For Harry Potter fans – one of the questions left at the end of the Half-Blood Prince is answered in the Goblet of Fire…the question has to do with Snape’s loyalties, and the answer is in Mad-Eye’s foe glass, I’m wondering if the movie shows this part of the book…I also love Pullman, his Dark Materials are a digestible version of “Paradise Lost,” and I couldn’t put them down (deeply flawed, ok, but great nevertheless)…Mark you might want to try Pullman’s Sally Lockhart mysteries, they aren’t as strong (his Dark Materials is a high bar) but they are still totally engaging, darkness and redemption throughout. Tolkien is the king, hands down (like Newton over Einstein)…wait for Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong, it is going to be awesome, like his LOTR…the guy who played Gollum (Andy Serkis) is also the model for Kong, so he should have a great face and great movements…

  • http://jenniferhead.cfa.harvard.edu Jennifer

    p.s. Donna, they are making “His Dark Materials” into a movie, as we speak…

  • Dissident

    I can’t help but wonder: do we really need yet another King Kong remake…? “I sense great flop potential in this one, Master Kenobi”.

  • http://jenniferhead.cfa.harvard.edu Jennifer

    Ah Dissident, there is great flop potential in the re-make, absolutely, which is going to make it all the more awesome when it is a hit…I think Jackson is going to make the most ferocious yet loveable Kong yet…we’ll have to wait a couple of weeks and see, but I don’t see how someone with Jackson’s talents can screw it up…he’s got Kong protecting Watts from not one, not two, but 3 Tyrannosaurus Rexes…it’s in the trailer…

  • http://jenniferhead.cfa.harvard.edu Jennifer

    (Naomi Watts is in the Fay Wraye role)

  • a.krug

    Clifford wrote:

    I preferred to devote the time (on that genra) to trying Philip Pullman’s books, which I much preferred. I will try the Potter books again…one day….but I have this huge huge huge reading list, and I cannot see me finding time any time soon.

    Understood…. I haven’t gotten around to reading the Pullman books, though they’ve been recommended by people whose taste I trust. I must have at least a hundred novels around that I haven’t gotten to yet. Physics keeps interfering with my reading habits. (Know of any joint physics/literature jobs? 😉 )

    Donna wrote:

    The Potter books are fun and my youngest enjoys them, but Tolkein *is* fine literature that practically invented the genre of fantasy.

    I actually find it kind of hard to justify Tolkien as “fine literature,” but it probably amounts to wondering what defines “literature” anyway. Tolkien did some amazing things in those books, constructing a deeply intricate world and telling a compelling story. But much the same thing can be said for what Rowling has done in the Harry Potter books! It’s hard for me to pinpoint what it is that makes the Tolkien books seem more serious as literature, because, well, they just don’t seem to be to be that literary. I haven’t read one in its entirety in ages, but from what I recall (and glancing back at bits) the prose was just kind of clunky and stilted. If Tolkien is a great storyteller it’s because of the greatness of the story, not of the telling. In that sense the works fall short of truly great literature. On the other hand, there’s undoubtedly something about the books that makes them seem like serious literature. I guess it’s probably the thoroughly academic approach Tolkien took to building a fantasy world, investing it with realistic languages and cultures that were developed in far greater depth than was presented in the novels themselves. This underlying richness seeps through and makes the story that much more compelling. I’m really sort of apathetic about Tolkien compared to most people I know — I have little desire to ever re-read his books — but I do think they are a great achievement.

    That said, I think Rowling has created a pretty impressively detailed fantasy herself. It’s really all the little things that make the HP books so nice: recurring minor details that build up the sense that this is a detailed and believable world. It might not have the encyclopedic background that Tolkien developed, but the world of Rowling’s books is quite intricate and consistent. She also writes with great humor and wit.

  • http://capitalistimperialistpig.blogspot.com/ CapitalistImperialistPig

    Tolkien “clunky and stilted?” On what planet? JRRT wasn’t Shakespeare but he was a graceful and elegant writer. His Elvish and Westron speakers talk a very formal English, but it has a lot of poetry to it also. “Not lightly do the leaves of Lorien fall.” If you think that’s a clunky and stilted way to say that Meriadoc’s leaf shaped elven clasp didn’t fall off by accident, then may everyone learn to be that clunky.

    I was very disappointed in HPGOF (the movie). I know the book rather well, and the movie was little more than a series of incoherent cartoons of the plot. I think Newell’s work was far inferior to Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban in atmosphere and cinematic artistry, and inferior to all the other movies in plot coherence and magical feeling. Moaning Myrtle was one of the few bright spots – but she was better still in the book.

  • http://capitalistimperialistpig.blogspot.com/ CapitalistImperialistPig

    And Clifford – If you want to see HP fans dress up, you need to go to one of the midnight book releases – only one more chance. My kids were too old and sophisticated for that sort of nonsense, but it turned out I had lots of friends there anyway – everybody recognized Dumbledore!

  • Dissident

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