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Broom for improvement - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Broom for improvement
We've just been to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, at the Phoenix cinema. Do you see.

For those who aren't interested in the film:




For those who are: if you're expecting this to be the "darkest" Harry Potter film ever (since the last one), you're probably going to be disappointed... though probably no more disappointed than you were with the previous ones.

Perhaps where I'm going wrong with the Harry Potter films is [watching them - Ed.] hoping that they'll tell something resembling coherent stories (whether or not those bear any relation to the stories in the books -- I'm not a purist about this). Perhaps the thinking is that anybody who bothers to watch the films will have probably already read the books, in which case the films may well be intended to be what they appear to be: a series of tableaux from the books, illustrating a small selection of your favourite scenes (The Kiss! The Death!) with an all-star cast and some whizzy computer graphics. If that's what you're after, then there are some good scenes, though you'll probably wish there'd been fewer feeble attempts to tie the tableaux together with wisps of plot, and more... well... anything, really.

So what's missing? Pretty much everything, to be honest. The eponymous Order of the Phoenix is only mentioned about twice in the film, leaving other bits of the film somewhat stranded: it's not clear why a crack team of aurors come to rescue Harry from the Dursleys, and later from Umbridge, and later from the Death Eaters; it's not clear why Arthur Weasley is sneaking around in the Department of Mysteries in the dark when he gets attacked; it's not clear why Sirius is holed up in Grimmauld Place, and hence why he's not doing anything until he suddenly rushes into a Death-Eater-filled trap. Quidditch is out: not just the tedious bludger-by-bludger accounts of matches, but every mention of the game; this leaves the already fairly two-dimensional Cho Chang completely characterless, so there's no indication of why Harry fancies her in the first place (okay, fair enough: he's 15, she's female), much less why he suddenly splits up with her, pointedly ignoring her in the corridor. Lessons are pretty much done away with, except to show that Umbridge is Not Very Nice; with the removal of both schoolwork and sport, there's not very much for Ron and Hermione to do except stand on either side of Harry like bookends. Ginny is so insipid that I didn't realise until halfway through the film who she was supposed to be (and where's her Weasley red hair, eh?); Fred and George fare only slightly better. (Percy's gone completely, but that's no great loss.)

So what's left? A lot of woodenly teenaged glowering from Harry; a suitably poisonously-pink Dolores Umbridge; a cool lightsaberwand duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort; a nearly-loopy-enough Luna Lovegood; a dreadful Disneyfied travesty of Hagrid's hideous half-brother; a classroom full of swirling silver Patronus charms, which the students somehow had no difficulty producing after 5 seconds' practice, and all of which assumed the shape of cute animals which were somehow appropriate to the person casting the spell (perhaps the CGI guys were practising for the forthcoming film of His Dark Materials); a gorgeous flashback glimpse of a teenaged Snape, looking rather like Marilyn Manson; and magic invisible skeleton horses.

Okay, when I put it like that, maybe I'm just asking for too much, you know, wanting something resembling a plot as well.

Anyway, hopefully the next (last!) book will satisfy my plot needs. Only five days to go...

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juggzy From: juggzy Date: July 15th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Perhaps where I'm going wrong with the Harry Potter films is [watching them - Ed.] hoping that they'll tell something resembling coherent stories (whether or not those bear any relation to the stories in the books -- I'm not a purist about this)

Hahaha! hic. The possibility of Rowling I'd check the spelling but I've given all my Harry Potter books to charity shopes) writing a coherent plot is akin to the possibility of Pullman writing something that isn't pustulantly arrogant and patronizing to anything middle class or the possibility of Rowling writing anything that isn't choc full of cliche and, oooh.

I may be exhibiting some prejudice here
juggzy From: juggzy Date: July 15th, 2007 10:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
possibility of Pullman writing something that isn't pustulantly arrogant and patronizing to anything middle class

I meant to say 'to anything that isn't middle class' but, y'know? Pullman is uniquely middle class and arrogant in his half arsed pursuit of the demonisation that anything that is religious, to the extent of elevating anti-religion to a religious status in itself. Plus, y'know, Dawkins is not the anti-christ; he's just a jumped-up pretty boy biologist. That's all I'm saying.

Oh, God, I hate everybody. Especially those centrist males who think they're pulling all the rebellion onto themselves by imitiating the zietgiest. Give me uncertainty, anytime.
j4 From: j4 Date: July 16th, 2007 08:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, Rowling writes clichéd, clumsy prose. But Order of the Phoenix was one of the ones that managed to do the good bits of schoolfic -- the conflicting loyalties, the being at odds with everyone around you, the teen angst -- reasonably well, and reflect that angst in the stuff the 'grown-ups' are doing with their seekrit Order, and... okay, basically, Young Adult fantasy fiction always makes some kind of link (implict or explicit) between magic and puberty, and HP does it far more clumsily than many, but HP5 is the one where that really starts to come together into some kind of coherent picture of how the magic works in her world and what the point of growing up is; and I do find that interesting, even though I can't really defend the quality of the writing at all. (Though some bits of her dialogue are quite funny, and those invariably end up stuck in the film because they're funny rather than because they actually gel with any of the rest of the film, which of course then makes them much less funny.) But anyway, all of that was lost in the film, which would have been fine if it'd been replaced with, well, anything. I don't object at all to brain-free action movies punctuated by moody looks from Alan Rickman; but it didn't even do that properly. Not nearly enough of Rickman for a start. ;)
juggzy From: juggzy Date: July 16th, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
You have the advantage of me. I walked out of the second film, and then put the fourth book down unfinished.

((Alan Rickman))
ewx From: ewx Date: July 16th, 2007 07:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Perhaps the gaps are less obvious if you've not read the books? (I'll read the lot when they're all done, I expect.)

Entirely separately, how many times have you been told about the man-eating badgers of Basra?

j4 From: j4 Date: July 16th, 2007 08:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Perhaps the gaps are less obvious if you've not read the books?

Dunno - if (as I infer) you've not read the books, did the film(s) make sense to you? It seems to me that without the background of the books, the films are just incredibly thin excuses for a lot of running around and flashes of bright light and people wandering around in school uniform, & there are gazillions of films that do that a lot better. I mean, Batman & Robin fulfils all those criteria and has more plot, and that's saying something.

And I have been told several times about the MAN-EATING BADGERS but it doesn't grow old. :-) I mean... "UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: 'We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.'" [from bbc news] Wouldn't you just love to be the one to make that official announcement? I would.

The BBC changed the picture after the first day, too, from a dainty-looking badger to a more thuggish-looking one. Not that I'm obsessed, you know.
ewx From: ewx Date: July 16th, 2007 11:01 am (UTC) (Link)

I've not read the books, indeed - I'll probably read the lot when the series is complete; that way I won't have the problem of forgetting what's going on while waiting for the next book comes out.

I didn't find the latest film particularly hard to follow. For instance, the OOTP themselves were obviously carrying out a campaign of some kind off-screen; it was clear from the start that they were deliberately shielding the main viewpoint character from things so it wasn't surprising that we didn't get much of the detail.

To pick another example I assumed that Harry blanked Cho because of her betrayal, not knowing she'd been (magically) drugged. There might be a different reason in the book but that didn't stop the apparent reason in the film making sense.

j4 From: j4 Date: July 16th, 2007 11:29 am (UTC) (Link)
I'll probably read the lot when the series is complete

Ah, I've been re-reading the whole lot every time a new book comes out, so I don't have the forgetting problem. :-) Glad to hear that the films make sense without the background of the book, though.

I know they did mention the OOTP, but I just didn't feel like they looked like they were doing much in the film, really. In the book, they're still keeping all the knowledge from Harry, but a) you're not restricted to only knowing what Harry knows, and b) you get a lot more frustrating(-to-him) hints about what might be happening, so his anger at being excluded is more convincing. Mind you, he didn't seem to be particularly angry in the film, just a bit moody...

I assumed that Harry blanked Cho because of her betrayal

Okay, this one is clearly my fault for not paying attention, because I somehow managed to totally miss her "betrayal". In my defence I reckon it's because she's such a nonentity in the film that I didn't actually notice she was onscreen at the time. But it's all done very differently in the book, so perhaps the problem was partly that I was waiting for what-happened-in-the-book to happen.

I dunno, though, on the whole I just felt that the whole film was a bit lacking in point.
ewx From: ewx Date: July 16th, 2007 11:57 am (UTC) (Link)

"betrayal"

When the wall gets busted down she's there, held, and crying: it's clear that the information about the secret training came from her. Harry isn't aware that she was magically compelled to talk until Snape reveals it after his own capture, and evidently he doesn't imagine until that point that Umbrage would go beyond mundane questioning (which is perhaps a bit naive, given he already knows she'll use torture as punishment, but he is only 15 and doesn't realize he's in a film).

So what goes down in the book between Harry and Cho? I don't mind spoilers but feel free to send email if you're worried that your other readers do.

ewx From: ewx Date: July 16th, 2007 12:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
If I'd re-read them all each time a new one came out that'd be a total of 28 readings, which is a little more time than I'm prepared to put in. I understand that the forthcoming book is the last, so I can probably start pretty much any time actually...
j4 From: j4 Date: July 16th, 2007 01:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
*shrug* I don't find it takes that long... I re-read the whole lot in less than a week this time. (Actually, thinking about it, I got the first 3 in one go so I've only re-read them all for volumes 4, 5 and 6...) Also, it gets quicker each time, because I know them better, so I'm skimming a lot more. Fair enough if you don't want to bother, just saying that I haven't exactly invested enormous amounts of time in it that would otherwise be used for something more worthwhile! I mean, I'd've probably just been reading something else, and it might well have been more re-reads of kid-lit, because I haven't had much spare brain for Proper Reading* recently...

My mum has re-read the whole of the Wheel of Time in preparation for each new book. Now that's a time investment. :-}

* I don't usually count re-reads in my book a week count (which was already slipping badly, I can't blame the recent Potterfest for that!) but I've allowed myself to count the Earthsea books -- another reading-in-preparation-for-the-film, as we're going to see Gedo Senki on Saturday. I'm sure I did read them when I was about 10 but I decided that if I couldn't remember anything about them (and none of it rang a bell on the re-read) then it counted as reading-for-the-first-time really.

Yes, the forthcoming HP book (out on Friday) is the last one.
ewx From: ewx Date: July 16th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes, the forthcoming HP book (out on Friday) is the last one.

...and Naath's set are already unpacked, so I'm good to go l-)
ewx From: ewx Date: August 17th, 2007 12:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes, the forthcoming HP book (out on Friday) is the last one.

finis
rysmiel From: rysmiel Date: July 18th, 2007 11:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I mean, Batman & Robin fulfils all those criteria and has more plot, and that's saying something.

Reminde me where the people in school uniforms were in Batman and Robin ?

I know that it's the wrong film, but I would also appear to have earwormed myself with "Hold me, Thrill Me, Kiss me, Kill Me" by reading this comment.
j4 From: j4 Date: July 19th, 2007 12:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Alicia Silverstone in school uniform! Or did I dream that bit??
boyofbadgers From: boyofbadgers Date: July 16th, 2007 09:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure about that. I've only read the first 30 pages of the first book and I found the first film fairly confusing in places.
lnr From: lnr Date: July 16th, 2007 08:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I think I left my brain at home when we were watching it, but I think you're right in the speculation that it's aimed entirely at people who've read the books, and you just have to mentally fill in all the gaps.

I thought it did a bit better than the 4th one in terms of at least making a vague amount of sense, but it *was* very sketchy.

I did think Luna was pretty good, and I thought Umbridge was very well done too. Smiling pink menace.
1ngi From: 1ngi Date: July 16th, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I went with me James-Bond-entertain-me head on and enjoyed it mostly but it cracked through events at gallop which did get trying.

The absolute star was Imelda Staunton as Umbridge and turned in a stunning performance. It would have been very easy to ham it up - Mary Whitehouse/Babara Cartland/Miss Whiplash all in one - but she made Umbridge absolutely believable
barnacle From: barnacle Date: July 16th, 2007 09:23 am (UTC) (Link)
ALL UR OWL R BELONG 2 US NAOW KTHXBYE
covertmusic From: covertmusic Date: July 16th, 2007 10:58 am (UTC) (Link)

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    <owl:Class rdf:about="property of http://barnacle.livejournal.com" />
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What, that wasn't what you meant?
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: July 16th, 2007 11:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Not enough of Rickman, for a start

Name one film where there is enough Rickman.
colinmurtagh From: colinmurtagh Date: July 17th, 2007 10:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
much as I hate to jump in the middle of a HP thread, mainly cause the wife is thinking about queuing at midnight to get to the new one, I'm just off the phone to roger. Can you give him a buzz, he's got a book for you
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