Well, I’ve seen all the Harry Potter movies; rather than stick to individual posts for the remaining movies I thought I’d just do one that sums them up. Partly because, by Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix the films are well into serial mode rather than being wholly self-contained, and its unfair to criticise them for not working as standalone movies by this point- truth is, movies like this rather operate in a different way to normal movies. Also because I’d only be repeating myself each time by this point.
One thought really- does a good book necessarily make a good movie? Several times whilst watching these films I found myself being overly forgiving thinking ‘well, its obviously something in the book’. Horrible pacing issues aside, the films always seemed hampered by an episodic nature within the individual films themselves. I wouldn’t have been shocked had sequences been presaged by a ‘Chapter Two/ Chapter Three…’ subtitle during the films. It made me wonder if perhaps the films were too faithful to the books? Admit its a bit of a poisoned chalice there. I’ve never read the books but can imagine how fans might have reacted to any wild departures or omitting anything (I’m a huge fan of Snyder’s Watchmen movie, and know how it was criticised for being too faithful).
So it seems wrong to criticise the Potter films when really most of my problems are really with the books, and to be fair to Rowling, she was writing books, not screenplays for eventual films (well, when she began the series at least). Pacing etc works differently in a book, chapters can be self-contained and readers can always flick back to earlier sections if they need to check a reference or something. Films don’t work that way and what might be a slow chapter might be a minor annoyance in a book but might be a numbing twenty minutes in a film that breaks the thing completely. A screenplay and a book are two entirely different beasts, to be sure.
One thing that did surprise me, was how the Deathly Hollows finale degenerated into a typical cgi-fest, something that might well be expected of an original film of its ilk but being based on books I thought something more, well, intimate was in the offing. Why does ‘epic’ these days seem to automatically mean a cast of thousands of virtual characters beating the virtual shit out of each other (it was a novel spectacle in the LOTR films, but by God we’ve had it regurgitated so many times since). Does anyone find any of that stuff dramatic? Most dramatic moment in the Star Wars films- not the Death Star battle or any other of the fx set-pieces, its the fight between Vader and Luke in TESB. One character and another, eye to eye without flashy stunts or pyrotechnics. An example so few filmmakers or audiences seem to appreciate in this era of bigger, louder movies.
But I did rather enjoy the Potter films- they certainly seemed to work better in a boxset watched over a few weeks as opposed to over a few years as they were originally released. They may have worked better as movies had they been edited/structured as such rather than being so faithful to the structure/length of the actual books, but, well, that’s a case of damned if they did, damned if they didn’t. Not bad films though. Will no doubt dig out the box again someday.