strange_complex: (Snape by JKR)
Seen with [ profile] edling in Oxford.

This film definitely isn't the jewel of the cinematic Harry Potter franchise. On the whole, I didn't mind about the omissions or additions by comparison with the book. The Death Eater attacks on the Millennium bridge and the Weasley's home were a bit unexciting, but they were at least a reasonably efficient way of signalling Voldemort's growing strength, and thus the extent of the threat which he now represents. And I actively liked the scene with Harry and the waitress in the railway cafe. It felt to me like a Dido and Aeneas moment - Harry is tempted to drop it all for an ordinary Muggle woman, but is called back to his appointed destiny by Dumbledore appearing in front of a poster which emphasises the word 'divine'.

What really put me off, though, was the peculiar passionlessness of it all. The colour palette is similar to that used by Alfonso Cuarón in The Prisoner of Azkaban - dark and grainy and subdued. But this isn't enough to create an ominous atmosphere of fear and suspense when so many of the actors appeared to be just saying their lines rather than putting any expression or emotion into them. This struck me particularly with Michael Gambon's Dumbledore - and since I know from previous films that he is capable of playing this role to much greater effect, I can only assume it stemmed somehow from David Yates' direction. Even Alan Rickman managed to seem as though he were caricaturing his own portrayal of Snape - though I could still have done with more of him, all the same.

On the other hand, Jim Broadbent was absolutely brilliant as Slughorn - very much as I imagined him from the book, and playing the balance between his cosy pompousness and his regret and self-loathing over his earlier relationship with Tom Riddle very nicely. And Tom Felton has really come into his own as Draco Malfoy! I used to be a bit unconvinced by the casting decision there, since he sometimes came across as merely brattish rather than genuinely menacing in the earlier films. But I now applaud the foresight of whoever originally cast him. He's doing unpleasant and manipulative very nicely now, and also combining it very effectively with troubled and uncertain.

For all that, though, the ending felt pretty flat to me. Dumbledore's death and Draco and Snape's escape should carry enormous emotional impact - but they just didn't. And to reveal in a throwaway line with no background explanation that Snape is the Half-Blood Prince, when that moment has such potential for highlighting the parallels between Harry and Snape, again felt like serving up an empty shell of a scene with all the stuffing pulled out of it.

Anyway, it passed an evening, I didn't storm out demanding my money back, and I will probably still buy the DVD just so that I've got them all. But this film is nothing like the calibre of The Prisoner of Azkaban, and is only really worth seeing if you're already invested in the fandom.

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strange_complex: (Snape sneer)
I watched this last night because I had been at work all day doing horrid marking, and felt I deserved a treat. And for obvious reasons, I'm feeling fairly Potterish at the moment. No, wait, who'm I kidding? Fairly Snapeish.

I'll need to re-watch Order of the Phoenix when it comes out on DVD to be sure, but I'd be surprised if I change my mind - and certainly right now, I remain convinced that this is the best Potter film to date. It helps that it includes the best of many great Snapey moments filmed so far - the scene with Sirius and Lupin in the Shrieking Shack (closely followed, actually, by the 'Potter has porn!' / L'Oreal scene1 in the dark corridor). But it isn't just his moments. The sheer quantities of rich detail packed into every scene are exactly the sort of thing I love in any film. Like Percy pouring himself cups of tea from a floating two-spouted teapot in the background while Arthur Weasley warns Harry about Sirius in the Leaky Cauldron. Or the mystical writing carved into the walls of the Divination classroom - which you never get to read properly, but adds so much to the feeling that it is a real classroom that has been used for centuries. Or the dozens of carefully-worked-out moving portraits plastering the castle walls. I really ought to pause some of those scenes and scour them in fine detail some time - and the same goes for all that lovely Latinate writing around the edges of the Marauders' map!

Azkaban is easily a finer film (and book) than the previous two, because it's here that the plot moves beyond introductions and orientation and into a darker, more epic register. But it also has a natural advantage over the fourth and fifth films in that it's based on a shorter book. Between that and the tiny details which allow the director to convey so much with every shot, it does a great job of conveying the full extent of the material in the book without feeling rushed or missing out sub-plots - and this despite being the shortest film to date (I know, because I wanted an early night, so more or less chose this one on that basis). The only thing which felt slightly rushed in Azkaban was the sub-plot with Buckbeak, which seemed to go from Draco having his arm broken and muttering things about how his father would be furious, straight to Hagrid bursting into tears because Buckbeak had been sentenced to death. But that was pretty minor, really. By comparison, films 4 and 5 feel actively rushed throughout, and I don't see how the sixth or seventh can avoid the same problem (although there is a lot of room for hacking out tent-sulkery in seven).

That's not to say I won't be rushing out to buy film 5 on DVD the second it is released, of course! But Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban retains a degree of stylishness and panache that I just don't expect to see outdone by these films again.

1. For non-Potterites who are puzzled, this is what fandom has made of the scene where Snape discovers Harry wandering around the castle with the Marauders' map in the middle of the night.

strange_complex: (Snape by JKR)
On Monday night, I finished reading Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. I had a couple of questions in mind when I started reading this book. One, about how Sirius Black escaped from Azkaban, was quickly and easily answered. The other was already bigger when I first asked it. It hasn't been completely resolved by reading the book, but I now have further thoughts on the issue, so here I shall record them.

The question was whether or not a narrowing of Alan Rickman's eyes during the 'Shrieking Shack scene' in the film was consciously supposed to represent Snape using legilimency to discover Sirius Black's innocence, but still persisting in trying to get him Kissed by the Dementors anyway. Or, as [ profile] innerbrat put it so nicely, I wanted to know whether Snape was 'the man who knows Sirius is innocent and wants him Kissed anyway.'

The short answer is that I could not find anything in the equivalent scene in the book which indicated that Snape was using legilimency at this point. The long answer, is, well, a lot longer. In essence, I now think that for Snape not to use legilimency at this point in the story is almost as bad as using it and then ignoring the information it yields.

For more details, follow these cuts:

The nature and extent of Snape's legilimency )

Lupin the legilimens )

Snape's agenda: self-delusion, or something worse? )

Last but not least, the Dumbledore factor )

My conclusion to all this? Well, canon Snape is not very nice, is he? I'm increasingly finding that I want to distinguish pretty sharply between Rickman-Snape and book-Snape. And while the first is troubled but sexy, the second is really very difficult to like.

Now, I am going to bed to start Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
strange_complex: (Default)
I have now rewatched all three of the Harry Potter films. I can highly recommend the DVDs, especially for the numerous cut scenes included on each. Although you do generally have to leap through rather tedious hoops in order to get to see them, especially on the DVD of the first film where they are the reward you get for solving various puzzles. Great for hyperactive kiddies: merely irritating for adult film aficionados.

I have also begun reading The Prisoner of Azkaban, which is the first book in the series that I have not yet read. This, of course, means that I am reading it having already seen the film, so I have a couple of questions in mind which arose from seeing the film, and which I am hoping the book will either answer or, at least, illuminate.

Cuts follow for spoilers and rather excessive length:

Question one: Sirius Black and Azkaban )

Question two: Alan Rickman, J.K. Rowling and Snape's legilimency )


strange_complex: (Default)

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