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Musings on Harry Potter

I went to the movies with some friends today and they all wanted to see Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, which would normally be great except for the fact that I already saw it last week. But I was outnumbered and didn’t really have much choice in the matter. I’m actually glad I saw it again because not only was I able to notice a few things I missed the first time around, but a brief conversation I had with one of my friends after the movie was over sparked some interesting thoughts concerning one of the characters. At least something productive came of my little excursion.

First off, a brief opinion of the movie. I am exceedingly impressed by the filmmakers’ abilities to continually capture the spirit of the books on screen. The best example I can give of this achievement is the scene in the cave where Dumbledore and Harry attempt to take the third Horcrux. When I was reading Half-Blood Prince for the first time (two years ago now…I read the entire series in 13 days), I imagined that scene a very particular way: what the inside of the cave looked like, the boat they used to travel across the lake, the Inferi. Well, it was like the filmmakers were inside my head! Their interpretation of that entire scene was almost exactly as I had imagined it. I am never disappointed in the set design, costuming and special effects of the Harry Potter movies.

I have one minor complaint. Now, I realize how difficult it is to capture every detail of J.K. Rowling’s stories on screen. It’s the same way with any movie…you have to cut something otherwise you’d spend most of the film on exposition and risk losing the audience’s attention. I get it, really I do. But for some reason they chose to cut out the Hogwarts battle at the end of Half-Blood Prince. This is, in my opinion, a rather important part of the story. I’m trying to figure out why that specific thing was cut, especially when it would have been an action-packed sequence. The most obvious reason would be time; the film runs over two and a half hours so a battle sequence probably would have added 10 or 15 more minutes. Cost is also a potential factor, but I doubt it is much of one considering how many hundreds of millions of dollars the films have made internationally. Anyway, it just kind of bothered me. But other than that one issue, I was very pleased with the film overall.

Friendly warning: If you haven’t read the books but plan on doing so eventually, you might want to turn back now because spoilers abound below.

Finally, on to the discussion I had with my friend. It concerns Severus Snape, and it would probably be more fitting to do an analysis of his character after The Deathly Hallows movies come out, but that’s far away and I had the thought now so...yeah, deal with it. Anyway, I said something about how Severus is my favorite character in the whole series of books and my friend thought that was weird because he’s so unlikeable. I like him because he has so many layers. He’s the most complex character in the series, and I enjoy characters that aren’t black or white. You can argue that Harry is as complicated as Snape, and it’s true that he does have a lot of emotional baggage and teen angst, but Snape was a freaking DOUBLE (triple?) AGENT for crying out loud! No, he’s not a nice person, but he does turn out to be a good guy. I think my friend’s concern was that Snape is so unnecessarily cruel to Harry throughout the series, but I can kind of understand his position. How do you go to work every day, stand at the front of a classroom and look out and see a student who is basically the spitting image of a guy who used to beat you up when you were a kid. But wait a second: this student not only looks like his father, but has his mother’s eyes (as everyone points out), a woman you’ve been in love with since you were eleven years old. So this kid is the product of a love between a man you can’t stand and a woman you wanted more than anything. But she didn’t want you in return, and Harry is an everyday reminder of that fact. Unrequited love SUCKS. On top of all that, this woman you loved so much let herself be killed to save this little boy from certain death. So the love of your life is dead because of Harry Potter. I can only imagine how painful it is to deal with all that in silence. Severus Snape is a tortured soul, and tortured souls make the most interesting characters.

On a related note, I have to mention Alan Rickman’s performance. He’s always fantastic as Snape, and in other parts as well (Bottle Shock!). Snape has a pivotal role in this book and film (after all, he is the Half-Blood Prince), and Rickman totally knocked it out of the park, but in a very understated way. He’s never too over-the-top and I appreciate that. If I made a list of British actors and actresses I admire and will watch in anything, Rickman is definitely on it, probably near the top.

Tidbit: Did you guys know there is a Harry Potter wiki? I didn't until today when I had to look up the name of the Inferi (otherwise I would have had to call them "those dead people-things in the water"). http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page 


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 27th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC)
Hey, piney. I just saw HBP and loved it. ITA on the way the movies create the world. And more thant that, I just love the HP world they create. I avoid seeing certain movies (or seeing them twice) because I just don't like being there, but I can watch HP over and over because I love being inside that world. It's always so beautiful and...resonant, I guess. It stays with you.

Anyway, YES, Snape. I do love Snape. I'm with you, completely. I remember waiting for the seventh book to come out and being very much on the "Snape is good!" side, crossing my fingers pretty hard.

And I'm a huge fan of Alan Rickman. With my favorite actors, I like to do this little mental excercise where I pick three movies/works that sort of triangulate him -- illustrate the range. For AR I would pick a) one of the HP movies (don't know which...one of the earlier ones, cause he's funny as well as sinister), b) Sense and Sensibility, and c) Snow Cake. (Nobody saw that one. I watched because of Callum Keith Rennie in a small part.) In S&S his character is gentle and kind and noble sort of heartbreaking. In Snow Cake he's a quietly depressed and reluctant savior. And you know HP. He really is stunning in everything he does.

The first time I (and many people) saw him was in Robin Hood, a terrible movie, thanks to the insane casting of Kevin Costner. I actually saw that in the theater and was very disappointed, but came out saying "but OMG WHO was the SHERIFF? He was fantastic!" So incredibly funny -- he just jumped off the screen and stole the movie. Did you ever see that?
Jul. 27th, 2009 04:55 pm (UTC)
I remember waiting for the seventh book to come out and being very much on the "Snape is good!" side, crossing my fingers pretty hard.

YES, me too! I had this sneaking suspicion early on that there was more to Snape than meets the eye. Maybe because Dumbledore was so adamant that he was trustworthy, plus a lot of other little things throughout the earlier books. I was very pleased with the way his storyline came full circle. Rowling is a genius for creating that character.

Alan Rickman is the best! My favorite role of his is Colonel Brandon for sure. In fact, I just watched Sense & Sensibility the other day...it's one of my go-to movies when I want to see something romantic. There's that line by Willoughby: "He's the sort of person everyone speaks well of but no one remembers to talk to." I think Rickman embodied that line perfectly. He gives such a nuanced performance, and you can't help rooting for his character because he's so genuinely kind and a true gentleman.

I haven't seen Snow Cake, but I read a synopsis of it a while back and it sounds like something I would enjoy. It's been forever since I last saw Robin Hood, probably 15 years, and you know what? I didn't make the connection that Rickman was the Sheriff until recently! I almost want to see it again now that I know, but I'm not sure I can make it through Kevin Costner's performance. ;-)
Jul. 27th, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC)
If you love Alan Rickman, I think Robin Hood is worth it. I mean, it's a light period thing, so for me that's pretty watchable regardless. And AR is SO funny. He's like when Snape is funny only with MUCH BETTER LINES. I was LOLing at the time.

And I actually don't hate Costner as an actor, he's just not right for RH *points to example of good casting* and his accent is abominable. Let me know if you ever see it. Talking about it is making me want to rewatch. :-)
Jul. 27th, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC)
I actually like Costner even though he's made a few bad role choices and has been miscast a couple of times. But he's excellent in the roles that fit him (Bull Durham comes to mind, and Tin Cup. I haven't seen Swing Vote yet but I heard he's good in it, too.)

I'm seriously considering rewatching Robin Hood now. I've got to locate a copy first...maybe I can find one online somewhere. I'll let you know when I watch it.
Jul. 27th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
Piney, while I'm not into Harry Potter, I'm a big Alan Rickman fan, so I must do some slightly off-topic interjecting. ;-)

In one of my favorite movies, "Michael Collins," he's billed third or fourth, behind Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts, and Aidan Quinn has about as much screen time. But he plays a crucial role as Eamon De Valera, so he's somewhat of a passive-aggressive antagonist to Collins. He's playing a buttoned-up revolutionary theorist and speechwriter opposite Neeson's Collins, who knows that blood will need to be shed to liberate Ireland, and who is more than willing to make the English do the bleeding. Neeson's great, but he's supposed to chew the scenery a bit; Rickman's there to be subtle and measured, and he's brilliant at it. Of course.

I loved him in "Dogma," too, and I still want to see "Bottle Shock," which also has Bradley Whitford.

He's even great playing Rasputin in the made-for-HBO movie of the same name. He's all filthy and wildly inappropriate, but because Rickman is playing him, you can believe that these upper-class Russian women want to get into bed with him. :-)
Jul. 27th, 2009 09:23 pm (UTC)
I don't know how I managed this, but somehow I've seen half of Michael Collins, but not the entire thing.

Rickman's there to be subtle and measured, and he's brilliant at it.
He excels at these types of roles. He's a master of subtlety.

Bottle Shock is a fun movie. Whitford only has about two minutes of screen time, but it's a cute appearance. Chris Pine is also in it (from the Star Trek movie)...having never watched him in anything before, I was quite impressed with his performance. But Rickman makes the film as Steven Spurrier, a Brit who's organizing an intercontinental wine competition. There's a line in the movie where Bill Pullman's character asks him, "Why don't I like you?" and Rickman's character responds, "Because you think I'm an asshole. And I'm not really, I'm just British and you're not." Only Rickman could deliver that line with the right deadpan tone to make it extremely hilarious.
Jul. 28th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
Rickman's character responds, "Because you think I'm an asshole. And I'm not really, I'm just British and you're not."
BWAH! I'm smiling just imagining Rickman saying that line. :-)
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