Monday, June 16, 2008

12 objections to the Harry Potter films

This is a big rant. Bit of a hobby-horse for me. But here goes...twelve reasons that I object to the Harry Potter films - a combination of points about poor adaptation and just poor film-making.
Firstly, it is absolutely ludicrous to start filming a story to which you don’t know the end. When the first film was released, half the series hadn’t been written yet. Even by film five they didn’t know how it all ended! Can you imagine them filming the first half of Shawshank Redemption (or whatever) without having decided how it will end? Or starting to film David Beckham’s life story now, when he’s only 33?! It’s insane!!

Secondly, mathematically it can’t be done. Take ‘The Lord of the Rings’: 1000 pages into 12 hours, and they cut a fair amount of stuff. Harry Potter, in its entirety, is about 3500 pages – 3.5 times as long as LOTR. In addition, much of LOTR is description, which can be put on film in about a second, or bits that aren’t integral to the plot or characters (e.g. Tom Bombadil, who was cut from the film; these things arise because of the way the book is written). In contrast, Harry Potter has no, or very few, such elements, and is much more heavily weighted in favour of dialogue and action, which take a lot longer to film. So all in all, there is probably at least seven times as much material to film in Harry Potter than in LOTR. Even given seven films, this still makes each film on average TWELVE HOURS LONG! This cannot be done!

Thirdly, while some people will watch these films and enjoy them and that will inspire them to read the books, many more people will decide NOT to read the books, but instead to watch the films. As a huge fan of the book, this is tragic. People are missing out on the great experience of reading the books, because of the films. In addition, these people will think that because the films are lame this means the books are lame. Nothing could be further from the truth! And those that do go on to the books having watched the films will have had their imaginations corrupted.

Fourthly, changing the directors (and script writers, and score writers) for every film is so stupid! How can they expect continuity? They can’t, but of course, that doesn’t matter as long as the films make money. How shallow is that? The books, and the fans, deserve better.

Fifthly, the casting. Why restrict it to British actors only? It rules out huge amounts of non-British acting talent. But instead they just go for the big names – Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Gary Oldman, Robbie Coltrane, Imelda Staunton – all massive names in British acting, but that doesn’t make them right for the roles! And the argument that foreign actors couldn’t put on English accents is crazy – check out Elijah Wood et al in Lord of the Rings.

Sixthly, the ‘look’ of the films is all wrong. Hardly anything in the films looks like it is described in the books. Hogwarts just doesn’t look right! Filming in real locations is stupid, because people who have been to the locations will notice when they appear in the films. For example, I live in Durham, so when the courtyard appears in the films, I don’t think Hogwarts, I think ‘oh, it’s Durham Cathedral!’ So, so annoying! And, possibly the most annoying error is the presence of uniform (shirts, ties etc.) – there is no need for this, and it’s not canon!

Seventhly, plot changes. I can understand that adaptations need to be made to convert any book to the screen, especially with such long books. But there are serious mistakes made, such as the omission of SPEW and Rita etc. The adaptation just is not good enough. And this is partly because of point 1 – without knowing how the story ends, and therefore what’s important and what isn’t, the writers will have no clue as to what to cut and what to leave in. JKR had to step in at the last moment to prevent the omission of Kreacher from film 5!

Eighthly, there are a vast number of small, unnecessary changes. Things like Hagrid’s hut being round, Harry’s eyes being blue, Hermione’s Yule Ball dress being pink, ‘Lumos’ changing to ‘Lumos Solarum’, Moody’s magic eye being strap-on, and Parvati’s boggart being a snake. There is no need for these changes. They’re just wrong! (The uniform issue could be mentioned here too).

Ninthly, the special effects are, in a word, awful. This is the 21st century for goodness sake! If Peter Jackson can make Gollum, Oliphaunts, and an army of 200,000 orcs look real, then the makers of these films should at least be able to make a half-convincing werewolf!

Tenthly, if you are going to make these books into films, it is essential that the trio are acted well. Of course, all the characters must be well-acted, but especially the trio. While Radcliffe and Watson might be ok actors now (and nothing more than ok), at the start they were not. Radcliffe even said in an interview that when he started making the films he didn’t know how to act. And Rupert Grint? He’s the worst actor I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry but he just can’t act. He only has one expression! Without the trio being convincing on screen, the rest of the film falls apart. On top of that, the rest of the acting isn’t exactly top-quality! Ok, Alan Rickman is quite good, but the rest are average at best, and Coltrane and Gambon, who act arguably the two most important adult characters, are frankly appalling!

Eleventhly, it is not possible to film the books faithfully and keep the films at PG rating. Certain scenes in the books, such as the graveyard in book 4, the Department of Mysteries battle in book 5 and the cave scene in book 6 contain images far too graphic and disturbing to do justice to, without making the films at least 12s and probably 15s. Plus other things that you don’t think of that are actually really freaky and sinister, like Voldemort coming out of the back of Quirrell’s head, the baby-headed death eater, and mandrakes!

Twelfthly, even JK Rowling has said that while she likes the films, if she had the choice again she wouldn’t sell the filming rights. The films have turned her amazing story into a money-making capitalist scam, and this is shown in the approach to the films, such as changing directors every time. And all the merchandise (action figures, sticker books etc) is horrible, and just puts pictures of scenes and actors from the films everywhere, which as I said above, aren’t what the real places and people look like in the books! And now a theme park. And a musical!?!

Rant over. I really hate these films. If anyone has got this far and is wondering what JKR's world does look like, take a trip to - awesome HP fanart. Yes, she's a big R/H shipper, but the art is fantastic.

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