Mudcat Café message #590467 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #41028   Message #590467
Posted By: Grab
11-Nov-01 - 07:50 PM
Thread Name: BS: Harry Potter
Subject: RE: BS: Harry Potter
Just been to see the film - we went over to see my mate and his g/f, and she blagged us tickets to a pre-screening. I wrote a really accurate and literate review of it, just previously, then my PC crashed and I lost it. So here's round 2:-

What's it like? Bottom line, it's a very good children's film. Another half-hour, maybe even another hour, and it would have been a great film, period. Why? Read on...

The plot is almost directly taken from the book. There's some inevitable cuts, cutting-and-pasting of scenes/dialogue and other stuff, but it doesn't affect the basic plot at all. So that's good.

The adult actors are all pretty good (with the names in there, they should be!) with the exception of the Quirrell actor who hams like it's going out of fashion. Daniel Radcliffe playing Harry is actually pretty good, but the girl playing Hermione is only fair, and the lads playing Ron, Malfoy and Neville are all only good-pantomine standard. But they're only kids yet, so I'll let that pass - most kids are not Haley Joel Osment.

The FX are good too, up to the standard you'd expect. The troll scene and the chess game are very well done, and so is the Quidditch match (only one is shown). The Quidditch match works really well - they've got moves worked out so that the Chasers really do play as a team ("one-two" moves and stuff), although there's not much shown of the Beaters, and the Snitch seems rather too easy to catch. It's made more realistic by being obviously physical (elbows and stuff) instead of being a nice safe game as it sometimes seems in the books.

So, to why it's only an average-quality film for adults. Basically it all comes down to character and atmosphere - frankly, there isn't any of either. The film's so busy getting through the plot, there isn't enough time spent to develop any character beyond a simple one-dimensional sketch (even Harry), and there's no feel for the setting at all. I'm sure this comes down to cutting the film to suit children's bladder timings - a longer version might easily make up for that, but aimed at 8-year-olds, that's just how it goes. I will say that it didn't seem like 2 1/2 hours, and that's down to the speed the film rushes through the plot. But the depth of the book is completely absent, which is a shame. It may be inevitable that a film never lives up to the book it's taken from, but it's always disappointing when it happens nonetheless.

Details of this? OK, some spoilers (not plot spoilers, just details):-

The Harry/Malfoy rivalry is cut completely (apart from one short scene at the start). So there's no reason for Harry to be saying "not Slytherin", and there's no reason for Malfoy to be giving snide grins at getting them into trouble. Similarly, the Harry/Snape rivalry is almost cut completely (apart from Alan Rickman hanging around wearing black, looking menacing and talking ominously) so the assumption that it's Snape doing stuff comes completely out of thin air.

Schoolwork gets maybe 20 seconds, and there's no homework. So Hermione comes across as a precocious brat, instead of actually working hard for what she knows. In the whole film, the teachers never use magic (apart from McGonagall's cat transformation and Dumbledore turning the streetlights out) so we don't really know if they're any good, or even if they're magic at all. No-one mentions that Dumbledore is better than Voldemort when there's discussion of Voldemort, so when someone does, it's just plucked out of thin air with no basis, and the discussion of Voldemort and talking about Harry's parents being killed takes 30 seconds, max. And instead of Harry being rescued by Dumbledore at the end whilst fighting desperately for his life, he takes on Quirrell and beats him single-handed in a matter of seconds, so it doesn't seem like he was ever in any danger.

Rushing through the plot, there's no time to introduce anyone apart from the main characters. So we don't get to know any of the Quidditch players, and as a result we don't really care what happens to them in the match. There's only one Quidditch match, so we don't get to see Harry getting any better at flying, and he doesn't actually seem that good anyway compared to the other Quidditch players. Harry doesn't do any magic spells (intentionally, anyway) in the whole film, so Hermione saying that he's a great wizard is not at all believable.

Lastly, "atmosphere". A film with a shorter plot could have used lots of sequences of the kids dealing with moving staircases, trick stairs and stuff like that, just to fill in the time - an imaginative FX guy could think up some really good variations on that to keep it interesting, plus walking suits of armour and stuff. Instead, we get one brief moving-staircase sequence and that's it. Hogwarts just becomes a passive backdrop, so there's no reason you can see for the kids to get attached to it - there's no visible character to it.

Is it worth the money to get in? Yes, especially if you've got kids. But for my money, Shrek was much better - it managed to keep an edge which made it appeal to adults too. Harry Potter will probably be your kids' favourite film ever, but it's not going to get the adults going back to see it again and again - worth seeing once, but no more. There's no particular depth or charm to it, so there's no detail to miss.