The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Monday, January 25, 2010

HP Monday – Movie notes and other ponderings about goblets, glasses, and cauldrons

I’m a little sad no one disagreed with me on the happy, fun roller-coaster ride of book 4. I’m willing to fight for my point, which I do think is accurate, but I see the other side too. I mean this book begins and ends with death – one muggle at the beginning and one wizard at the end. That’s dark no matter how you look at it. And there are bad things and weird omens throughout. Ah, well. Maybe you all agree with me whole-heartedly and there is no need to argue the point.

Movie Notes
I sat through movie 4 twice in a matter of days and I still don’t know how I feel. I have to say, watching it after reading book 4 – also twice, once in October and then again in December - I think I don’t like the movie. But I still get caught up in it each time. I like the music, the imagery, most of the scenes they do show, and the Yule ball especially, but I can’t get over all the stuff that’s missing. Does that even make sense?

I get why the Dursley’s aren’t there, although I do miss them because I think they act as bookends of a sort to each school year. I get why the house elves and S.P.E.W. aren’t in it, and I may even understand why we don’t see Rita as an animagus; but that doesn’t mean I understand why all of the context and plot-braiding that these scenes contain just seems to go puff and makes the movie fall flat.

What do you think? Did you still enjoy it? Hogwarts doesn’t have the same feel as in book 3, but I’m glad this director kept that beautiful clock and the long bridge – I’m a sucker for bridges, they are liminal too. From a Weasley standpoint, I’m still sad Bill and Charlie aren’t in this one. I do like the darker shadings in this film – because things ARE becoming more menacing. Moody and Barty Crouch Jr. are both great – I do heart David Tennant, so I might be slightly biased, but the facial tick thing is brilliant – and both actors mastered when and how to look like each other. There’s no Ludo Bagman, no sub-plot with Fred and George, and Ron just isn’t as annoying as he is in the book – again lending some flatness I just don’t like. The tasks are all enjoyable and fun to watch – the dragon sequence may be a little long, but that’s what they poured their money into, so I can excuse it. I like Hermione a good deal in the movie. Emma Watson uses what they’ve given her to work with and makes the most of it. I’m sad the missing Rita Skeeter scenes are gone, because this is the scary, gray area, line walking Hermione, who makes you wonder what side she will ultimately end up on. Although, the movie Hermione is a kinder, stricter version and they’ve kept movie Hermione true to form by removing those scenes. Boo.

The movie just didn’t find the humor in book 4 – and the humor is what makes book 4 the fun roller-coaster ride it is. I am not amused when viewing movie 4. Luckily I remember being highly amused in movies 5 and 6 – so I’m keeping my hopes up for those two.

The thing I’m most surprised at – because it took me two viewings to realize it – is my perception of Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. The movie has completely skewed my original view of these two wizarding schools. I know full well that boys and girls attend both schools, there are a few references to this in the book, and I know full well the all boys and all girls version in the movie exists; what I didn’t realize until the second viewing of the movie is that even when I read the book, I think of Beauxbatons as an all girl school and Durmstrang as an all boys school. And even worse, I think of Ravenclaw full of mostly girls and Slytherin full of mostly boys now. REALLY! I mean I really have to think about it to get these stereotypes out of my head while reading book 5 now. I think that is a greatest disservice to both JK Rowling and her books, I blame this movie for creating it.

Book Wrap Up
Before moving onto book 5 next week, I have a few last minute musings over book 4; because gosh, a lot happened in this book. I could write about it for another month at least. However, I will stick to a few main themes we’ve already discussed, which popped up on my second read.

Always an important sub-plot in Harry Potter, mother-love made some interesting appearances in book 4. The first task with the dragons comes to mind. All of the dragons were nesting mothers protecting their eggs. This makes the task of retrieving the eggs more difficult but also poses some morality questions about the care and consideration of magical creatures. One of the mother dragons inadvertently smashes some of her eggs during this task – which is truly horrible when you think about it. Basically I’m saying this one scene hits on mother-love, morality issues, and death. At some point I’ll be able to construct a scene like this…right? Wow, again Rowling.

Many of the other mother-love scenes include Molly Weasley. She’s playing many sides of the mother role in this book – upset when her children do stupid things – Fred & George come to mind; disappointment – Bill her oldest is a success, he was head-boy and has a good job, if only he would cut his hair, put on a suit and get rid of that earring; nurturing – from cooking, to buying books and dress robes, to attending Harry’s last task when his own self-sacrificing mother can not; and even some remorse/foreboding when she feels she’s gone to far – when the entire gang gets back from the Quidditch World Cup and ensuing Dark Mark terrors, Molly only has eyes for Fred and George whom she last had mean words with.

Did anyone else get chills when Molly said, “I shouted at you before you left! It’s all I’ve been thinking about! What if You-Know-Who had got you, and the last thing I ever said to you was that you didn’t get enough O.W.L.s? Oh Fred…George…”?

In book 4 we see Lily – or a shade of Lily – helping Harry in his fight with Voldermort. We also know mother-love is a thing Volermort is trying to get around; by using Harry’s blood he feels he’s conquered the strong magic Lily imbued in Harry when she sacrificed herself. (Oh, and for those of you who have spent too many days in an English classroom and need to find the JC figure in every story because some English or Language Arts teacher told you there had to be one for certain forms of literary criticism…it’s Lily Potter. There. Now you can stop looking and just let the story unfold.) Finally, Barty Crouch Jr. had a mother who gave her life to help Barty escape from Azkaban. And Winky acts more like Barty’s mother than his house-elf.

As a side note, I think it is interesting that father-love appears all over these books too, but AGAIN just like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer father-love – or lack there of – seems to be corrupting and harmful. Father-love brings chips on the shoulder and very large, soul-torturing grudges. Why is that?

Friendship and Love
Ron, Hermione and Harry are put through their paces in book 4. There’s squabbling, flirtation, envy, jealousy, loyalty and true friendship involved with just these three. Add in Krum, Cedric, Seamus, Cho, Ginny, Neville, Fleur, Fred, George, and Bill and you’ve got a book at least half-devoted to the pursuit of friendship and the beginnings of romantic love. Task two finds Neville stealing from Snape to help Harry – friendly gesture but also – I think – dragging Neville FINALLY back into the game. He is a loyal friend who belongs in Gryffindor house with the rest of them. Uncovering his past and placing him in the classroom with Harry when the unforgivable curses are revealed and displayed, draws the parallel between these two characters just a little bit closer.

The Yule Ball – or The Unexpected Task as Rowling’s chapter title suggests – is a Petri dish of culturing love. Cedric and Cho, Harry and Cho, Hermione and Krum, Ron and Hermione, Ginny and Neville, Ginny and Harry, Hagrid and Madame Maxime, it’s a growing love-fest where almost everyone is miserable (accept maybe Neville and his happy feet) by the end of the evening because love makes you do the whacky. (Yeah, that’s from Buffy too – I promise to stop the parallels soon…really!) And Hermione is walking in the gray again – she lets Madam Pomfrey reduce her buck-teeth to a normal size (not in the movie, because again it doesn’t fit Hermione’s straight-laced movie persona). It gives her a beautiful moment at the ball, and although Krum’s not a looker, he could have gotten any girl – and maybe some boys – to go to the ball with him. But he genuinely likes Hermione, so there was no need for the buck-teeth reduction. Hermione does it because she is vain and she can.

Moving on – or back – to task 2, I find it interesting that everyone trapped under the water with the mer-people are friends and loved-ones of Harry except Gabrielle, the girl he ends up saving along with Ron. I mean, Krum is only going to care about Hermione, Fleur is only going to care about Gabrielle, and although it may give Cedric a couple more seconds of pause, he’s really only going to care about Cho. But Harry?! Harry’s two best friends and his first love interest are down there – the cards are stacked against him. Would he care if it was Ron and three people he’d never seen before? I honestly don’t know – and that alone makes the friendship/love theme important in book 4.

Finally, forging friendships may actually be the main theme of this book. Between schools, between muggles and wizards, between magical creatures and wizards, between old enemies; friends are the things Voldermort does not have and therefore must eventually lead to his undoing.

Moody vs. Crouch
Raise your hand if you think learning from a dark wizard was actually beneficial to the fourth years? I do. I mean everything underhanded Barty Jr. does in this book is fun to read. And a lot of it was really quite helpful to the students taking his Defense Against the Dark Arts class. On the re-read, many of the things are a little iffy. Turning Malfoy into a ferret may not be something a teacher should actually do, but aren’t you glad he did?! It’s almost as good as Hermione going off and hitting Malfoy. And the unforgivable curses, too. Not just showing what they can do, but trying to get students to block them. Pure dead brilliant. What would the class have been like if the real Moody was teaching? Was Crouch trying to be so much like Moody in disguise, that there really wasn’t a big difference? Does Defense Against the Dark Arts need to be taught by a dark wizard to truly be effective? Morality comes into question again. Mainly when asking the question: Is there really that big a difference between these two characters? What makes one good and the other bad?

And I’m stopping there before I bore you all to death. We will start book 5 next week and I will try to keep it to a month – I’m not sure that’s possible with the longest book in the series, but we will see what happens.

In the meantime, post your final thoughts on book 4 and movie 4. What a ride!

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