God in the Machine

Literally "God in the machine", Deus Ex Machina originally referred to Greek plays, where the "gods" would be lowered onto the stage with ropes in order to provide a quick resolution to the story. Today, Deus Ex Machina refers to any improbably and/or overly convenient character or mechanism that comes out of nowhere and saves the character(s).

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"I don't get it, Big Dan..." -George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The final word on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaspellingerror

Fan-friggin-tastic.

They got it right! The first two movies were slavishly devoted to the books, cramming in as much from the text that 3 hours plus would allow. We got to feel, cinematically, the wonder of Harry’s world, of Hogwarts, of magic itself.

At less than 2 and a half hours, the latest offering got it right as well, in a different way. Harry’s fans are growing up as Harry does, and we don’t need word-for-word translations of the books any more. We have felt the wonder, and trying to instill it a third time would be a task.

Instead, we have a movie that is meant to be a movie, not another translation of a book. Potter purists will scream that this or that was left out, but c’mon, we’re making MOVIES here, not reprinting books in picture form. There's not time to put in all the nonsense with the sub-plots (newspaper, Cho Chang, etc), though I would have liked a better feel for Hogsmeade.

The movie moved quickly and at a great pace. While I’d have liked to see a few things from the book that caught my fancy, I didn’t miss them in the action. The movie let Harry be more mature, to feel the 13-year old angst over family (the Dursleys, Hermione and Sirius Black).

The film also played it smart in assuming our knowledge of Hogwarts. It didn’t need to bog us down with the wonder of quidditch, particularly since there’s a quidditch world cup coming in the next one. We didn’t need lots of classroom stuff unless it pushed the plot. We knew the sorting hat ceremony and so the director wisely left it out. Etc. and Etc.

The director of these movies has a HUGE task, one in which you can’t make everyone happy. He knew that virtually 100 percent of the film’s audience would have read the books, ALL the books, beforehand, so he wisely used that knowledge.

Most directors of movies taken from books can assume that a great deal of their audience didn’t read the original book. This is where the Potter movies are different. Even The Lord of the Rings movie was based on books that only a small population knew from memory scene-for-scene. Even if half of us read those books, it was decades ago for most of us.

The Potter movies have to deal with a high-knowledge audience that wants every single line of the books in the films (which would make them 9 hours long each).

Thank God they decided to make a MOVIE.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jay Bullock said...

Dan, I must disagree. Yes, yes, some of what you say is true. I was glad not to have to suffer through 45 minutes of Quidditch.

But the film left out the intracies of the plot that made the book worthwhile--the full mystery was never revealed.

******************SPOILER******************

The necessary exposition tying Lupin, Black, James Potter, and Pettigrew together was absolutely gone. I mean, how hard would it have been to throw in a line about how James's animagus was the stag that Harry conjured as his patronus? Dumbledore's reason for keeping Trelawney despite her hackery, Snape's connections to Lupin (even the fact of his making the potion), James, and their group, that sort of thing. I think it does not actually hold up as a movie unless you've read the book to fill in the exposition that's missing.

***************SPOILER DONE***************

On the other hand, Gary Oldman was awesome. I haven't enjoyed him in a movie since Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead until this on.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Big Dan said...

I would have also liked to see some of the fun shops at Hogsmeade. I guess everyone will have things they wish they had seen.

I'm with you on Oldman. Also, Emma Thompson WAS great as our new Divinations professor.

7:49 PM  

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