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Revisiting the Harry Potter Films

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To properly commemorate getting my big TV system in the living room hooked up and working again, I decided to watch both Part 1 and Part 2 of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," based on the seventh and last book in the J.K. Rowling series.  Emboldened by this, I went back and watched the first film, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (known as the "Sorcerer's Stone" in the U.S.). 

I had forgotten what an adorable kid Daniel Radcliffe was at that age, with his "say cheese" grin, and how bratty Hermione (Emma Watson) was.  

Seems like I will have to carry on with the second film, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," which has a number of very funny bits in it.  And so on.

I admit it . . . I am a Harry Potter fan.  I liked the books and the movies.  I also have all the books in the American audiobook versions, read by actor Jim Dale.  It's strange, though -- people I meet either also are at least familiar with Harry Potter stories, or have had no exposure to them at all and don't know what I'm talking about when I refer to a story element.  I'm not sure if it's because they think it's all too juvenile for them, or they resist anything that smacks of fantasy, or what.  Obviously they don't know what they're missing! 😁

OK, so it's a guilty pleasure.  At least there is no prospect of going blind, or growing hair on my hand.


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21 hours ago, Rutabaga said:

I also have all the books in the American audiobook versions, read by actor Jim Dale.

In my ever so humble opinion the Stephen Fry versions knock Jim Dale's into a cocked hat.

The films are like hot soup and a crusty roll on a cold winter's day: comforting. They get better as they progress and get darker.

I always thought Rowling's objection to people playing in her world was a shame, as there is a lot of really well written fan fiction - both straight and slash.

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Stephen Fry could read aloud the instructions on my tax forms and I would listen entranced.

His book, The Ode Less Travelled, is one of the very best for explaining poetry and the poetic forms. Plus it’s a bit naughty and good for a snicker or two.

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Watched the second film (based on the second book), "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" last night.  It struck me again what an inspired casting choice it was to have Kenneth Branagh portray the narcissistic Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in this film.  Brilliant. 


This is the film that introduces Dobby, the house elf.  I had not realized until scrutinizing the end credits that this character was voiced by Toby Jones, whom I had known from his serious acting roles (i.e., "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy").  His falsetto Dobby voice was entertaining.  


Stephen Fry and Jim Dale are both British actors, and both are good.  One review site decided that Stephen Fry must be better as the Harry Potter narrator because he was taller.  I think they both have merit.


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I still prefer Jim Dale, perhaps because his rendition is what I'm used to from multiple listenings on long trips.  We would routinely buy both the hardback book and the audiobook set on the official release date of each new title, and I'm pretty sure the Jim Dale version was the only audio edition on offer at Barnes & Noble.

Dale started to show his age toward the end of the series, but I still found (and still find) his performances quite listenable.  Of course, I have no idea where the Jim Dale audio CD sets ended up after my most recent house move in 2019, so to some extent it's a moot point.  But based on the above sample, I prefer Dale's lighter touch to Fry's somewhat bombastic approach.


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Watched "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" last night, the third story in the sequence.  This was the only Potter film directed by Alfonso Cuarón, and his style is in marked contrast to the first two films directed by Chris Columbus (of "Home Alone" and "Mrs. Doubtfire" fame).  Cuarón went on to create and direct the striking film "Gravity" that appeared in 2013, featuring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

Josh Herdman, who played Draco Malfoy's sidekick Gregory Goyle, is seen briefly in the film and then disappears, to be replaced by an invented character (not in any book) called Pike.  It turns out that Herdman had injured himself early in the filming process and could not handle the scenes written for him when shooting was scheduled.  It was particularly strange for him not to be present during the iconic scene where Hermione punches Malfoy in the nose.  

Anyway, it's an important film from a story standpoint, introducing us to a number of significant new characters and themes in the Potter saga.  It's one of my favorites of all of the films.  The only really sad part is that Richard Harris was no longer around to play Dumbledore, so the role went to Michael Gambon, who did not bring nearly the same wit, charm, or authority to that role.  Harris was perfect for it, and it's not clear anyone could have replaced him satisfactorily.

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On 3/21/2022 at 3:08 PM, Rutabaga said:

It's one of my favorites of all of the films.

"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" is one of my favourite of the films, too. It's so much darker than its predecessors, and its where the series starts to become more adult.

Here, for (hopefully) your delectation and delight is Ryan George's pitch meeting for the film. Don't watch it if you haven't seen the movie yet, but if you have then, because cutting and pasting a youtube link is super easy - barely an inconvenience, here it is:


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1 hour ago, Camy said:

Here, for (hopefully) your delectation and delight is Ryan George's pitch meeting for the film.

Very funny and pretty well demolishes a number of places where suspension of disbelief is, well, unbelievable.

I was going to point out originally that Voldemort seemed strangely absent from this book/film, but he certainly makes up for that in the fourth book/film.  In the first two films, all the events lead up to a final showdown with Voldemort, but here there really is not any showdown per se.  

And good point (in the video) wondering why Fred and George would not have noticed a "Peter Pettigrew" bunking with Ron for the last 3 years, as revealed by the Marauder's Map.


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Meanwhile, moving right along, I watched the fourth film, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" yesterday.  For some reason, this is the film I have seen the most often, because this is the one that almost always happens to be showing when some outlet is running a Harry Potter movie marathon.

When this book originally appeared, it was about twice as thick as each of the first three books had been.  Considering how skeptical the publishers had been about the earlier books being suitable for the children's/young adult market because of their length, this one was twice as bad.  Yet I remember one day eating lunch at a local restaurant and reading from the hardbound book when a lad who must have been 9 or 10, having spotted the open book next to me, came over and proudly announced that he had just finished reading it.   

This story introduces Mad-Eye Moody, whose portrayal by Brendan Gleeson is particularly memorable in this and subsequent films.  We also see the physical reappearance of Voldemort, in a much more hideous, snake-like form as portrayed by Ralph Fiennes compared to the initial version by Ian Hart in the first film.  I can't remember if the first book described Voldemort's face as being snake-like (I know the later ones did), but if so the makers of the first film did not abide by that description . . . they just made Voldemort looks like a nasty old man.  

This film ushers in the age of Voldemort's return -- a circumstance noted by Hermione at the end of the film -- and the change of the overall tenor of the stories (and films) to a noticeably darker one.  People start dying.  We're not in the world of 11-years-olds any more.



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Of course you know it's coming:  I have now re-watched the fifth story, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."  

It's probably my least favorite film in the series, both on its own merits and as an adaptation of the book it is supposedly based on.  Admittedly, given that the fifth Potter volume was even longer than the fourth ("Goblet of Fire"), it was always going to be a challenge to compress everything into a 2+ hour long film.  But I was disappointed by the choices that were made.

Part of the explanation, no doubt, arises from the fact that this film had a new director (David Yates) and a new screenwriter (the relatively unknown Michael Goldenberg).  Steve Kloves, who had written the first four film adaptations, apparently was feeling too burned-out to do this one.  Fortunately Kloves returned to handle the next three films to complete the series.

Imelda Staunton brought a significant measure of creepiness and despicability to her role as Delores Umbridge, while Helena Bonham Carter (seen only briefly) brought her own brand of the same attributes to her portrayal of Bellatrix Lestrange.  It's just a shame that the film short-circuited so many of the significant moments in the book.  


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And now it's come full circle as I re-watched "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" last night.

This film featured the inspired casting of Jim Broadbent in the role of Horace Slughorn, potions professor to Tom Riddle.  While in the book Slughorn is described as being quite obese and Broadbent is not, his portrayal fits the role quite well.  The scenes with Hagrid and Slughorn lamenting the passing of the giant spider Aragog are classic.

Of course the nuclear explosion in this film (and the source book) is Snape killing Dumbledore at the top of the Astronomy Tower, just as Dumbledore and Harry have returned from an expedition to retrieve a horcrux.  Audiences were understandably shocked, and I think many people wondered whether there was going to be some kind of tricky magical mechanism that would cause Dumbledore to reappear.  But no.  And it is not until the final book and film ("Deathly Hallows") that we learn the truth as to the events leading up to Dumbledore's demise.

"Half-Blood Prince" succeeds where "Order of the Phoenix" failed, in my view, because of the return of Steve Kloves as screenwriter.  It may also be that David Yates had now found his feet as director in this realm.  I also note in passing that the casting for the 11-year-old and 16-year-old versions of Tom Riddle (pre-Voldemort) was outstanding -- both of these lads exuded creepiness and sociopathic menace.  

So that's the lot.  I'm not planning to go back and watch the final films again just now, but they are safely stored in my media cabinet ready for viewing when the mood strikes.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Long ago in a time that happened before today, I was forced to watch the movies with my then boyfriend, who was a huge Potter nerd. After we watched the Half-Blood prince, and before the final movies came out, he made me read the books, assuring me they were so much better than the movies. 

I can tell you I preferred the movies over the books, especially the first four books, where I felt that J.K. was writing for a much younger audience. And I must admit that her writing did improve as the books went on.  

That being said, I don't really enjoy Harry Potter as much as I enjoy the idea of the world that J.K. created, which is filled with lore and amazing ideas, plots.

I love fantasy/Sci-Fi/Magic stories but have a hard time watching/reading stories about younger protagonists. I just don't relate to them nor do I think anyone 13 years old would be that smart/brave/fearless. That being said, my now husband, has made me watch those movies more times than I can count. And the very last movie is my favorite, maybe it's because it marks the end of the torture I must endure every few months or so.

As for the world J.K. created, I found the fan fiction to be way more enjoyable and sometimes better written. 

Anyone want to be a special edition Harry Potter movie collection for cheap? Anyone? Bueller?

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