Kellie and I prepared ourselves for this particular cinematic outing by re-watching all the previous films. They tend to blur together in one’s memory and before starting we could only recall them thus:
- Chris Columbus’ simplistic and direct transposition of the 1st book, with incredibly painful acting
- Chris Columbus again with slightly less painful acting and a big snake
- The 3rd film, which actually had some character of its own, wherein Sirius Black is introduced
- The 4th film, cluttered and sloppily directed, in which Voldemort returns and kills the guy from Twilight (my favourite scene of the whole franchise)
- The 5th film in which, having realized that killing off characters is a huge draw to readers, J.K. Rowling kills off Sirius Black. Also, there was that big sequence with the shiny balls.
Subjecting ourselves to the Potter-athon proved more arduous than we’d anticipated, and by the time we slumped into our seats at the cinema it was difficult to distinguish the latest episode from those that came before. They’ve clearly spent the last 5 films perfecting the formula and the latest instalment doesn’t diverge from it at all. It’s rolled cleanly off the assembly line having satisfied those in the Blanding Department of Warner Brother who are minding the golden goose.
The way I see it, you’re going to see this movie for one of two reasons: either you’re a die-hard Potter fan who’s been living in breathless anticipation of this film since leaving the theatre after Harry Potter 5, or you’ve a mild interest in how the latest adaptation has been realized with no real expectations and no better plans for your afternoon. I fell into the latter category and, anticipating an adequate and unmemorable cinematic experience, let Kellie take the notes this time (which have been bolded in parenthesis for your enjoyment.)
The movie runs pretty much the same as every other Potter movie. There’s a new teacher at Hogwarts with a secret that must be uncovered before the third act, a dangerous magical artefact which the gang take it upon themselves to find/destroy/uncover the truth about (Hey guys, let’s hide this dangerous object rather than giving it to an authority figure), and a relationship subplot to distract Harry and humanize him for the audience. Malfoy is still a jerk, and if anything seems to be getting paler (Pigment is for pussies), and whenever the gang aren’t wearing their robes they still look like a perfectly coiffed GAP advert (Why, why always with the stripes?).
The obligatory Quidditch match did offer some slight improvement; Kellie and I had both noted that the previous movies were full of several inexplicably non-lethal high-speed crashes, so we were both gratified to see the athletes finally wearing protective gear (They have helmets after all!). There are a few standout moments, particularly the quips delivered by deadpan marvel Evanna Lynch (We ♥ Luna Lovegood!). And Potter’s befuddedly chipper dopiness under the influence of a good luck potion was an absolute riot (Harry Pot-head!).
With no fresh ideas, no new takes on the old ideas, and absolutely no intention of trying to teach the old dog new tricks, the film seeks to gain as much mileage as possible from the fact that we’ve now reached the age when boys and girls discover each other. The film spends so much time wankily carrying on about the angst of broken hearts and unrequited crushes that Kellie introduced me to a new word for it: ‘wangsty’. Such moments are signalled to the audience with over-used, low-angled, steadicam wrap around shot (If the camera swirls around you, you’re WANGSTY!)
Hermione pines for Ron (boys are not replacements for teddy bears), Harry must resist using his rock-star status in the magic world to score with his love interest (Bad Potter! We don’t pick up sloots!), and Ron becomes embroiled with a smothering female character so minor that her name isn’t actually dropped until he finally breaks it off with her near the end of the film (Since when did Hogwarts become a brothel?).
As Rowling was most likely hoping to replicate the sudden spike in sales produced by killing off Sirius Black, the denouement of this film also involves the death of a major character; this time the identity of the murderer is supposed to be an added twist. However, by the time the film finally claws past all the emotive tripe, all tension surrounding the murderer’s identity has dissipated.
My theory is the shift from light hearted, family-oriented magical adventure to Hogwarts 90210 is the Potter franchise’s way of competing with the ‘new-kid-on-the-blockbuster’, Twilight. The film drags out the romantic subplot trying to replicate Twilight’s senseless emotive tizzy, but only succeeds in wearing the audience’s patience thin. I must admit I find the imitation strangely ironic, considering that the dreamy vampire Edward Cullen has already been murdered in a Harry Potter movie. That’s right, film fans. Cedric Diggory, Harry’s first pal to be offed by the Dark Lord was none other than Twilight’s Robert Pattison.
It’s somewhat disheartening to see how good the Hollywood execs are at targeting the Potter fan-base as it ages. I think the books are quite enjoyable children’s fiction, but they’ve tweaked the movie formula to appeal to the Twilight-drunk ‘tween’ crowd just to turn a buck. And if you needed further proof look no further than the fact that the last book is being split into two movies to stretch the series out as long as it can last.
The Harry Potter film franchise has now become exactly that; a franchise. Like McDonald’s, you turn up knowing you’re going to get a cookie-cutter generic product, with standardized elements (read ‘predictable effect sequences’ and ‘cookie-cutter magical duels’ for ‘ketchup’ and ‘pickles’) that is bland but filling and which you have no further inclination to try again until you completely forget how unsatisfying the experience actually was and your curiosity again gets the best of you.
Frankly, if they dumbed it down any further, it’d be little better (and probably less entertaining) than this: