Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Living Dangerously

I had several topics in mind for this post, but sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind, re-write your plans and risk alienating the people you care about (yes, even your blogmates) by giving voice to unpopular opinions. Or by ranting on, for a thousand words or so, about something that other people might love that you do not...kinda like boxed wine, ya know?

So here goes...

It's not a secret that I have a love/hate relationship with Harry Potter. And Deathly Hallows Part Two? Yeah...not a fan.

The love part of the love/hate thing is easy to understand: big books about magic that taught an entire generation to love reading. Where's the bad?

I have fond memories of taking my daughter to bookstores at midnight to buy each new book when it first came out. Of staying up all night reading.  Of going out to breakfast afterwards. They were good times and I miss them.

I loved the characters and I loved the world they inhabited and, for the first few books, when everything was hanging together and mostly making sense, it was golden. As the series went on, however, inconsistencies crept in, plot holes opened up. More and more frequently I found myself asking, "wait. what happened to this or that magical rule? Does it no longer apply?" More and more frequently, characters began to meet with random and entirely too gratuitous ends. I'm not a fan of any of these things.

Real life may be full of senseless tragedies, of inconsistencies and people whose lousy memories prevent them from remembering things that you might think would be really hard to forget, if you actually lived through them. But fiction is not real-life and the one thing it really shouldn't be is senseless.  And if you're going to kill off major characters, do it with style. Do it with purpose. Give them some closure and a death (and death scene) that's worthy of them.

But that's the books. The movies...ah, now that's another subject. The first few movies were probably not the best from a cinematic standpoint, but they followed the books so slavishly--I loved that about them. Also, there was Alan Rickman.

I don't have to explain that last part--right?

So, okay, sure, it might be true that those early movies were something of a mystery to people who hadn't read the books, but I was okay with that. The movies weren't for those people anyway. They were for us--the faithful. They were lovely little gifts: a chance to watch the characters we loved so well brought to life just for our  enjoyment. Something to tide us over until the next book came out.

Somewhere along the line, however, things changed. I think Hollywood figured out that a lot of people who were going to see the movies hadn't read the books, were never going to read the books, and really didn't care if the movies stayed true to them or not.

It made good economic sense to start playing to that audience. An audience that might very well decide to skip the next movie if something better opened at the same time. After all, why waste time worrying about the fans of the books, when it was obvious they'd got to see the movies regardless? Why not make movies, instead, for the people who might not even realize there were books?

I get that. I do. Doesn't mean I have to like it.

Realistically, I think, for me, the series peaked at the third book. After that, she began killing key characters off with depressing regularity. After that, the movies began to depart more and more from the books. And not in a good way. Entire scenes, subplots, seasons, characters disappeared somewhere between the page and the screen.  Other scenes (sadly, they were occasionally some of the better scenes) appeared in the movies that weren't in the books at all--a fact I most frequently noticed upon re-reading the books and really wishing they'd been included.

But the worst idea, IMO, was splitting up the last book into two movies. It wasn't the longest book--which might have made some sense. And the way in which it was done...that didn't make much sense to me either. In the first movie, we got a lot of camping. In the second movie, we got really crappy makeup, odd beards, disturbing visuals (am I the only mother who wondered what they did to that poor child who played baby Harry to make him look exhausted and half-dead from crying?). What we didn't get was most of our  much-loved characters, many of whom barely even appeared. Maybe they had a scene or two. Maybe they had a line or two. Maybe they just got to lie around dead for a minute or two.

Sigh. I don't know about you, but it wasn't enough for me. 

Now, those of you who don't like spoilers might want to close your eyes. My biggest problem with the last movie (and the book as well, to a smaller extent) was the end. The epilogue, if you will.

I thought the book arrived at the epilogue much too abruptly. I thought there was more to be said--a lot more, in fact--about the mess in the ministry and how the wizarding world was going to adjust to the aftermath of all this chaos (not to mention the untimely and largely senseless deaths of so many seemingly key players). I felt cheated out of those 19 missing years. I wanted to see more of what went on.

For me, the worst thing about the movie epilogue (besides that strange-looking ferret one of the actors was obliged to wear on his face in lieu of a beard) was the way in which the characters did not interact with each other at all. It was almost like they hadn't seen each other for the past 19 years either. Given what a close-knit group the Weaseleys always seemed to be, and given how Harry always seemed to want to be part of a big, happy family, one might presume that they'd have spent the intervening years socializing with one another, maybe spending holidays together. One might expect that their children (being first cousins and all around the same ages) would have grown up together and be friends or, at the very least, actually recognize one another if they happened to come across each other somewhere--say in a crowded railway station, perhaps.

It aggravated me, in that last scene, that almost no one made eye contact with one another or even seemed to acknowledge anyone else's existence. Where was the affection they all used to have for one another? Where was the friendship? Where was the love?

It put me in mind of the end of Peter Pan. Peter and Wendy hadn't seen each other in a whole bunch of years either, but you knew they'd never once forgotten what they'd been through together. You knew their feelings for each other hadn't changed.  Now here they both were again. She was all grown up, he wasn't. It was all exactly as it should be. It was nostalgic and bittersweet and completely perfect.

The end of Harry Potter, on the other hand, left me feeling flat. I missed those children who I'd watched grow up. They were bold. They were courageous. They were larger than life. And I didn't see a trace of any of that in the adults they had become.


daydrmzzz said...

OMG PG you better go into hiding for a bit, the girls are going to get you for this one- lol
Well I didn't read the books so I can't compare the two but I have enjoyed the movies.
Oh and the only complaint my 12 yr niece (a HP fan of books & films) had was the Epilogue was well!
Here's a little wizard love to check out as well - great HP song

Phillipa said...

PG - I really ought to go into hiding as I haven't read any of the Potter books. But I know how annoying it can be when movie stake huge liberties with a favourite book (and I'm *not* talking from experience, lol.

Erin Nicholas said...

*sigh* I should have known this would happen. In retrospect I should have switched blog days with PG. For a month or two.

Okay... I'm going to forgive you on several points because it's obvious that you've spent lots of time with Harry and the bunch and have been wounded by the inconsistencies and the deaths of beloved characters. But I think you've let that color what could--nay, *should*-- have been a wonderful experience to the very end.

I must start by saying that the books were far better than the movies, in every case. And while each book had things about it that I loved, I will agree that the early ones were the best. In most ways.

However, the later books were able to introduce us to the true depth of the characters-- what they were willing to sacrifice, how deep their friendship and trust went, the importance of the battle for the greater good over the good of the individual, that right will always triumph, that it's the journey that matters as much as the destination, that there is no treasure greater than the people in our lives... need I go on? So many wonderful themes.

Now it goes without saying that I disagree on several points. But I agree on some too.

I'll start with those (it's a shorter list *g*): I also did not like the tiny bit of time spent on favorite characters who reappeared. I also didn't think there was enough Harry-Ginny time either. But I liked that she was able to accept that Harry had bigger fish to fry :). No whining from Ginny Weasley. She understands loving someone like Harry Potter means taking a backseat once in awhile.

I will also, respectively, disagree about gratuitous death scenes. I felt there was a reason for all of them. And then the epilogue. Yes, there were things that weren't tied up but it's easy for me to believe that once Voldemort was gone everything returned to bliss eventually. Everyone learned what needed learned and would have worked to restore the right and good. That was enough. That could have drug on and on.

And I didn't see the things you did (or didn't...) in the epilogue. I think that they all seemed very comfortable, just as a group would who had spent a lot of time together over 19 years. They expected to see one another at the train station so they shouldn't have acted overly excited or surprised. They were a part of each other's lives, steady and constant. I liked that. For me, they seemed adjusted, happy, ready for the next step in their journey.

I guess it's a great example of how stories and characters can mean different things to different people.
And how you can't please everyone all the time. And how some things (boxed wine for example) will just always be underappreciated.

*G* (I love you, PG!)

Meg Benjamin said...

(clears throat) I've only read one Harry Potter. Only see a couple of the movies and those were on DVD. I'm sort of meh about both books and movies. But I can sort of sympathize with PG's feelings (and with Erin's outrage). I felt just as annoyed with Laurell Hamilton for screwing up her Anita Blake books (wonderful early on, increasingly ridiculous later). And equally protective with Dana Stabenow Kate Shugak series--okay, she killed Jack. Get over it!

Kelly Jamieson said...

I still love you PG.

I would echo what Erin said, except I will add that it is entirely possible that there were plot inconsistencies and holes may well have appeared in the books but reading them over a span of what 6? 7 ? years doesn't make those easy to notice. Now I want to go back and read them all again from the beginning!

Haven't seen this latest movie yet but I sure will be!