Jeremy Dennis is Jeremy Day (cleanskies) wrote,
Jeremy Dennis is Jeremy Day

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Harry Potter 1 compared to Harry Potter 2

Last Harry Potter, the cinema was packed out for weeks, and when we eventually got into the theatre it was packed, and not just with regular cinema-goers either. There were people there blinking at the red velvet and bewildered by the adverts, alarmed at the crowds and the noise and the drink-holders, cinema virgins who'd not been to anything more lowbrow than Ibsen since their student days, if then.

No danger of that this time. We share an almost-empty cinema with a dozen effects-junkies, a few teenage couples, and some worried-looking parents wondering if their kids will be able to stay awake through their late-night treat. Even we're feeling a bit alarmed at the thought of a 3-hr film starting at 8. I've seen the book. It's slender, and probably quite slight. So why is it taking up more time than The Fellowship of the Ring?

As the company branding music playes, I enter into my compact with the screen. I do this every time I watch a movie. I promise to ignore its inconsistencies, accept its fantasies, and play along with the story for the length of the film. But some films just won't play nice.

Perhaps it's just that I recently watched the extended-version Fellowship of the Ring, which is something of a showcase for good editing, but it felt slow, sloppy and full of unnecessary pauses, lingers, emoting and general faffing around. The conversations between the children, especially, were outrageously slow, there was practically time to say, "she said" or "he quipped" or "she ejaculated" between statements, which focussed you on their gurning faces and gave the impression that they were talking near each other rather than to each other. It was slow, felt slow, like no film I'd seen since The Phantom Menace felt slow, and, just like it, had a high-speed chase scene which dragged interminably. You aren't supposed to yawn during Quidditch. I don't think. Also, niggles:
  • Establishing shots, regular school life, set pieces, ain't-school-grand moments. Completely lacking or tacked onto the beginning/end of plot points.
  • Harry doesn't use magic hardly at all. Why not? I think it's because he can't do magic when he's not holding his wand. But it's not a regular convention for magicians to be helpless without their wand, so you need to make it explicit. In fact, generally, make it clearer. You don't feel clever to spot the book being placed, or dumb for having missed it. Just irritated that such an important plot point is practically a visual footnote.
  • The emotional impact of a giantised Robbie Coltrane is not nigh-instinctual. To care about him, we need to see more of him.
  • If you don't have the budget to show Harry grappling with ?Dorrie the goblin, then don't make scenes which demand it. Please.
  • Nice spiders. They looked familar. Shades of Eight Legged freaks anyone?

That said, it was a treat for bird lovers with excellent performances from all the owls and a superb CGI Phoenix. Snake-fans also get more than a few thrills, and the all the feral car scene was lacking was the theme from Born Free ... But with a little more visual flair, a much tighter hand on the editing and a little less hushed respect for the subject matter, the film would have been so much better. Perhaps the DVD will be the first one ever to have a shorter Director's cut.

Speaking of which: Lord of the Rings extended version? Yes, it is, everything you hoped it would be. Awesome stuff.

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