Monday, November 28, 2005


She Who Must Be Obeyed and I caught the latest Harry Potter flick over at the local Bijou yesterday.

Mike Newell has done an outstanding job directing this picture, which is significantly darker in tone than the previous three Potter films. Just as Alfonso Cuarón improved on the work of his directorial predecessor Chris Columbus, so has Newell done. He very clearly “gets” the Harry Potter vision.

There’s enough disturbing imagery in this film to ensure some screamy nights for the younger members of the audience. It’s a PG-13 movie, and parents of small children need to keep that in mind when deciding whether to take the kiddies. Of course, SWMBO and I have seen parents dragging four-year-olds to movies like Goodfellas, so assuming parents really give a crap about exposing their kids to disturbing images may be a stretch in these Increasingly Fucktarded Days.

As the series of Harry Potter books – and movies – progresses, one thing is clear: The kids are growing up. Harry, in this film, is now 14, entering the horrendous transition into adolescence. One could argue that the idea of asking a girl to a dance at that age is more terrifying to Harry than dealing with Dementors, Death Eaters, and old You-Know-Who his ownself. And Hermione is actually starting to, er...ripen.

It’s only a matter of time before some pulchritudinous young honey wants to see Harry’s “magic wand.” Come to think of it, that scene with Moaning Myrtle and Harry together in that bathtub had serious Hanky-Panky Potential – had Myrt not been a ghost, I suspect an “R” rating might have been necessary. Can’t wait to see what they’ll do with the next one, which will, I am sure, involve snogging. Which is a Britishism for “tonsil hockey.”

I’ll cop to enjoying the Harry Potter books. They’re cleverly written, with a lot of wordplay – especially in the various names (i.e., Diagon Alley, Durmstrang, et al.). J. K. Rowling has managed to let the stories grow in depth and complexity, with the result that they occupy that rarefied place on the bookshelf where both young readers and adults can find something to like.

If I had a complaint at all, it’s that there seems to have been an implicit assumption that the American mass audience is just a tad ignorant. For example, the first book (and movie) of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the American market. The reference to the Philosopher’s Stone in the original title is entirely appropriate to the story: this is the mythical substance sought by medieval alchemists that could transmute base metals into gold, and which could be used to create an elixir that would extend life. There is no corresponding alchemical “sorcerer’s stone,” but presumably, Americans are too stupid to deal with the four-syllable “Philosopher” or to know anything about medieval history. “Sorcerer,” on the other hand, is shorter - plus it’s a synonym for “wizard” - so the title was dumbed down.

And then there’s the pronunciation of “Voldemort.” Prior to the movies’ releases, it was clear from various official websites that the correct pronunciation was in the French manner, with the final “t” silent. But, again, because American audiences are thought to be boorish and nekultuny, the “t” is clearly pronounced in the films. This is a niggling and trivial point, but – hey, I can be niggling and trivial at times.

These are, however, minor quibbles. Harry and his friends seem to have captured a spot in the public’s imagination that has been curiously unsatisfied by burned-out franchises such as Star Wars. Good for them.

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