Friday, 24 April 2009

How to reduce Han to incoherent squeeeeeeeing


Trailers for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but Oh. My. Fuck. Watch them full screen. It's fan-bloody-franken-tastic.

It's hard to explain how much these books mean to me. It's not so much the quality of the writing or the plots, both of which went seriously downhill after book four, but the completeness of the universe that JK Rowling created. During some of my lowest points during my growing up, this series gave me somewhere else to go. It was also what introduced me to the concept of online fandom and online interactivity as a whole. For three years or more, I co-wrote online stories on fan forums with sometimes as many as ten other people set in the Harry Potter universe. HP remains the only cultural marker I have ever written fanfic for. And no, it wasn't slash. My friends and I never played the characters in the books, but Hogwarts and its environs was our primary setting and through that writing I found long-lasting and wonderful friendship. I am still in touch with a good few of those people on a regular basis. The majority of our interaction is online, but the beauty of this kind of friendship is that you can always pick it up wherever you last left off.

The films were never as good as they could have been, I think the weight of expectation was always too great and as with the editors of the books, sometimes people just didn't know when to say no to those involved. However, aside from Chamber of Secrets, I don't think they have been truly awful. I certainly appreciated the pick up in pace for Prisoner of Azkaban. I enjoyed Goblet of Fire and have to say I can't remember Order of the Phoenix at all, though I did go and see it in the cinema. I may have to find and re-watch it before July 15. The adaptations always suffer from a lack of plot exposition and over-egging of the action in the final pudding, but I still enjoy them because they are a glorious realisation of a universe that has supported, sustained and encouraged me. Not only do they look fantastic as films, I also love the music which I think is just perfect. And whenever I go to see the films, I'm always carrying the memories of the books into the cinema with me which helps make up any deficiencies.

I think Philip Pullman is an infinitely superior writer to JK Rowling, Narnia will always be my first love, along with the Willard Price "Adventure" books and Enid Blyton boarding school stories, I think Hogwarts as an idea owed a helluva lot to Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch which I read when much younger, but I will always retain a special affection for HP. Now the books have ended, the films are something of a nostalgia fest for me, because my life has moved on in so many ways since that period when every new HP book was cause for serious excitement. On July 15, you know where you'll find me.

EDIT: Just been messing about on IMDB and discovered they are making Deathly Hallows in two parts. Talk about a money spinner. Part of me is delighted by this, but the rest of me feels we could well be in for epic fail.


TheTelf said...

I loved the books for their escapism, and the progressive darkening of the story (though, you know, the less said about the end of the last book the better).

The films I find quite irritating on the whole, though - the action and SFX are obviously top notch, and the realisation of the world is great, but the sections set at school always feel a bit too ... silly? That's possibly not the right word, but the combination of stage-school accents and fantastical surroundings makes it all seem a little too safe. I'd need to watch them again to get a handle on what I mean by that, but I could probably be persuaded to go and see the Half Blood Prince.

I've not seen all of the films, so my opinion should clearly be taken with a fair handful of salt. Big fan of the books, though.

Also, Hannah, you read Willard Price too!? Yay for a companion in awesome adventure writing :D. I haven't read them since I was a kid, but my favourite was almost certainly South Sea Adventure.

Anonymous said...

For me, the books are semi-guilty pleasures, in that whilst the overarching story is fantastic, Rowling's writing regularly annoys me with its clumsiness and lack of panache. The films are complete guilty pleasures, as even though it frustrates me how much they leave out of the story from the third film onwards, and they're basically just a load of well-loved British actors hamming it up surrounded by CGI, they're tremendous fun and incredibly easy to watch.

Interesting that you think Chamber Of Secrets is "truly awful", as for me it's the strongest of the lot so far. What in particular about it made you serve it such a damning judgement?

Hanspan said...

@Telf: I presume you mean the 17 years later bit which was just truly cringeworthy?

I know what you mean, the school sections feel somewhat artificial, oddly enough. Emma Watson's over-articulation of everything doesn't help. I've always thought Rupert Grint was the best of the three by a long stretch, but Daniel Radcliffe has improved with each film imo.

Being a bigger fan of the books than the films is no bad thing, it's how I'd describe myself.

South Sea Adventure was the first one I read, so I think I remember it with the most affection. I don't remember if I read all of them, but I definitely read most of them. I quite liked the one where they went to help a ranger stop poachers on his game reserve in Kenya. I also won several general knowledge quizzes at school because I knew stuff about animals from having read the books. Though if I read them now, I'd probably be analysing them from a post-colonial perspective looking at portrayals of race, class and gender (which is basically what I did to children's literature for my dissertation), shame. Also, did you notice how Roger and Hal's relative ages kept changing? Hal was always 19, but Roger was anything from 13 to 16.

@Bambi: I think that's pretty much my assessment of both the films and books.

For me the only good thing about Chamber of Secrets was Christan Coulson as Tom Riddle. He acted pretty much everyone else off the screen (with the exception of Kenneth Branagh and whatshername who played Moaning Myrtle) and was abso-fucking-lutely gorgeous on top of it. I found the film far too long, with more endings than Return of the King. It also (cliche coming up!) descended into mawkish sentimentality with dialogue so sickly I nearly threw up. On top of that, I thought Bonnie Wright was abysmally unconvincing as Ginny. You've just been possessed by the greatest dark wizard of all time, for pity's sake, show us some trauma girl! Also, there was one change that really, really annoyed me. In the book, Riddle says 'Your bird may have blinded the basilisk, but it can still smell you' and then in the film, they change it to 'hear you' so they can have the scene where Harry tricks it by throwing a rock. That really annoyed me, snakes often have a very good sense of smell. And they feel vibrations, they don't hear as such. I know I'm a gigantic pedant, but there you are. There were other reasons I didn't like it, but it's been aaaages since I saw it and those are the ones that stand out.