I can scarcely believe I’m doing this…
Saw the Potterocalypse. Well crafted. I’ve had worse afternoons in the cinema.
One of the most interesting things about the films is how much better they are than the books. That goes for all of them. This last is no exception.
Rowling is a poor novelist but Kloves is an excellent adaptor. It’s quite amazing how he streamlines the windy, pompous, digression-ridden plots so that audiences can follow them without flowcharts.
Also, the films have always made Harry easier to like than the books, partly because Radcliffe is naturally likeable and partly because cinema can’t give us what Rowling insists on foisting upon readers: unfettered access to Harry’s every self-obsessed, uncharitable, weak-willed, petulant thought. Again, in this latest film, Kloves helps mightily by snipping out acres of Potterian sulking and obsessing over irrelevancies, like the ancient and brief moral failures of mentors, etc..
Harry’s wobbles over loyalty to his dead headmaster go on for faaaaaar toooooo loooooong in the book… and yet, in the film, even after all the set-up from the last film, we get only the briefest hint of Aberforth’s resentments before Harry states that he trusted Dumbledore And That’s All There Is To It. Harry doesn’t even ask the spectral Dumbledore about it in the dream/afterlife bit (which is filmed in a pleasingly 2001: A Space Odyssey-ish way). I’m not complaining about this, but it’s odd how breezy is the treatment of the whole Dark Dumbledore Backstory in Deathly Hallows Part 2, given how much attention the set-up stuff (i.e. conversations at the wedding, Rita Skeeter’s book) gets in Deathly Hallows Part 1. This is an odd but ultimately minor stumble, largely because this subplot is fundamentally uninteresting and they are quite right to sideline it.
One of the worst of Rowling’s many, many, many flaws as a novelist is that she doesn’t understand her own characters. She knows who she wants them to be… no, hang on… a better way of putting it would be that she knows how she wants her readers to view them, but this often fails to jive with how they actually behave. For example, she damn-nigh instructs the reader to love Harry because he’s kind and brave and heroic and full of love, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum, but actually depicts him (especially in the final book) as a thoughtless, selfish, grumpy, maudlin, indecisive, clueless little irritant.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a flawed hero – especially if that hero is a teenage boy, since they’re usually pretty damn flawed – but it becomes a problem when the authorial voice fails to percieve the flaws, and has the embodiment of moral authority in the books (Dumbledore) treat Harry as though he’s a ruthlessly efficient intellectual humanitarian.
But then the embodiment of moral authority is deeply flawed too. His actions make him – to any disinterested observer – a cynical, calculating manipulator with a revolting streak of sentimentality and an outrageously brazen habit of indulgent and permissive favouritism towards certain of his pupils. …