Friday, July 13, 2007

Adaptations



So I am rather pleased with the 5th installment of the Harry Potter film series. I feel like there was enough attention to important events, allowing time to process those events, and I didn't feel bombarded by an attempt to rush the action. I think they cut out those things that we know exist in that world, and they continue to exist, but they weren't necessary for communicating the meat of this story. I loved the cinematography by Slawomir Idziak, who was also the DP for Gattaca, one of my favorite films. I felt the use of contrast (Brecken agrees with me on this) was quite good. The usual artificial haze that comes from overly doctored images through digital post-work wasn't overbearing--it felt raw and natural, despite the presence of countless digital effects. I also felt that the appropriate combination of events and actions with characters introduced only in the films, leaving the peripheral and not-so-necessary-for-the-screen characters aside, was handled quite well. I did not feel slighted, and I disliked Umbridge (which I was supposed to)--and felt Imelda Staunton's performance was extraordinary, although I couldn't expect less from her. I didn't get annoyed by Harry's whining, which, at times in the book, I did, and was worried about. There were a lot of brilliantly executed nuances and moments of key characterization that, albeit much more significant to book readers, were helpful in illustrating the points without becoming overtly expositional. The classical Hollywood approach to linear time compression through newspaper headlines was an effective tool, as were the moments of heavy montage to create unease, suspense, and an appropriate glimpse into character thought patterns. This is not a kids film--not merely due to the fact that it has some violent and frightening moments, but the overall mood is one of maturity and passage into a different stage of development and responsibility for Harry. I have always been a firm believer in the fact that the Harry Potter series is best approached starting with the age of the main character--the 11-year-olds for the 1st year, and so forth. So should the films--this one being for 15-year-olds and so forth. Did I mention I thought the music by Nicholas Hooper to be quite delightful and distinctly illustrative of the UK setting? Well--and I give a hand to Stuart Craig, the production designer, for sticking through every film and each directors new vision--allowing time for growth and process in the evolution of the physical world of the films. It is quite appropriate--Harry grows and changes, the books deepen and mature--and so do the films. I look forward to seeing what Yates does with the 6th--and if the return to the helm for screenwriter Steve Kloves will do anything different. So far it seems to be that the success or failure of the films artistically lies in the hands of who is directing. The warm and fuzzy, albeit faithful, first two films were the mark of American Chris Columbus, who had done mediocre family comedies involving a-list stars. Why did he ever direct? Because he would cover every detail to bate the series' faithful followers into biting the juicily profitable carrot dangled by WB. I like the films, because I like the story--and they are faithful adaptations. But the aesthetic mood is definitely altered by who is in the director's chair. This one is a close second to, and perhaps it ties with my favorite installment, the 3rd, directed by Alfonso Cuaron--a shared attention to aesthetic detail to enhance the story and story process through character nuance runs through both films--though one leans a bit more Latin American and the other British (both styles I love). Have I gone on long enough?

1 comment:

Jocelyn said...

I loved Harry Potter! And I actually thought (am I going to get beat up for saying this?) that the MOVIE did the post-duel struggle between Harry and Voldemort BETTER than the book! I thought the 5th book was Rowling's sloppiest (though still enjoyable), but the 5th movie is my favorite so far.