A Conversation for 24 Lies a Second

I disagree... a bit

Post 1

MaW

Okay, so I don't want to say anything about Lord of the Rings because I've not seen it yet. I hate the books though, so I have high hopes for a film with a changed plot.

Now, as for the Harry Potter film...

There are really two ways they should have made the film. The first way is to include everything that was in the book. That would probably have made the film three and a half hours long (or longer) and what a ruckus that would have caused! However, then the too-short clips of lessons and the rushed-over Christmas (the poignant significance of which was covered quite literally with an Invisibility Cloak and shoved somewhere people wouldn't trip over it) would have been played out to their full. Really, the book isn't about Harry defeating Voldemort/Quirrel - it's about Harry discovering that yes, after all the Dursleys could do, he is a proper person after all.

However, as always, these things come over far better in print. Therefore we come to the second option: write a screenplay based on the books, but don't actually follow their story.

This would also have caused problems. They couldn't have made it about Harry because it would muck up the continuity of the books, and I don't think J K Rowling would have liked spawning parallel storylines like Douglas Adams did with Hitchhiker's. If they'd made it about someone else, perhaps in a different time (a student at Hogwart's during the rise of Voldemort, perhaps?), they'd never have been able to sell it to the stupid kids.

So with the story they probably did the best they could, although I still think taking out the Potions part of the obstacle course at the end was unforgiveable, even if Hermione's replacement artificial sunrise was very impressive.

However, the effects were, you're right, in need of improvement - most especially the broomsticks and Quidditch. It is possible to do better, we've seen it in other films. As the reviewer of the film on Slashdot said, it's not very convincing when the Quidditch game looks like it was rendered in real-time on a PlayStation 2. And they should have done better. Let us hope the second film does do significantly better.

However, in the end I think that the true Harry Potter experience can only be had with the books. At least then when you're reading you don't trip over the TM after every single occurance of words like Quidditch, Golden Snitch, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin.

And oh yes, the characterisation. Harry wasn't bad, and was certainly better than I expected. Ron was excellent. Hermione was perhaps a bit too prissy, but that's the fault of the person who told the actress to play her like that, not the actress herself (I think). Assuming she was told to act like that, which I assume she was, she was excellent. Hagrid shone, and the visual effects creating his size were excellent. McGonagall was also excellent, as was Snape. Dumbledore disappointed - he wasn't silly enough. And where was the school song? How could they miss out the school song?

I'm going to go and read the books again, I'm sorry. It's a good film, but the books are so much better...

With any luck, the Lord of the Rings will prove to be the other way around. Good film, crap books.


I disagree... a bit

Post 2

Awix

Oh dear... you think Lord of the Rings is a crap book...? Well, I commend your candour... brave opinion, not afraid to be outspoken, etc... not being able to comprehend such an opinion myself I'll just smile nicely at you... smiley - smiley

Putting all that aside (if possible) you must concede that someone coming to the film with no knowledge of the book might wonder what all the fuss was about. It's a long time since I've read the book but even so it seemed to me that the film just took as many bits out of the novel as it could in order to avoid a fan backlash, but wasn't as concerned with capturing the essence of the novel.

I understand what you say about the book being Harry's story as much as the fight against Voldemort, but the mystery is the core of the book's plot, and an adventure film needed to focus more closely on that in order to keep its momentum. Certainly it would have been difficult to prune the story while not upsetting some people, but the screenwriter got paid a lot of money to come up with a script that did the book justice. Arguably, he didn't. Of the two films in the review, Harry Potter sticks closer to the original text, but Lord of the Rings is a better adaptation.





(Of a much better book...)smiley - tongueout


I disagree... a bit

Post 3

MaW

* beats Awix over the head with a Nimbus 2000 *

Look, I know that without Tolkein we would arguably not have the vast selection of excellent fantasy that we do now, but that doesn't mean he was actually any good! His imagination and his capability to create worlds were both incredible, but he could have got someone else to write the prose...

Although having spoken today with a friend who also hates the books but has just seen the film, I think I shall definitely go to see it. Although she did say that it lingers too much on the battles.


I disagree... a bit

Post 4

doggymad (the dog with the curly tail that just wont go straight!)

hey you 2 summut you might want to know

tolkein didnt want the book to ever be made into a film. he only sold the film rights as he had tto ay a v.a.t bill smiley - smiley i have never read the book or seen the film. but if he dont endorse the film then surly that says summut!!


I disagree... a bit

Post 5

MaW

But Tolkein's long dead...


I disagree... a bit

Post 6

Awix

I thought he sold the film rights to provide for his family's future. And it would've been very startling if he had liked the film, given his near-pathological distrust of all machinery (he insisted on 'exorcising' tape recorders before giving interviews into them, for example). And I can think of lots of examples of authors etc hating other people's adaptations of their work simply because they have made changes.

I've been mulling over what you said about the films having to stick to the continuity of the books and I don't see why this has to be the case. Surely s long as the books stay self-consistent, and the films stick their own internal continuity, there's no problem?

I suppose I can understand if Tolkein's prose style isn't to your taste, MaW - personally I can't get my head round Jane Austen. But I'm prepared to admit that it's my problem rather than an actual flaw in the writing. You yourself say we owe LOTR a vast debt... we can probably also blame it for every crack-brained fantasy trilogy in the last twenty-five years, but that's by the by... it originated the modern fantasy genre, and while that doesn't put it beyond criticism, it does make it a bit redundant.


I disagree... a bit

Post 7

doggymad (the dog with the curly tail that just wont go straight!)

on the subjects of films of books heres one for you. little woman, sad i hear you say but i enjoyed the book enormously as a kid and when i heard they were doing it as a film i was really excited. but the story of the book ends 45 mins into the film. the rest after that is just make beleive made by scrptwriters, they made so much of the ending, but the actuall story was so much better.

i know i am not on you twos intelectual level but i can see where you are both coming from. films are good fun to watch on a cold night, but me i prefer to curl up with a good book and imagine the characters in my own head. everyone builds up a picture of a character in there head and its impossible to see a well known actor/actress take the place of your own imagination!!!! smiley - smiley
i hope i dont sound too stupid after reading the discussion between you two i am more determined than ever to read both harry potter and lord of the rings to see what all the fuss is about


I disagree... a bit

Post 8

Awix

Well, thanks for the compliment... hey, MaW, we've got her fooled, ain't we? smiley - smiley

It'd be silly to try and make a film in order to 'replace' the book - the film's always going to be a companion piece, and it's going to have to be different in order for it to work as well as possible. The difference between HP and LOTR is that the LOTR crew made whatever changes they felt they needed to, while the HP guys made the minimum possible number, never mind if the odd chnage might actually have been for the good of the film...

I watched The English Patient last night and this struck me again then. They made a few quite crucial changes but in some ways it was to the benefit of the story. Once again, the book is a lot less focussed.


I disagree... a bit

Post 9

MaW

Uh-uh. The HP people made some changes that were totally unnecessary - Snape's obstacle at the end, for example, wasn't in the film at all, and the way Hermione dealt with the Devil's Snare was different as well. They also took out a great deal, and they could have left all that in as well. The film would have been five hours long then, but at least it would have been complete.

You know, it might have been better if they'd made it into episodic TV (but with the same budget per minute) instead - then it could have been five hours long.


I disagree... a bit

Post 10

Awix

The most expensive TV series ever - no way could they have sold enough advertising to make it viable. I have to say that I wouldn't have noticed either of the climactic changes you mentioned (even though Snape's contribution was actually mentioned earlier in the film).

I don't think it would have been possible to do an exact version of the book as a film - the change of medium itself makes some changes inevitable. I still think they'd've been better off doing a much freer adaptation, not sticking so closely to the book but concentrating more on the mystery of the Stone. The film, by definition, was always going to be different from the book. They should have treated that fact as an opportunity rather than a problem.


I disagree... a bit

Post 11

MaW

Probably - they seem instead to have gone somewhere in the middle, and it's a place that really isn't all that comfortable for the audience. Although the film's still a great deal better than it could have been, it also has more promise to live up to.

I think that there is a great deal of potential in the second book for a film, even one made in the same way as the first was - it might actually lend itself better to that style. We shall see.


I disagree... a bit

Post 12

doggymad (the dog with the curly tail that just wont go straight!)

ooohhhh i give up you two have lost me completly he he he


I disagree... a bit

Post 13

Awix

I really can't see them making the rest of the books into films in the same way. Simply because a film of Goblet of Fire made in that much detail would last about two days!


I disagree... a bit

Post 14

MaW

Sounds like heaven on DVD!

Chamber of Secrets will be possible, but Prisoner of Azkaban gets much longer and has probably a greater percentage of time spent on the main plot - which means they could skip less of it.

Oh dear.


I disagree... a bit

Post 15

FABT - new venture A815654 Angel spoiler page

harking back to one of MaWs comments ages ago about tolkein should have got someone else to write bits of his books.

can't remember because it's been such a long time.

but it brought to mind the starwars films. no one denies they wre hugely influential and that despite certain, er....... ok, so a lot of it was a load of tosh. George Lucus had a great vision which he transfered to film in terms of the abilities and understanding of the 1970's and early 1980's. argue amongst yoursleves about it but it impressed the audience of the time. however, I have never heard a convincing defence of his scripts. they are terrible. disagree if you like, but i was less than impressed. he would have benefited from a co-writer for his dialogue. I think perhaps what MaW was getting at is that it would have been nice if tolkein had done the same/similar. His only use for a story as far as I can see is to have something to put in this wonderful world he created.
havent seen the film yet so I'll nopt comment on the success of its transfer.

Harry Potter. Loved the books (although i do admit they are not perfect.) seen the film. quite liked it.
My main problem with it was that there are certain things that simply did not seem inprtant in the film and came across really poorly.
biggest complaint was the opening scene.
too slow. seems pointless.
Dumbledore, most powerful wizard in the world (but he's too moral to use his powers to stop voldemort because this would mean going over to the dark side himself) takes ten minutes to out a few lights. The background this scene is coming from is made a mockery of. although the audience doesnt know the background it should have a t least been taken into acount. one of the most terrifying periods of wizarding history has come to an end. for dumbeldore many of his coleagues, students and friends are dead and the ones that are alive could easily be working for voldemort, ether by their own choice or by him controlling them against their will. it's over. more recently james and lily potter have died.


*SPOILER FOR REST OF BOOKS*





pettigrew is dead defending them (they think) and james' best friend is going to azkabahn for working with voldemort.






*END SPOILER*

dumbeldore is going to be justifiably emotional at this point. none of this comes across in the first scene and i think this is the one single thing which lets the film down the most.

an addition which i liked was the leather armour which is worn on the arms for quidditch. i thought that was very stylish, but the quidditch itself could have been better, it seemes like it was limited by what the effects could just about keep up with and not ruled by what would be effective. i also liked the interpratation of the very ordinary dursley house. that is just sooooo pushy excutive who thinks he's better than he really is living on a bulk built housing estate bult in the 1980s. excellent choice.

the changes in the plot i found hard to stomouch, all the bad things have been excused by saying, oh it was in the book. but where are all the good things from the book that never made it onto the screen.

i think there was way too much made of 'ohhhh isnt the wizarding world odd' like in diagon alley. i would have prefered a mopre getting on with it approach and letting us notice things on the second and third time of watching. we dont need our noses rubbed in the fact that there are floating candles in the great hall.





on comparing HP and LOTR:

I dont think you can. The crews worked within completely different restraints for a start. also the scope of the two books is very very diferent. Harry is a t school. there are a limited number of sweeping panoramic shots you can do of the school loos. i think we sould go more on 'did youo like it' as a measure for success.

i liked the HP books. I quite liked the film. I'd love to see a directors cut with the half complete footage of peeves included.

I though the LOTR books were ok but unecessarily complicated if all you were interested in was the story. unbalence perhaps if you were interested in tolkeins creation. (from a point of view of reading then over ten years ago.)

I think I'll go and see the film. At the moment i am seeing it a s something that had been created rather than another film or another adaptation. from what i have heard it is on the scale of those classic hollywood anthony and cleopatra do dahs. not just the next blockbuster. not another titanic.

HP is a good book, but it lacks the actual power of a book like 'charlotte sometimes', 'toms midnight garden', 'moondial' just going completely off topic here. some books have genuine power to them, the plot might not be as good but the raw power is clearly there. it's weird. and i cant remember the point of this post now.

but i think it was something along the lines of; can the two films really be compared. the books are totally different and so are the films, the restrictions, the aims of the sponsor/director/author/producer. i think the biggest fault here is the media. yay! blame the press! they lump together all fantasy films, fans and expectations. thats like saying Red Dwarf, Bladerunner and Alien are all to be judged by the same set of criteria. Clearly impossible.

did anyone follow this rant?

nice review again Awix. (it was you wasnt it? i started this so long ago i've forgotten. i'm at work and typing between enquiries. )
I'm just not sure i agree on comparing the two films in the first place.

FABT


I disagree... a bit

Post 16

Awix

Fair comment, my little Borgy Tribble, which I shall defend thusly: they're both blockbuster adaptations of famous fantasy novels, both following the classic Campbellian 'hero's journey' structure in terms of plot etc, and both out within a month of each other. If I'd looked at them separately I'd probably have ended up making comparisons anyway. Plus I couldn't resist the 'When Harry Met Sauron' gag. The next two I will probably look at individually.

I think LOTR (the book) is an extraordinary feat of the imagination, a remarkable work of literature... whatever the merits or otherwise of the writing style. The Prof was deliberately attempting a kind of quasi-medieval tone, he intended it to be myth rather than fiction. Plus the creative process for Middle Earth was 'languages > world > stories'... the actual plot was simply a method to communicate the world to the audience.

Your criticisms of HP are interesting. I'm reminded of what people often say about Star Wars: that the director doesn't treat the world of the film as anything unsual, he just tells the story straighforwardly without a 'gosh-wow' zoom on every new robot or alien in the scene. Perhaps that's why it stands up to repeated viewings so well, there's always something new to notice. Also your comments on Dumbledore at the start - I think the light-snuffing was just to show the audience that this was a wizard. And as for his mood... well, it'd be hard to do that without overdoing it. It's always a problem with characters who are essentially calm and disciplined, they're not enormously easy to empathise with (eg all the Jedi characters in Phantom Menace).

I'd just like to close by saying I'm hugely impressed by the Potter books and JKR's prose in particular... it's just that the film couldn't match her words with the right kind of pictures.

Many thanks for the thought-provoking feedback...


I disagree... a bit

Post 17

FABT - new venture A815654 Angel spoiler page

thanks Awix, the lack of flames there greatly appreciated.

my nickname has a nickname!!!!!!! *mad capper round the room*

"eg all the Jedi characters in Phantom Menace" I thought they were just not acting. we know they can do it, we've seen them do it in other films. maybe it was something to do with being pinned to a blue screen like a butterfly.

I agree with your comment about the startwars films taking everything as normal, it;s up to the viewer to decide what is strange and interesting. I found myself hartely sick of diagon alley by the time they had finished there. it was also about the only time i didnt like hagrid, all that grinning and winking-and-guess-whats-through here-you're-going-to-be-ever-so-suprised.

taataa for now

FABT


I disagree... a bit

Post 18

Awix

I never flame. 'Tis not nice. (Well, almost never...)

Were McGregor, Neeson and Jackson just not bothering to act...? Well, I'm prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt and put it down to their playing characters who crucially never get terribly emotional or excited. There may also be something to what you say about the film-making process (bluescreening, acting alone, ect) hampering their technique. (Not that it seems to have caused any problems for the LOTR cast.) Hopefully things will be a bit more animated in AOTC.


I disagree... a bit

Post 19

MaW

Hah! AotC will probably be awful. They should never have let George Lucas write the dialogue. Just like they shouldn't have let Tolkein write the prose. He can make the world - someone else can write the story. The plot was okay, but the rest of it wasn't, because it took soooo long to get anywhere. Not that long and sedate plots are a bad thing intrinsically, but lingering on the boring bits and skipping all the interesting ones isn't the way to write a book - linger on everything if you must, but keep the interesting bits!

Or am I far too magic-hungry?

Yes, I think that might be it.

Oh, and the acting in Phantom Menace might have had something to do with being unable to act when the dialogue's so awful. It's like Wil Wheaton says about playing Wesley Crusher the Much-Hated in Star Trek: The Next Generation (did you know he's in the new film?) - there's only so much you can do when the lines are terrible and they're making you act that way and you're just a kid. So the last doesn't apply to the Phantom Menace stars save for Jake Lloyd or whoever he was who played Anakin (he was in it too much, plot didn't hold, how could a kid fly a ship like that and not die, even if he does have immense latent Jedi powers?), but the dialogue does...

So anyway, that's that really. I have low expectations for Star Wars. LotR will probably be good as a film, especially compared to the books which just bored me.

And I think they should make The Belgariad into a film. Or two. Or three. Or four. Or even five. What fun!


I disagree... a bit

Post 20

Awix

I shall maintain my habitual optimism even where AOTC is concerned. The dialogue and acting in the original trilogy was equally awful but they were still very enjoyable (and I understand some other writers may have polished the script un peu). Plus the new one looks to be a lot darker in tone and content, and doesn't have any child actors in it. Better to travel hopefully...

I sort of enjoyed the Belgariad first time round but as the series went on I really found it a bit jarring that everyone in the fantasy world spoke middle-class American English, even down to sentence structure and whatever. The sorcery wasn't especially sorcerous either. It was like the cast of Cheers going on an epic quest together.


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