Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Harry Potter, "A Window To The Past"

Something I made the other day. It's the first time I've edited any Harry Potter clips in a long time. Last time only the first four films were out. This is actually a recreation of a video I made a few years ago using just "Azkaban" clips and the same song. I've long since lost the original version, but I think this one pays it good tribute.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Looking Back At Potter: An Overview (Part 2)

So naturally it’s only fair that after the critical and creative high of Alfonso’s treatment on “Azkaban”, one must suffer the clumsy choice of ill experienced director Mike Newell, who, from what I gather, was hired in great part due to the fact that he was British, and would become the first Brit to have a stab at directing the series. In the Ultimate Editions documentaries, it becomes clear that things were certainly different with Newell heading the Potter series. Unlike with Columbus and Cauron, cast members and crew didn’t seem to speak so fondly of the man responsible for some of the cheesiest moments in the entire series. I certainly don’t blame them. Albeit a good film, “Goblet of Fire” is a truly horrible adaption of Rowling’s fourth entry in the series, which of course, is somewhat of a unanimous fan favourite. I wish so badly that Cauron had returned for “Goblet”, with which he could have brought the sense of enchantment and deep understanding of the character’s motives and ideas. I really feel Mike Newell didn’t get Potter like the series’ other three directors. The film was speckled with too-awkward moments and questionable changes to characters and plots. It makes me wonder how far the first script for “Goblet” was from the book compared to the final result. The score is perhaps, the worst of the series, evoking little to no real emotion, but instead, an urge to cover your ears as the strings pierce on during the more emotional scenes that require a certain amount of tact, rather than the loud-loud-strings-because-someone’s-died method composer Patrick Doyle seemed so fond of. Nevertheless, the film went on to be a huge financial and critical success, earning the series highest midnight box office sales right up until “Deathly Hallows: Part 1”’s release last weekend.
The series only grew stronger with David Yates coming into the picture, bringing his unique; albeit sometimes safe style to “Order of the Phoenix”, the series’ longest book, yet shortest film in the series, clocking in at only 2 hours and 12 minutes. I find it to be one of the most peculiar of the films, and I’m still not sure why. The pacing is good, although it’s still hard to really summarize the film’s plot, other than “Harry has some weird dreams and a teacher carves things on his hand”. The same can only be said for the book, which, unlike its predecessors is more a psychological journey than ever before, making it perhaps the hardest of the seven books to adapt into film. The effects are, as always, great, even though this film does not always deal with monstrous creatures and magical countries like the others do. The same can be said for “Half-Blood Prince”, the series’ darkest entry, and not just thematically. The film’s color scheme is a brooding, austere grey, giving one the feeling of constant apprehension and fear, like something evil is always around the corner, appropriate for what was to be the penultimate film in the series. It’s in my opinion the most faithful of the adaptations, even if it does have to leave things out that would only strengthen the themes and ideas being conveyed in “Deathly Hallows”. This of course leads me to the newest release in the series, and maybe the most challenging of the films yet.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” can, of course, be judged as a whole, as it has by many critics, earning it a 79% approval rating on “Rotten Tomatoes” (the second lowest rating of all the films). But I still can’t make a full conclusion. I need to see “Part 2” to be for certain if Part 1 was even necessary. Many critics are calling foul on the book’s 2 part split, deeming it unnecessary, just dragging on until Warner Bros. Can suck out what’s left from the sadly dying cash cow. Is there any creative justification for this split? I still can’t answer that question wholly, and I guess I won’t really know until July 15th, 2011.
But for now I'll leave you with this, a compilation of all seven opening titles. It's neat to see how the films have transformed in so many ways, even if just with small details like the words "Harry Potter".


Monday, November 22, 2010

Looking Back At Potter: An Overview (Part 1)

I remember when I was 11 and my mom got me out of school early so she could take me to see “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” on opening day, which of course, would lead to the bragging rights of being definitively sure I was the first person in my school to see the movie (ah, the days before major movie piracy and film leaks). Well, of course a lot’s changed for me since I was 11, and naturally you can only say the same thing about the Potter series. Before the release of the penultimate film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”, I made a point to carefully reread all seven books, making a couple mental notes here and there to spot some of the less obvious foreshadowing and mysteries that were never blatantly solved or exposed. I watched the six films, too, some of which I hadn’t seen in a few years (purposefully for this reason), and came away some new feelings about the series as a whole, book saga and film series alike.
“Philosopher’s Stone” offered the whimsy and pure fantasy of the life-less-ordinary world that JK Rowling’s offered in her seven novel series. The film, of course, was magic at its most enchanting, well acted by then 10 year-olds with no major experience in the big, big world of acting. In watching the Ultimate Editions of the rereleased Potter films, original screen tests for the trio showed that these kids had something, even before they really began to show it. Naturally, their best performances wouldn’t come to them as children, but even in the first chapter of what would eventually become an eight part film saga, you can see that there’s something beyond dazzling effects and impossible sets. The same can be said about “Chamber of Secrets”, which, in my opinion, is one of the darkest entries in the series (though not quite so illustrated in Chris Columbus’s second attempt at ‘Potter’), even if it lacks the cold, rattling breath of a Dementor, or a fully embodied Voldemort. “Her body will lie in the chamber forever” is, to me, one of the eeriest and most frightening things JK has written in ‘Potter’, the very idea sending a little chill over me. True though, the third book and accompanying film, “Prisoner of Azkaban” deals with more mature subjects, like the ideas of depression, isolation, and worse yet, sexual maturity. 
Alfonso Cauron was tagged as the new director, and the first to replace Columbus, which would eventually accumulate to four different directors to the eight films. The cinematography is a completely different kind of magic from what the first two films presented. With Columbus, you saw the magic, but with Cuaron you explored it.

 Some shots are almost bizarre, a shock for fans of the steady cam straight forward approach of the series’ predecessors. Alfonso also liked the idea of practical ‘magic’ on screen, bringing in several real magicians and illusionists to lend their expertise to some of the more dynamic qualities about the film. “Azkaban” is, in fact, the highest rated of the entire series to date, earning a 90% Certified Fresh on “Rotten Tomatoes”, the only film in the Potter series to do so. So why then, is it that it is the only film in the series to fall under the Top 25 mark in the list of highest-grossing films of all time (worldwide), making it the least successful of the series? Believe it or not, this actually caused producers to at one point question the continuation of the series, fearing the franchise had finally flopped with its disappointing opening and eventual earnings 795$ million. Because if doesn’t break 800$ million, it just ain’t worth making, right? I think something really has to be said here, if making more Potters really came into question after getting the highest critical reception to date, a franchise that is now commonly known as the highest grossing film franchise of all time, with the second-to-last film still accumulating cash in the theatres, and the last on the way.