Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Movie Review: Harry Potter 3

-- spoilers --

I went into this movie with mild expectations. I'd gleaned from google news headlines that the reviews were generally positive, and indicated the movies took a turn towards the darker side.

I was pleasantly surprised to find my expectations exceeded. I'd found the first two movies to be disappointments, they'd visualized the world well, and captured the story well enough, but somehow failed to make the story its own. Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, as an example, remade the story to fit the screen.

While Harry Potter 3 doesn't quite go that far, the director succeeded in creating an amazing dark and somewhat creepy visual style and atmosphere, quite different from the books, that the story solidly sits astride. The whimsy that is never far away in the books is gone in this movie. Instead, we find an overall tinny metallic look; dark foreboding clouds; rainy scottish hills; standing stones; the whomping willow passing through the seasons squashing birds;crows and magpies flapping about; the magical machinery of hogwarts - clicking, clasping, clacking and turning gears, buckles and clocks; the dementors hovering never far - ready to suck the marrow from the bones of the living; fades and cuts that close in around the characters covering them in darkness. As Ron might say, "it's brilliant!"

The characters are still into things like candies that give voice to wild animals, singing toads, etc. but they are just passing amusements; the characters are concerned with darkers things, or at least things that would be familiar to any teen. Not that these aren't in the books, but they don't really come out in force until the 4th and 5th books.

The effects are great too. Buckbeak, the dementors, and other magical animals are all really great (funnily enough, only Scabbers the rat seems a fraud). Harry's ride on Buckbeak's back is particularly grand, and dare I say it, quite exciting.

My only complaints are a few scenes between Harry and various mentors. My friends will be familiar with the complaint -- don't use melodic emotional music over conversation! Ruins it for every time. One other scene where Harry is crying and then bursts into rage fails horribly, but the actors are young afterall.


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