My family has been reading the Harry Potter books together this summer, and the rule is: we can watch the movies, but only after finishing the book. It’s extraordinarily rare to find a film that does justice to the book, and sometimes, even if they do, there’s still the singular enjoyment of imaging things for yourself. What does Hogwarts really look like? How horrible are the spiders of Mirkwood?
Most recently, we finished The Prisoner of Azkaban, probably one of the most original stories in the Potter Series. At no time does Harry have to face up to Voldemort, we get to know some of the back story of James and Lilly, through their friends, Lupin, Sirius and Peter. We’re also introduced to two new artifacts , the Marauders’ Map and the Time Turner. What’s more, they’re both essential to the plot, not just interesting props.
So, having just read the book and watched the movie… how do they compare?
My son loves the films. Like any child, he’s drawn to the visual effects and stunning scenery. I was amazed that he really did care that the movie left a number of details out. This also told me that he acknowledges that the books are the ‘canon’, while the movies are just someone’s interpretation.
My wife actually doesn’t like the movies much at all. If the movie doesn’t jive with her image she rails against it refusing to give up her own image and remains tormented about it throughout. I did press her to find out what she liked best and what she disliked the most about this one. She admits that the films do a good job with Hagrid, but feels that the portrayals of Hermione, the whole Weasley clan and Sirius are way off. She’s also commented more than once that Snape doesn’t have long enough or greasy enough hair.
My own feelings are much more liquid. I definitely enjoy the books better and get a much more fleshed out view of the whole alternate world in my mind, but I have a very difficult time clinging to my own images once the film is rolling.One would think that this frustrates me even more, but I also like to just immerse myself in the visuals the movies dish out.
Probably one of my biggest pet peeves about all modern (fantasy / scifi) film is the over-use of computer art. This leads to a number of problems 1) Actors cannot react believably when in conversation with someone who does not actually exist. 2) As good as computer animation is, it rarely can fool the viewer into really believing. This is very much like the ‘uncanny valley‘ of human animation. Wikipedia defines this as, “a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not perfectly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers.”
It looks something like this:
Although the robot on the left is definitely humanoid, it doesn’t trigger feelings of odd revulsion.
While the replicant on the right (with her real life model) is clearly an abomination.
The reason I spend so much time talking about animation effects is because in a lot of ways, the whole movie industry is like an animation. No matter how hard it tries, it always falls a little short of the imagination and is therefore forever doomed to some degree of failure in delivering us what we really want to see, the contents of our own minds.
Really? This is a good story, because of the book. I’d give it a 7.
11 Down, 89 to go.