Thursday, July 17, 2014

Harry Potter 1

My girlfriend has been waiting (usually patiently) for me to catch up on the Harry Potter movie series. I'm only now starting the series from the beginning, and can't account for why I waited - I'd never had anything against the series, and actually liked the idea of a youth-oriented fantasy series that acknowledged the aging of its characters and darkened along the way. Hearing the San Francisco Symphony play an extended piece of John Williams' score a summer or two ago stoked some curiosity, but only now, after some gentle (mostly) nudging from milady, am I watching the series. I'll be sketching thoughts on each movie as I see it here.

Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone

--Had known that the first story was more youth-friendly before the series veered into darker realms but we start off with a protagonist orphaned as a baby, then living life pretty much abused by his aunt, uncle, and cousin. Even without the magical trappings HP is pretty hardcore. D tells me that a number of religious parents groups have objected to the series and I'm not surprised.

--Potter hasn't even arrived at Hogwarts and I'm wishing I'd seen these movies theatrically, in 35mm. For whatever reason I wasn't ready to commit.

--Williams' score and themes are absolutely gorgeous. His knack for instrumentation and picking just the right tone for each of his motifs is undiminished. (I'd love to see him direct a movie, just to see what would happen.)

--The visual design is just as strong as the music - together they're more than enough to carry the thing. D is a total fan of the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies, and was delighted that The Hobbit was extended into three movies. Her basic argument is that it means spending more time in Middle Earth, which I totally get. The world of Harry Potter is a fun one to inhabit, and the prospect of doing so over the course of eight two-hours-plus features is a pleasing one.

--I'm watching Harry's relationships with Ron & Hermione gel, watching the supporting cast come into play, sensing that there's more than enough character drama here to fuel the series. Something about the specific dark pitch of the fantasy here in HP1 is making me anticipate nothing less than SCORCHED FUCKING EARTH in Deathly Hallows. Alan Rickman's Snape and Tom Felton's Draco Malfoy are particularly intriguing.

--I muse more than once that this is awfully metal for an ostensibly youth-focused story. It pleases me.

--Daniel Radcliffe hadn't, by the time of The Woman In Black, escaped his reliance on facial expressions to register emotions. I didn't feel much from him in that Hammer movie, and so the performance of the young Radcliffe here isn't quite grabbing me either. I don't have the same problem with either Emma Watson or Rupert Grint as Hermione and Ron.

--For my problems with the lead, and director Chris Columbus' sometimes clunky storytelling, the world of the story and characters within it have more than secured my interest. I'm fully engaged with this thing and genuinely excited to see where it goes.

To the Chamber of Secrets!