June 09, 2004

Apologies for burying the lede again

Rose and I saw the new Harry Potter movie tonight -- you know, the one that Chris Columbus didn't hamstring with his twinkly literal-mindedness. Admittedly, Columbus did a much better job with the second film than the first, but it's nice to have someone with a better visual sense behind the helm. The casting continues to be peerless; if only there were more blockbuster films that could make such good use of David Thewlis and Gary Oldman. (I also must confess that I prefer Michael Gambon's Dumbledore to Richard Harris's, although of course I wish Richard Harris had lived and thus prevented me from ever discovering this preference.) I do wonder how people who've never read the book will fare, though, considering how pared down the story is. Mostly I approved of all the cuts (the movie didn't need any more time blown on Quidditch, for instance), but things did feel rushed in a few places.

Anyway, enough about the movie itself. What I really want to do is point out one idiotic critical trope about the Harry Potter movies that I see now and then. Here's a perfect example, from Roger Ebert:

The actors playing Harry, Ron and Hermione have outgrown their childhoods in this movie, and by the next film will have to be dealt with as teenagers, or replaced by younger actors.

Uh...what the fuck? The characters are supposed to outgrow their childhoods. I believe you'll find that when a student graduates from one year of school and enters the next year, that student generally tends to age a year in the process. Third-year Hogwarts students would be thirteen years old...which is, not coincidentally, the age of the actors playing those students. So this is a problem how?

Posted by Francis at 04:07 AM

I used to heart old Roger, but I think a combination of things (the death of Gene, health troubles of his own, and having to discuss films with that idiot Roeper) have started to make him a wee bit looney. Lately he seems to be the king of the three-star review, as if the act of actually putting something on film that isn't "From Justin to Kelly" merits your attendance.

And his "review" of "Super Size Me" is one of the odder pieces of film criticism I've read.

Posted by: Alex G at June 9, 2004 10:51 AM

Actually this isn't idiotic at all. I read an article that I don't have time to regoogle now explaining that there are two factors. One is that they weren't able to keep up the exactly one a year film schedule. They're already half a year out of synch and will eventually be two or three years out. The second factor is that the actors went into the first film 1-2 years older than the characters already. That wasn't a problem when it meant 12 and 13 year olds playing 11 year olds, but puberty being what it is, you'll soon have 15 and 16 year olds playing 14 year olds, which is much less convincing.

Posted by: dlr at June 9, 2004 12:38 PM

Well, kids go through puberty at different times anyway. According to the birth dates on IMDB, right now Daniel Radcliffe is still 14 for a month and a half and Emma Watson just turned 14 a couple months ago, which is still in the right age range for "Goblet of Fire", currently in production. Rupert Grint is a year older than Daniel, but he gives off an air of permanent immaturity, so that's probably fine. (And he's the one I'd be least sad to see replaced, although I like him better in this movie than the others.) Considering how often Hollywood gives us 20-year-olds playing high schoolers (Linda Cardellini was 23 when she was playing a high schooler in our mutually beloved "Freaks and Geeks", for instance), I consider character continuity more important than age concerns.

Posted by: Francis at June 9, 2004 01:55 PM

i was sorry they didn't go into the pronghorn/patronus explanation... that would have been a nice inclusion of the father that wouldn't have taken much screentime to add. i also thought emma thompson was a scream as trelawny... and that the closing credits were brilliantly done.

the age thing doesn't seem out of whack to me at all right now... if they can keep harry from having a five-o-clock shadow, it should work fine. i thought harry was played much better in this film, much less whiny and more believable. some of those long-range camera shots were fabulous, too. all in all, yes, a much better film than columbus'.

Posted by: gotcha at June 9, 2004 06:53 PM

Re the pronghorn/patronus thing:

Yeah, I also thought leaving that out was odd; according to EW the filmmakers thought that whole bit of backstory (including explaining the history of the Marauder's Map) would work better in a later film, presumably "Goblet of Fire".

Posted by: Francis at June 9, 2004 07:01 PM