Physicists get ever closer to a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak with a new, less-bulky metascreen that scatters nano-particles. “Moving forward, one of the key challenges for the researchers will be to use ‘mantle cloaking’ to hide an object from visible light.”
Not to overstate the case: This eighth and final film in the Potter series is a quality production, well-made and well-acted throughout, and it’s still a good deal better than Chris Columbus’ flat first two movies. But it just didn’t resonate with me. Even more than the last film, Hallows Part 2 is stuck with dramatizing some of the clunkiest plot elements in the entire series. (Jesus Harry, anyone? And how ’bout that goofy coda?) And by separating out the story into two movies, Hallows Pt. 2 is bereft of much of the connective tissue that makes the Potterverse so engaging. Honestly, if you told me when the book came out that I’d end up preferring the film about the camping half of Hallows, I never would have believed you.
What do I mean by connective tissue? Well, firstly, the killer app of the Harry Potter series, as Laura Miller argued back in the day, was always Hogwarts, and Book 7 sorely missed the rhythms of boarding school life that infused the first six tomes. That was always an obstacle these last two films would have to overcome, and I thought Part One actually did a good job of it. But, as it turns out, the emotional failsafe — especially for the films, where we’ve really seen these kids grow up — was the interactions among the Big Three. And, now that Hallows has been sliced in half, Harry, Ron, and Hermione really don’t have all that much to do with each other here in the back end.
Instead, we have — after a brief adventure in the vaults of Gringotts — the Siege of Hogwarts, which takes up most of the picture. And it’s all very impressive, with its psychic shields, stone soldiers, rampaging ogres and whatnot. But this is all action-fantasy spectacle, and — after Helms Deep, Minas Tirith, and various other besieged redoubts in recent cinema, not particularly engaging spectacle at that. (Also, I guess the idea here is the good guys are buying time for Harry to find the Ravenclaw diadem, but the way the story comes across, all this carnage seems beside the point anyway. Couldn’t all the loss of life have been averted if Snape just took Harry by the pensieve before the Big Battle?)
Speaking of ole Severus, the back half of the film is also burdened by its source material. To be honest, I’d forgotten about many of the things that aggravated me about Deathly Hallows the book, until the story unfolded here once again. I already mentioned the Aslanification of Harry, where he has to now sacrifice himself for Voldemort’s sins to be truly expunged from this world. (See also: Matrix: Revolutions.) Then there’s the conversations with ghosts and the heavenly train depot rendez-vous with Dumbledore (weirdly, also in the third Matrix.)
And then there’s the Snape story, which plays out mostly as expected, but still has the effect of totally cheapening the character of Harry’s real dad. (As it is here, Snape is the unrequited hero, and James Potter is just a bullying prat who happened to marry Lily.) Like I said, a lot of these plot developments seemed to be coming by the end of the series — Severus always seemed like he was deep undercover, and Harry’s lightning scar made sense as the seventh horcrux. But the execution in the book, and subsequently here in the movie, is clumsy.
One more small issue here: Along with Hogwarts itself and the Big Three, the third leg of the stool for the films has been its British Thespian Full Employment program. But, with the exception of Ralph Fiennes’ Serpenthead Voldemort and arguably Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, the amazing collection of talent in the bullpens here doesn’t get all that much to do either. Estimable actors like John Hurt and Jim Broadbent have only reaction shots, and even big moments like the death of David Thewlis’ Lupin and Natalia Tena’s Tonks are given short shrift. (FWIW, the only big new actorly add in this last installment is Ciaran Hinds as Alberforth Dumbedore, but he’s virtually unrecognizable underneath his Michael Gambon makeup.)
Again, not to be a total hater — This is a competently-made and even sleek production, and it’s hard to see how David Yates could’ve improved the situation given the constraints of the source material. But, there’s no riff as inspired here as Yates’ Brazilian reconception of the Ministry of Magic in the last film, nor any sequence as transporting as the animated origins of the Hallows we saw last November. Like the book series from whence it came, the last chapter of the Harry Potter films ends with a bit of a plunk.
A hardy veteran of Dumbledore’s army at this point — this is his third Potter film in a row after Order of the Phoenix and the Half-Blood Prince — Yates has taken the often-unwieldy wanderings of the first half of Hallows and fashioned a lean, tense, and gripping fugitive story out of them. Better yet, he’s brought a much more palpable sense of danger and darkness to the proceedings. When I read the book, I missed Hogwarts most of the time and wondered why our heroes had to spend so much time camping. Here, the lack of Hogwarts goes unnoticed, and it’s abundantly clear why Harry, Ron, and Hermione spend so much time on the lam — They’re totally under the gun…er, wand.
That may be the part that rankles some of the youngest viewers out there, or their parents — From the creepier-than-usual Warner Brothers card on, the gloom here is unrelenting, and almost sadistic. Hallows begins with a Great Eye — that of the Minster of Magic (Bill Nighy), who’s making a Churchillian attempt to rally the wizarding world against the encroaching forces of Voldemort. (Good luck with that.) The Dark Lord (Ralph Fiennes), meanwhile, is entertaining his Death Eater shock-troops with a banquet at the Malfoys — one punctuated by the torture and eventual murder of Hogwarts’ Professor of Muggle Studies. She dies pleading for clemency from her former colleague, Severus Snape. (Clearly, she was new to academe.)
The Big Three are no happier. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is packing up and hiding the Dursleys somewhere safe from harm — It’s gotten so bad that he’s even nostalgic about his old room under the stairs. Hermione (Emma Watson) has resorted to wiping her Muggle parents’ minds of her existence. And Ron (Rupert Grint)…well, ok, like his older brothers, Ron is still a bit of a goof (at least until his arm almost gets ripped off in a freak disapparating accident later on.) And this, Ron’s injury notwithstanding, is all before Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) shows up at 4 Privet Drive with an army of returning cast members — or, as anyone who’s read the book knows, cannon fodder.
Granted, these supporting characters aren’t exactly Redshirts — we know most of them from the first six movies. Still, here is one of the situations where, to my mind, the movie rubs up against the limitations of the source material. There’s a line in Red Letter Media’s worthy evisceration of The Phantom Menace where the narrator makes the very valid point: “Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi should have been combined into one character named…Obi-Wan Kenobi.” The same goes for the Potterverse.
By here in Book 7, several thousand pages into the tale of young Mr. Potter, the story is now totally crufted over with narrative stuff. Dozens of characters are running around already, and yet Hallows seems to pile on more every time our heroes get in a jam. (For example, Harry gets a tip from an old journalist friend of Dumbledores, whom we’ve never met, to go visit an old historian friend of Dumbledore’s, whom we’ve never met. Couldn’t one of these just have been Jim Broadbent’s Slughorn, from Book Six?)
We’re equally overstuffed here with magical Maguffins — Seven horcruxes and three hallows, not to mention three gifts from Dumbledore and various other wonderful toys, like Harry’s watchful mirror, Hermione’s infinite knapsack, and a steady supply of Polyjuice Potion. With so many magical items in play, the ground rules get fuzzy, and the sense of danger takes a hit. (Then again, they’re fuzzy anyway — Where can and can’t House elfs go again? And why aren’t our team using that highly convenient Room of Requirement from Book 5 to solve all of their problems?)
Still, one definite bright side of having so many populating the Potterverse is that the series continues to be a welcome full-employment program for British thespians. Bill Nighy and Rhys Ifans (as Xenophilius Lovegood, Luna’s dad) are the most prominent additions to the cast, but there are other fun faces joining the party this time, including David O’Hara (Braveheart) as Harry’s face in the Ministry, Guy Henry (Extras, Rome‘s Cassius) as Voldemort’s puppet minister, and Peter Mullan (Children of Men, Red Riding) as the Death Eater head of security.
On this front, the series is now an embarrassment of riches. When the likes of John Hurt and Miranda Richardson have all of fifteen seconds of screen time, and even the House elves are voiced by names like Simon McBurney (The Last King of Scotland, The Ghost Writer,) and Toby Jones (as Kreacher and Dobby respectively), you know you’ve got a heck of a cast on your ends. And the three kids have grown up to be no slouches in this department either. I can’t tell if they’re great actors, but they’re definitely very good at being Harry, Ron, and Hermione at this point.
So, in the end and despite its narrative over-packing, Deathly Hallows is an entertaining and scary ride with some very memorable setpieces. There’s an animated sequence late in the film that’s as beautiful and entrancing as anything we’ve seen in all seven movies thus far. And I was also fond of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s assault on the Ministry, packed as it was sly allusions to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. (Note the big statue, the gaggle of hangers-on breezing by, and Mullan being a man consumed with paperwork.) There’s still a lot of camping here, sure, but at least this time it feels less like aimless meandering and more like an urgent necessity. Let’s hope Yates and co. can land this magical bird in as fun a fashion next July.
In the trailer bin of late:
Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of Team Hogwarts (now with Bill Nighy in tow) are back for
one last two last hurrahs in the trailer for both parts of David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Hmm…I mean, I’ll go see ‘em, but this trailer just makes both movies seem like a lot of running around with pained expressions. (And, not to get curmudgeonly up in here, but even speaking as someone who fired up The Leaky Cauldron back in the day, “The Motion Picture Event of a Generation” is overselling this production something fierce.)
Dropping yesterday evening during the MTV Movie Awards — Sign #159 that I’m getting old: I just could not care less about this show, and could only handle five minutes or so of teh full-on insipid last night before switching back to Game 2 — the first trailer for David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part I). Lots of tearful, shouting matches in the English countryside…yep, that’s the book I remember.
Second on the weekend bill was David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth installment of the series (and Yates’ second directorial outing after 2007′s Order of the Phoenix.) On one hand, this year at Hogwarts is a deftly-made piece of work, and probably the most accomplished and filmic of the Potter movies (tho’ I still prefer Goblet of Fire overall.) But, on the other hand, Yates and the assembled cast are just gathering steam right as the source material is petering out. I racked my brains before the movie trying to remember anything about Half-Blood Prince the novel, and basically came up with the ending, “Slughorn,” “Harry’s Potions book,” and “Dumbledore drinks the crap.” These four things do not a movie make, particularly not a 150 minute movie like this one. You can pad it out with Quidditch and/or various adenoidal episodes on the Big Three’s part, but Half-Blood Prince — the movie like the tome — still feels somewhat overlong, unnecessary, and redundant.
Part 6 of the Harry Potter saga starts in media res — so much so that it feels like Yates & co. have basically given up on the non-readers — with a trio of the Dark Lord’s Death Eaters openly attacking London Muggles in broad daylight. Yes, it’s gotten that bad. But the potential Chosen One (Daniel Radcliffe) has his mind on other matters at the moment — mainly, getting to know the cute waitress at the local station cafe once her shift ends. Alas for Harry, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) apparates into the scene and bigfoots that plan relatively quickly — Instead, he enlists young Potter in an scheme to entice former Prof. Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) back into the Hogwarts fold. (Slughorn is an inveterate namedropper, and thus susceptible to Harry’s influence. That being said, the dance of seduction here all seems a bit more unsavory when viewed rather than read.)
Anyway, soon Harry — and Slughorn — and the rest of the gang have all returned to Hogwarts (with the exception of those schoolboys in disgrace, the Weasley twins, who are now making a mint in Diagon Alley.) But the darkness all around has now seeped even into Fortress Dumbledore — students become bewitched, various assassination attempts go awry, and the scion of Slytherin in particular, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), seems to be under more strain than usual. Perhaps worse still for the gang, the trickle of teenage sensuality seen in Goblet and Order has swollen to a torrent, and Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) are now in the full hormone-fueled throes of adolescence. Honestly, after all the pregnant looks, strange urges, and attempted snoggings in the first hour, I half-expected Harry to whip out an ID named “McLovin’” and try to score some butterbeer.
The kids all acquit themselves well enough given the modicum of plot this time around. Still, with all due respect to the teens, the secret weapon of the Potterverse on film remains the long and growing list of distinguished British thespians on hand. From the starting cast (Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, David Bradley, Mark Williams and Julie Walters) to the later pick-ups (Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, Helen McCrory, Evanna Lynch), Half-Blood Prince is stocked to the gills with well-done character turns. The only person who noticeably stuck out as bad was Helena Bonham Carter — She’s wayyy over the top (again) and may be refining her Queen of Hearts here. (I also would’ve liked to have seen He Who Must Not Be Named at some point over the film, but I suspect he’ll be back for the next two installments.)
That being said, the best thing about Half-Blood Prince is probably Jim Broadbent’s turn as Slughorn. At first, he just seemed to be doing a slightly toned-down variation of his “snip, snip, slice, slice” cameo in Brazil. But Broadbent manages to infuse the character with a melancholy I never took away from his more glad-handing, Falstaffian persona in the book. This should’ve been the “Half-Blood Prince’s” movie, really (or Dumbledore’s, for that matter) — but, particularly given the notable absence of the high adventure or puzzle-solving plot dynamics of earlier Potter tales, it’s Broadbent’s haunted sense of regret here that leaves a mark after the credits roll.
Plenty of variety in this weekend’s trailer bin: 28 Weeks Later‘s Jeremy Renner is the man you call if you’re in the Green Zone with a bomb on hand in the trailer for Kathryn Bigelow’s warmly-reviewed The Hurt Locker, also with Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Evangeline Lilly, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, and Guy Pearce.
On the occasion of the new year, EW previews some of the more-anticipated films of 2009, including Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, Terminator: Salvation, Spike Jonze’s’ long-awaited Where the Wild Things Are, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Pixar’s Up, Harold Ramis’ Year One, The Taking of the Pelham 1-2-3 (again), Wolverine, and Watchmen.
Don’t drink the water…With Michael Gambon looking and sounding more Gandalfian than ever, the international trailer for David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is now online. Well, ok then.
In anticipation of the HP & The Half-Blood Prince trailer, which should be on later tonight, USA Today scores two stills from the forthcoming sixth Potter film, including this one of young Tom Riddle looking Omen-ish. (Conveniently, he’s played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, Ralph Fiennes’ nephew.)
Update: “I can make things move without touching them. I can make bad things happen to people who are mean to me. I can speak to snakes too. They find me, whisper things…” And here it is. (Link sent via Raza.)
Here we go again…Along with several media previews (note beat-up Harry on the Empire cover), a bunch of new stills from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince hit the tubes. (That’s Jim Broadbent as Slughorn on the left.)
Hulk smash? Or does Hulk whine for two hours about his condition like last time? The rather underwhelming teaser for Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk is now online. (I had hopes for Norton, but it looks like, if anyone saves this film from summer mediocrity, it’ll be Tim Roth.) Meanwhile, Harry’s seventh year at Hogwarts, Deathly Hallows, has been split into two films, both directed by Order‘s David Yates and coming out in 2010 and 2011 respectively. If it’s at all like the book, I guess there was just too much camping in the English countryside to fit in one film.
“‘Oh, my god,’ Rowling, 42, concluded with a laugh, ‘the fan fiction.’” So, as you probably heard, in a moment of retroactive characterization (a la Elisabeth Rohm on Law and Order), J.K. Rowling revealed that Albus Dumbledore is gay. Well, ok then. “A spokesman for gay rights group Stonewall added: ‘It’s great that JK has said this. It shows that there’s no limit to what gay and lesbian people can do, even being a wizard headmaster.’” And if nothing else, the news should make the witchcraft yahoos that much more livid.
Speaking of Indy IV, Dr. Jones’ new colleague, Jim Broadbent, is cast as professor and celeb hound Horace Slughorn for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. That works.
For those others who were looking for more information from the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling offered her take on what happened to the surviving characters in a recent online chat. For example [spoilers], “Harry Potter…was named head of the Auror Department under the new wizarding government headed by his friend and ally, Kingsley Shacklebolt.” (She also reveals the fate of Ginny, Ron, Hermione, George, and Luna.) Well, ok then…but why, exactly, wasn’t this squeezed somewhere in those last few pages? I’d have taken this info over some of the interminable shenanigans in the English countryside.
Naturally, like most of the wizarding world, I spent Saturday deeply ensconced in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling’s long-awaited final installment of the tale of the Boy Who Lived. And the verdict? Well, I enjoyed it, and I appreciate the degree of difficulty Rowling faced in closing this much-beloved tale. But, I’ll go ahead and put a word in for the muggle-hearted: It was easily my least favorite in the series (Put another way, it was the first book in seven where I started flipping forward every so often to see how much I had left, and the first where I found myself thinking the movie would assuredly be better than the book.) For obvious reasons, the rest of the discussion will involve spoiler-vision, so click the space below to highlight (and don’t click anything if you don’t want to know the end) [Update: Spoiler-vision turned off, now that the book has been out for awhile]:
* First off, I very much agree with this Laura Miller Salon review: I thought the book sorely missed the presence and the rhythms of Hogwarts. I get that Harry, Ron, and Hermione might have to break out of their safety zone to prosecute the war on You-Know-Who, but in all honesty, I didn’t find the wandering around the English countryside nearly as engaging as all the boarding school shenanigans that have marked the series in the past.
* The action scenes. I’ve complained as recently as my Order of the Phoenix film review that Rowling’s action sequences tend to be kinda clunky. Well, as befitting the last book in a seven-tome saga, there’s a lot of action in here, from escapes from the Ministry, Godric’s Hollow, Luna Lovegood’s house, and Gringotts to the final, climactic Battle of Hogwarts. And, most of it, in my humble opinion, didn’t really jump off the page. In a way, Hallows felt more like a screenplay treatment than a book, and, as I said, I expect the inevitable movie will make more of these myriad escape and battle scenes.
* The “homages.” Yes, all fantasy is derivative, often intentionally so. (As every fanboy and fangirl knows, Tolkien, Lewis, Lucas, and others all deliberately hearken back to collective myths in their writings and films.) Still, there was a lot in Deathly Hallows that felt lifted, from the very One-Ringish locket (As my sister wryly noted, it was “Share the load” all over again.”) to Harry’s Aslan-like sacrifice in the final battle, from the Sword in the Lake to Ma Weasley paraphrasing Ripley’s most memorable catchphrase from Aliens. Each time, it was pretty distracting.
* The fifth element is love? Ok, it’s been obvious it’s going this way for awhile now, but I still found it rather irritating. But that assuredly speaks worse of me than it does the books. Let’s move on.
* The deaths. As it turns out, my guesses about where this was all going turned out to be pretty on the money. (I’ve long been of the school that Snape was deep undercover, and — while I always thought Harry would end up losing his magic when he lost his horcrux/scar — my basic contention that he’d end up all grown up and outside the magical world of Hogwarts was somewhat substantiated by the epilogue.) But the deaths here…well, to be honest, they felt pretty arbitrary to me, as if Rowling wanted it both ways. None of the major characters (except Snape and Voldemort, both givens) ended up on the other side of the veil (even if Ron seemed a goner after leaving in a huff, and Hagrid’s been a one-trick-pony for at least five books now.) But Rowling pretty remorselessly cuts a swath through her supporting characters, including offing Hedwig, Mad-Eye, Lupin, Tonks, Colin Creevy, some random Muggle Studies prof, and, most shockingly for most, I’d guess, Fred Weasley. In short, all of these deaths seemed to me the equivalent of Haldir kicking the bucket in Lord of the Rings…a way of bringing the high stakes of death into the equation without it actually affecting any of the major characters. (Ok, Fred may be a Theoden level loss, but it’s a toss-up.) In short, the lack of major deaths, especially when compared to the catastrophic losses among the second tier, makes Hallows seem at once painless and bloodthirsty.
Not to miss the forest for the trees, I didn’t hate Deathly Hallows, and would still, without a doubt, number the series as a whole as a masterful work of children’s fantasy. (I’m not about to recant The Leaky Cauldron at this late date.) I do find myself wishing Harry’s final year at Hogwarts had taken a somewhat different direction. but it’d have been hard in any case for the seventh book to live up to the mighty expectations before it (although I actually found David Chase’s infamous Sopranos non-ending to be a more satisfying piece of pop culture closure.) Still, the surviving characters of Deathly Hallows — and especially J.K. Rowling — have more than earned a happy retirement. So, so long, y’all, and here’s hoping future Gryffindors are up to snuff.
By the start of Order, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is loose, Cedric Diggory is dead, and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), once more at the mercy of the Dursleys for the summer, is poised on the verge of adolescent rebellion. He hasn’t heard a pip from friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) for months, nor has he heard any news of goings-on in the magical world. So it is with no small amount of surprise and consternation that Harry finds himself first attacked by Dementors one gloomy evening, then expelled from Hogwarts — by authority of the Ministry of Magic — for using his wand to defend himself. Brought back into the magical loop by these events, Harry discovers that many of his former allies, including godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), have banded together to re-form the Order of the Phoenix in preparation for Lord Voldemort’s next move. More troubling, it seems Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) is not only not inclined to believe Harry that You-Know-Who has returned, but also views Harry and his mentor Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), as a political threat, and has turned the general public and popular press against them both. Finally, to further complicate Potter’s prospects, Fudge dispatches one Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) to Hogwarts with a ministry mandate to stamp out both dark sarcasm and Defense against the Dark Arts in the classroom. Thus hemmed in, Harry, Ron, and Hermione find once more they need to take matters in their own hands, and begin to defiantly assemble what they call Dumbledore’s Army, a student organization dedicated to preparing for the worst. But, all the while, Lord Voldemort is up to his own tricks…and what good is Dumbledore’s Army if its young, bespectacled leader is already hopelessly compromised by his still-unexplained connection to the Dark Lord?
As the paragraph above attests, there’re a lot of balls in the air this time around, but Yates, screenwriter Michael Goldenberg, & co. do a solid job of keeping everything moving without doing grievous harm to any of the many included subplots. (Several have been excised regardless, such as this year’s Quidditch match. No real loss, imho.) And throughout, what Order of the Phoenix gets most right — in fact, one could argue it’s actually done better here than in the book — is the feeling that things are simmering to a boil. Hermione, Ron, and especially Harry have grown from wide-eyed, trusting children to gawky, hormonal teenagers (and better actors, for that matter), seething with imminent rebellion against the powers-that-be, and their world has similarly gone from a colorful, fantastic, and ever-so-occasionally dangerous realm of magical delights to a gray, ominous land of hidden agendas, political propaganda, fallible adults, and fatal consequences. In the last movie, Harry’s Hogwarts cohort were on the threshold of early adolescence, and had just begun to discover the tantalizing mysteries of the opposite sex. Here, slightly older, they come to another classic teenage rite-of-passage: finding that the world — and, more often that not, the people in charge — aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and that they may even actually be out to get you.
Of course, Yates is helped out tremendously in bringing Order to life by his ever-expanding Dream Team of British thespians. Imelda Staunton, as the main new cast member, is note-perfect as Umbridge. A pink-festooned, unholy cross between the Church Lady and arguably the real You-Know-Who of Rowling’s books, Margaret Thatcher, she’s like something out of a Roger Waters fever dream (and continues the “The Tories are Coming!” subtext I noted in my review of the last movie.) Even with Staunton aside, tho’, Order is packed to the brim with quality actors reprising their roles from the first four films — Oldman, Hardy, Brendan Gleeson, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Emma Thompson, Jason Isaacs, Robbie Coltrane, etc., and particularly Fiennes and Alan Rickman. They’re all excellent, and frankly it’s good fun just to see so many of them around again to help further flesh out the Potterverse. (Although, having seen Naked and The History Boys since Goblet, I’m slightly more concerned about Harry hanging around the likes of Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) and Vernon Dursley (Richard Griffiths)…what would the Umbridges of the world have to say about that?)
Alert the Ministry: The new trailer for David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is now online, albeit not in the best format. Looks…ok, although I’d be surprised if it lives up to Newell’s Goblet of Fire (or even Cuaron’s Prisoner, since Order may have been my least favorite book in the series thus far.) Update: It’s now available in Quicktime — go here instead.
Year seven at Hogwarts gets its registration date: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes out July 21. Look for Berk and I in the midnight line.
Old news now, but it happened while on the track: Harry Potter’s final chapter gets a title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Ready for another year at Hogwarts? The new teaser for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which I mentioned on Friday is now online.
The new Fiennes-centric Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix teaser poster is now online. Look for new photos from the film here, for a very brief clip here, and for the teaser — if, like me, you’re not going to see Happy Feet — on Monday. Update: Here it is.
WB releases several high-quality stills from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, including one of the eponymous Order and several of new headmaster Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton). (And, since it’s wartime at Hogwarts now, it looks like the late ’70′s haircuts of Goblet have gone by the wayside as well.) Update: More here.
As part of the sixth anniversary festivities for The Leaky Cauldron, the Harry Potter blog-turned-comprehensive-fansite I set up way back when, Melissa Anelli, Sue Upton, and John Noe — current heads of the site team (now numbering 150 strong) — interviewed me this week on their weekly Pottercast. Great job over there, y’all, and thanks for the chance to reminisce.
The cast for Order of the Phoenix is announced, with Helen McCrory as Bellatrix Lestrange, Natalia Tena as Nymphadora Tonks, Kathryn Hunter as Mrs. Figg, and newcomer Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. (Previously announced were George Harris and Imelda Staunton.) I have no sense of any of these actors, but they all seem to look the part.
Joining Imelda Staunton for Year 5 at Hogwarts, veteran actor George Harris will play Kingsley Shacklebolt in the forthcoming Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (set to begin filming next month.) You may recognize him as Capt. Katanga in Raiders of the Lost Ark, or, more recently, as Morty in Layer Cake.
I assume most of y’all out there already know the story, but in a nutshell, Harry’s fourth year at England’s premiere Magickal Boarding School is one marked by three novel, terrifying, and wholly inscrutable challenges: (1) The Tri-Wizard Tournament (held every few years against rival academies Beauxbatons and Durmstrang); (2) the possible return of You-Know-Who (as announced by the sight of His Mark at the Quidditch World Cup); and (3) girls. Yes, on top of their usual troubles with magical enchantments and strange goings-on, Harry, Ron, and Hermione have hit those awkward middle school years, when a brief conversation with Cho Chang (Katie Leung), a waltz with Parvati Patel (Shefali Chowdhury), a bath with Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson), or a date with Victor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski) becomes as nerve-rattling as facing down a wayward basilisk. Nevertheless, the Yule Ball is only the least of Harry’s worries, as — for some reason and in defiance of all the usual protocols — he’s been picked as a fourth entrant in the highly dangerous TriWizard Tournament…and, even with the aid of new Dark Arts teacher Mad-Eye Moody (a superb Brendan Gleeson), it’ll take all the wits and combined resources of our teenage trio (well, and Neville) for Harry to make it through intact.
To their credit, Newell and screenwriter Steve Kloves have done an excellent job scaling down the dense 700-page novel into a sleek two-and-a-half-hour film. Goblet moves at such a brisk clip that rarely did I find myself (as I did in Azkaban) enumerating the remaining plot points to be explained. [For what it's worth, the House Elf subplot is gone, Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson, note-perfect) has basically one-and-a-half scenes, and the other TriWizard contestants -- particularly poor Fleur Delacour (Clemence Poesy) -- get somewhat short shrift.] In fact, even Harry’s usual nemeses — Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) and the scions of Slytherin — are for the most part pushed to the background here (although fans of those Schoolboys in Disgrace, the Weasley twins, will be happy to know that they get considerable screen time, and Ginny’s always lurking around too.)
Whatsmore, we’re definitely in PG-13 land this time. [Warning: Here there be spoilers, particularly for non-book-readers] Goblet is a film filled with unsettling images from its opening moments, from the floating Death Head above the World Cup to the highly creepy Pensieve flashback of Karkaroff’s plea hearing (Given recent events involving torture and secret prisons, I found this scene — and the contraption they were keeping Karkaroff in — particularly perturbing.) So it’s a testament to Newell’s vision that the scene everyone’s waiting for in Goblet of Fire, the big climax, is the creepiest one of all. The wretched, fetal You-Know-Who was disturbing enough, but once Voldemort emerges in all his twisted glory (looking a bit like the head vampire in Blade 2), Ralph Fiennes ratchets up the freak to eleven and almost runs away with the film. As I went to sleep last night after the midnight show, it was Fiennes’ crisp, lithe, and serpentine Voldemort (and his band of Klannish Death Eaters) that stuck in my head, exactly as it should be.
[As a tangent, and I'm probably thinking about this too much, but now I really like the shaggy haired dos of all our protagonists in context of the film -- I don't think it's just a nod to Kinks/Pink Floyd-ish boarding house visions or a post-Anakin fad. There's method to Newell's madness...As Stephanie Zacharek also points out, he's deliberately invoking the 70's as the uncertain, transitional adolescence after the heyday of the Sixties, as well as the cultural moment just before Thatcherism and the Tory revival. Everything's going to change, indeed.]
Imelda Staunton announces she’ll play Dolores Umbridge in Order of the Phoenix, while Ralph Fiennes talks more about Voldemort.
Five nice new international Goblet of Fire posters materialize online, headlining the various TriWizard contestants. I have to admit, between these and the very impressive trailer, I’m more excited for HP IV than I expected. It looks like Newell has given the series a darker and more epic flourish, which it’ll need as the films hit the backstretch.
The new trailer for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire premiered this morning, and it’s nine kinds of great — I didn’t have much faith in Mike Newell at the outset, but this looks like it may have turned out even better than Cuaron’s Azkhaban. Check out Mad-Eyed Moody, Cho Chang, Rita Skeeter, the lovely ladies of Beauxbatons, and is that You-Know-Who at the very end? Update: There’s also a new international trailer floating around.
The Leaky Cauldron procures the international trailer for HP and the Goblet of Fire (Scroll down.) With the exception of that truly terrible falling sequence near the end there, this looks like it could be as entertaining as Azkhaban.
Some trailers from afar: Psychiatrist Ewan MacGregor goes slightly mad (with Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling) in the trailer for Stay, and Harry fends off Triwizard contestants and schoolboy crushes alike in this teaser for the trailer for Goblet of Fire.
“I think probably the first two films were a little too saccharine and glib, even for Harry Potter fans.” As word breaks that Goblet of Fire might well be PG-13, Lord Voldemort emerges from hiding to parselmouth the Chris Columbus films. Ok, so You-Know-Who might not be all bad.
The Leaky Cauldron procures several shots from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, including new looks at the Triwizard contestants, Cho Chang, and Mad-Eye Moody here at right.
This, the sixth volume of the series, [is] the darkest and most unsettling installment yet…” (If you’ve gone completely spoiler-less, do not read this NYT review.) And now, if you’ll excuse me, with book in hand, I’m off to get my Potter on. Update: Done. Another fine outing, I thought — I posted a heavily spoiler-laden reaction over at WebGoddess.
On the eve of the Half-Blood Prince, letters are unearthed in which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, decries the Harry Potter books. “It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.” Well, if the future pope could handle the Hitler Youth, I think most kids’ eternal souls should be able to weather the Harry Potter tomes just fine.
B.K. DeLong of Brainstream reports that The Leaky Cauldron, the Harry Potter-themed blog I started at the old Geocities site years and years ago, has not only been deemed J.K. Rowling’s favorite fan site, but is also on the short list of press invites to Rowling’s home once the Half-Blood Prince arrives. A hearty congrats to the Cauldron team!
What did I have to do with this? Less than nothing, really — the site just kinda sat there until B.K. took it over and turned it into the flagship Potter fan site. But I did find this news another interesting reflection of just how much Internet-time’s passed since GitM first got off the ground (the second in two days.) I’m old, Gandalf. I may not look it, but I feel it…