What The Film!? is a weekly column exclusive to Under The Gun Review that brings to light the general fuckery Hollywood hoped you’d never notice. Written by Dane Sager, this column shows no mercy to films that try and pull the proverbial wool over our eyes.
If you know a film with major plot holes or those that make you scratch your eyes out, tell us! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “What The Film” and we’ll try to get your suggestion featured on the site.
I want you to think about big epic movie productions. Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, Star Wars, Avatar, and in that vein. There’s a lot of success in the genre, which is why they keep coming out, but it’s not a promised success. John Carter bombed. Disney dropped out of the Narnia franchise after two movies (leaving the third to be made by another studio). If Star Wars opened in 1977 with The Phantom Menace, there would be no sequels. It’s really hard to throw something into the crowded sci-fi/fantasy market and have it work, which is why I’ve actually avoided watching the Harry Potter movies.
I’ve read the books because of course I did, it was my childhood too. So this month, I’ve decided to sit down and watch every single Harry Potter movie. This will go on for four weeks, each week having two Harry Potter movies to discuss. I will be treating these movies the same way we here at Under The Gun have treated Twilight or any other book to film adaptation. If something happens in the movie that only makes sense after something from the book is explained, that will not fly. That’s bad story telling.
MOVIE ONE OF EIGHT:
Harry Potter And The Socerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone
The first thing I notice when I put in the DVD is that my girlfriend’s mom bought her the fullscreen version. That’s right. These movies that were shot, framed, and edited in 2.35:1 ratio and I’m watching a bastardized 4:3 version. If I were to say that I saw the whole movie is lying, since parts of the frame were cropped out. To say you’ve seen a full movie after seeing a 4:3 version is the same as saying that you’ve heard a full song after hearing the 1:30 iTunes preview. Why do these things even get made. Come on.
The movie begins with Harry, who is a baby at this point, being put in some sort of witness protection after his parent’s death because they know how important he is and how dangerous it would be for him to be in the wizarding world. Following this, there’s a short montage of him growing up and doing magic by accident. “It was like magic!” Harry yells incredibly unnaturally after making a glass pane disappear and letting a large snake escape a zoo.
Shortly after this, Harry, who has never received mail in his entire life, start getting mail that his Aunt and Uncle keep throwing away. The more they throw away, the more gets forced into the house. Uncle Vernon at one point decides to nail is mailslot shot, proudly stating “No mail is getting through here!” as if he didn’t commit a felony.
Ultimately, the family retreats to a tiny island home that is never explained why they have it, where it is, or how they got there. It’s a small Amnesia type shack on a rock island in the middle of nowhere. The mail doesn’t get to them, but Hagrid, a half giant does. He breaks down the door and explains to Harry that he was born to wizard parents and he needs to get his magical ass to Wizard school. Hagrid isn’t in anyway upset with the fact that Harry has been abused by his foster home and had been lied to his entire life about his family heritage.
And despite the fact that they put Harry Potter into weird magic witness protection because he was in danger, they decide to bring him back into the danger they’ve been trying to protect him from. “Dane, they think Voldemort is long dead. They believe it’s safe”. No. If they thought it was safe, they wouldn’t have put him into hiding. It’s not like how in Revenge of the Sith, Obi Wan puts Luke and Leia into hiding because while he wrongly thinks Anakin has died, there’s still an entire evil empire out there. There are two options here, one being that they thought Voldemort was dead and put Harry into hiding for funsies, or knowing the danger, they decide to bring him back into the magic world because Dumbledore can only get an erection when children are put into danger. Wait, that could explain a lot, actually.
Hagrid takes Harry through London to get to the hidden magical world. On this journey through normal non-magic London, not a single person bats an eye at the nine foot tall man escorting a tween through dark alleys. Once they reach Diagon Alley (a pun I’m ashamed I never got till I heard out loud in the movie), they visit the Grigotts Wizarding Bank. A bank designed by an architect that doesn’t know what right angles are and is staffed by the cast of Troll 2. After testing several wands at the wand store, the owner and bad guy from V For Vendetta tells him “The wand chooses you!”. Look, if the wand chooses you, then why did you let him play Russian Roulette with a bunch of wands for like ten minutes.
While on the train to Hogwarts, we’re introduced to the other two leads in the franchise and their purposes. Ron Weasley exists to make Harry look better and Hermione Granger exists to make harry look believable and not as perfect. Ron explains to Harry that photographs and paintings contain sentient versions of what it’s a portrait of. And then in a few scenes, he is surprised by a moving painting while on the way to the Gryffindor house. Ron, you grew up in a wizard family and literally explained that exact same magic a few minutes earlier in the movie. Holy shit, you are useless.
Once at Hogwarts, we’re introduced to the Sorting Hat which when put on your head, will decide which of the four houses you will belong to in Hogwarts. When it’s sat on Harry, it spends several minutes arguing with Harry about what house to be put into. Harry is insisting on not being put into Slytherin, a house he literally just heard of for the first time thirty seconds prior. The scene continues and no one seems to care that the sorting hat is having a debate with Harry outloud in front of the entire school. Everyone watches silently.
In summary, this is every class Harry has while at Hogwarts in his first year:
“Do this incredibly dangerous and difficult thing. I won’t show you how. I won’t tell you how. I won’t help or prevent you from hurting yourself and if anyone gets hurt, I will escort the student away, leaving the class alone with whatever dangerous thing I’m supposed to and failing at teaching you about. This is day one. Don’t die. Or do. I don’t care, I have tenure.”
The reason why I didn’t watch the Harry Potter movies were because when the first one came out, it looked like a silly kid movie. And it was. Not like a Pixar movie where it reaches people of all ages and doesn’t dumb things down. The casting and set designs are spot-on, but things are poorly explained and it has that insulting patronizing tone that kids movies tend to have. It just wasn’t a good movie. There’s some fun in seeing this world we grew up reading about, but that’s about it.
MOVIE TWO OF EIGHT
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
After the first movie, I was kind of dreading the first of seven sequels. Let me tell you: I was 100% wrong. Chamber of Secrets is a great adaptation. Part of me wants to chalk it up to the fact that once you introduce world in a first movie (Spiderman, Batman Begins, X-Men), you can use that world to tell a better story (Spiderman 2, The Dark Knight, X2: X-Men United). That isn’t it. The movie doesn’t do the same corny hand holding and weird idiosyncrasies that are never explained and characters can be described in more than one word this time around. Despite being a better adaptation lacking these failures, the movie still feels seemless with the last movie. It’s still the same world, except for this time it makes more sense and comes off as less insulting. I actually had to Google it to make sure that this was also directed by Chris Columbus as well (he directed the first movie, as well as Home Alone and Home Alone 2).
It was actually really hard to find flaws in Chamber. While the classes follow the same above formula (Draco tries to basically murder Harry and Snape only steps in after Harry calms the giant poisonous snake Draco summoned), the only ones I can think of are the fact that Ron’s father has a job involving the non magical world and is absolutely bewildered at anything that isn’t magic. It’s literally his job to know/learn these things and he has no idea. If you pulled a gun on a wizard in this world, they’d have no idea what you were doing. And if Ron’s father is any indication, the wizarding world is proud of their ignorance.
The big Quidditch match has an extensive chase with Harry and Draco going under the field, where we learn that the field isn’t a real field, but it is elevated on hundreds and thousands of wooden beams for absolutely no reason. Did the guy who runs the Wand store design this? Because he’s good at wasting time and money.
Harry and Ron end up having to impersonate Draco’s two goonish friends Crab and Doyle. They achieve this by having them eat floating pastries that cause them to be put into a deep sleep. Despite floating cupcakes being incredibly suspect, Crab and Doyle excitedly eat them. I didn’t realize Hogwarts and special education programs. OH SNAP.
Once Ron and Harry end up discovering/opening the Chamber of Secrets, they decide for absolutely no reason to bring their teacher Gilderoy Lockhart along. He’s the only character in the series more useless than Ron and they force him to go with them. There is literally no possible argument on why they bring him along. He tries to escape using Ron’s wand, which backfires on himself, knocking him back, causing the ceiling to cave in. Not only can Ron only help accidentally, but apparently the foundation of Hogwarts, a building that is still standing after being built over a thousand years ago, is made from those cardboard boxes that are painted to look like bricks that you used to play with in kindergarten.
Chamber Of Secrets actually made me do a complete 180 here. I was dreading these movies after Socerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone, but Chamber was great. It was a lot of fun and I’m ready to dive into the next one. I tend to live tweet my thoughts during the movies that don’t end up in the WTFilm. You can follow along by following me on Twitter and Tumblr!
Next Week: Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire!