WHAT THE FILM!? – THE HARRY POTTER FRANCHISE (PART 4 OF 4)

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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 utgjames@gmail.com with the subject “What The Film” and we’ll try to get your suggestion featured on the site.

The boy who lived [has] come to die.

Part 3!

It’s the exciting finale of our editorials on the long-running/hella-crazy-successful Harry Potter franchise! Two movies a week for four weeks. Normally we’d just kind of say that all plot holes/inconsistencies/problems can be shrugged off by saying “I don’t know, magic?” but us here at Under The Gun Review can’t leave well enough alone and want to ruin it for everyone. Us included. This was our childhood too, you know.

It took me almost ten years to read all of the Harry Potter books because it took nine years for them to be released and it took me a month to watch all eight movies. Understandably, I could have done this in a few days, but I decided to stretch this out here because I didn’t want to miss a detail or complaint. Now, yes, I even admitted last week that a lot of my complaints about the franchise fix itself in time (like being told that death is permanent in Goblet of Fire and then explaining why death wasn’t permanent for Voldemort in Half-Blood Prince), but I have watched every single one of these movies with my Harry Potter fanatic girlfriend (has seen every movie, read each book about eight times each), who has answered every question I’ve had about the franchise (or ignored for comedic purposes), and in addition to this, I repeat, if it’s not explained in the movie then it is a plot hole or problem.

Shallow bitching aside, there are some problems with this franchise. I am a huge, die-hard, massive James Bond fan, so I understand the problems in having movie adaptations from a classic literary character, but I won’t make excuses for them. I have a Batman chest-piece, but that won’t stop me from bitching about the adaptations. I think Jurassic Park is one of the most important and perfect movies ever made, but I still felt the need to explain to people parts that weren’t explained in the movie.

“Why does the T-Rex stop attacking to roar?” “In the books, they explained since its vision was motion based, it would stop to roar to scare its prey into moving” “It’s not explained in the movie, so it just seems to be a dramatic flair added for no point”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Parts 1 & 2)

Again, I’ve explained that a lot of the complaints I’ve pointed out don’t make sense in the universe they exist in, but that doesn’t make everything go away. There are some huge lapses in judgement in the franchise and changes in character that seem unexplained. Hermione erases a guy’s mind completely, because ruining a person’s life with absolutely no chance of fixing it is more humane that killing him, the three leads use a teleportation spell when in conflict and when arriving in a worse conflict; decide to run rather than use the teleportation spell again, at one point Ron states there are seven Horcruxes when they’ve been told there are six (and no one knew that Harry was the seventh), and most damning of all; Harry carries a broken piece of glass that shows him the other side of it occasionally, and this is never ever explained what this is, where it came from, or why he even keeps it with him. Sure, Sirius gave it to him in the books, but is literally never explained in the movies. Suddenly Harry has a piece of magic glass. Deal with it.

“Well, I have this glass that watches me. That isn’t suspect”

But first, lets get onto the topic of Priori Incantatem. Priori Incantatem is explained briefly in the fourth and seventh movies. It’s when two wands that share the same core do battle, the spells tend to intersect in a massive spectacle that seems to be between whoever is magic-ing harder. It’s explained that this is rare, yet when Harry and Voldemort switch wands (at different times), it still happens between them. In the final battle at Hogwarts, it seems to happen to almost everyone battling with a Death Eater. Yes, visually this is more interesting than casting and blocking back and forth, but it goes against what we’ve been told in this world. This doesn’t even make sense in the book version of the franchise, it just sort of happens with everyone.

Also, at one point Professor McGonagall (the teacher who gave them the magical time machine device in a prior movie) asks what Harry needs and Harry responds with “Time! As much as you can get me!”. She doesn’t use the time-turner. Don’t introduce a time machine into a franchise, it basically invalidates it. I cannot stress this enough, the time-turner is the worst part of the franchise.

Ultimately, Harry and the gang end up defeating Voldemort and peace (presumably) returns to the magic world. Guess what? It’s great. For the most part, these movies get better and better. By the eighth movie, you’re invested into this universe and caring about it.

That’s the problem. You’re caring about the universe. Not the characters.

 

 

The real problem with Harry Potter

I know, that’s the problem.

The universe is engaging, the universe is fun, the universe is creative and wonderful and delightful and all sorts of awesome, unlike those that inhabit it. Harry is an incredibly boring character. He gets introduced as being unable to control his magic and then an hour into the movie, his skill level has been dialed from one to ten. There is no character development, there is no plot arc that leaves him a better person at the end of the franchise: he never changes. He is an awesome wizard. That’s his character. His morality is pure black and white, and yes, his world is mostly black and white, that makes him Superman (another boring character). The only way we can show Harry become a better wizard and leader as the franchise continues is by making those around him worse.

The irony in this is that because of it, those that the story makes more flawed (Ron, Mad-Eye, even Draco) become much more interesting. Similar to Twilight‘s Bella, there really isn’t a character behind the movie version of Harry. It’s just a loose enough idea of a person that we can project ourselves into, a fantasy from our bleak reality.

The majority of these movies don’t even have Harry do anything, the plot goes on without him. For a huge part of this franchise, Harry is a bystander in his own story.

In the first movie, Harry literally saves the day by the courageous act of touching a teacher.

I was originally going to find a character from a different franchise that grows and changes as his skill increases (I was going to use Luke Skywalker), but I realized I could actually explain how you make an engaging character that you cared about in this own franchise: Neville Longbottom.

Neville is the other child included in the prophecy against the Dark Lord and was seemingly introduced as comic relief in the earlier movies and is one of the best characters (if not the best) character in the franchise. You see him grow, you see him get better, you see him evolve. He didn’t start at a 10 and stay there, he worked his way up to being a hero. There was a real character arc with him and it works significantly better than Harry’s. When Neville stands up to Voldemort, it has real impact. When Harry does, it’s expected.

Man, Voldemort looked better before his nose job

It’s this lack of character development that makes the franchise not feel complete. When we see Sirius die, we don’t care. Sure, they explain that Harry has been talking to him and sending letters back and forth, but that isn’t enough. All we have to rely on the emotional depth of what is arguably the most important person in Harry’s life at this point’s death is the movie where we thought he was a villain and the one scene where he talks to Harry through a fireplace. Telling us that they’re close now doesn’t deliver a punch when the emotional kick comes. The relationship isn’t built at all in the movie franchise, making what should be an important part of Harry’s life almost meaningless.

Showing Harry get upset over it doesn’t mean anything if we aren’t shown the relationship.

Plus Harry always preferred XM over Sirius

The biggest issue of all is that since this universe is so engaging and wonderful, is that there are only eight movies. “Well, there are seven books, Dane”. They ran out of James Bond books like 28 years ago and the Bond movie franchise still is running. Skyfall is the highest grossing Bond movie (even when considering inflation) and most critically acclaimed Bond movie in almost fifty years. The lack of source material isn’t a problem.

Imagine sequels where you see Harry Potter as an Auror. You could continue that franchise indefinitely off of Auror stories. This is clearly the easiest possible way for continuing the franchise, but you can do so many more different stories! Imagine a prequel with Professor Minerva McGonagall as a nurse during World War 2, struggling over the moral issue of if she should use her magic on wounded soldiers. Imagine a re-imagining of the entire franchise from Malfoy’s point of view, his conflice with his Death Eater parents and wanting to make them proud while being harassed by a goody-know-it-all that everyone loves by the name of Potter. If you don’t think Draco Diaries wouldn’t be interesting, you’re wrong.

I will absolutely continue to support this franchise as it continues (as a WW2 McGonagall movie would probably be the best thing ever), but the key is to continue them. You’ve built this world, now let us live in it. Show us more. Voldemort can’t be the only dick in the franchise.

McGonagall in WW2 could be one of the best movies ever and you know it.

Dane is excited to read the books again to make sense of the movie version of what he saw! You can follow him on tumblr and twitter!

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  • Samantha

    I have one critique. I don’t know if you’re just talking about the movies but after Hermione turns in her time turner McGonagal returns it to the Ministry, where it is kept in the Department of Mysteries. After the 5th book Hermione explains (I can’t remember when) that when they went to the Department of Mysteries all the time turners were destroyed during the fight. So there are no more time turners. I believe J.K Rowling included this detail so Harry, Ron, and Hermione couldn’t just turn back time when things went wrong. So McGonagal was never in possession on time turners. She wrote the Ministry to get on for Hermione, and then gave it back to the Ministry when Hermione turned it into her