So Long, for So Little

“So Long… for So Little”. And thus my daughter summed up our annual Christmas movie, “Harry Potter and the Deadly Hollows, Part 1”. I agree with her assessment, for it captures well the essence of the problem.

I’m not going to go over the details of the story. If you care about Harry Potter, you’ve probably read the book (and likely seen the movie by now). If you don’t care about Harry Potter, by now you won’t be going to see this movie anyway. But suffice it to say that the story is part of the problem. Not the substance of the story, for it does its job of moving the Harry Potter story towards its final end. Rather, the problem is the length. Rowling suffered from sequelitis—each subsequent part got longer and longer and threw more into the story. Contrast the succinctness of the first book with the last. The screenwriters, when faced with the voluminous Volume 7, had two choices: preserve the story as closely as possible to satisfy the fan community, or trim-trim-trim to get a story that could be old in a reasonable time. If this had been live theatre, they would have had a dramaturge to have them tell the story effectively. But they chose the former option and hewed closer to the book. As such, the story had such length they had to split it into two movies, and they crammed so much into the first movie it was well over two hours. For all that length, the audience never got a good resolution. It didn’t leave me wanting more.

There were other problems as well. The first thing I noticed was the obviously catering to the 3D market. There were so many scenes that seemed to be filmed in such as way as to look spectacular in 3D, but come off as just tiresome in 2D. There was also far too much emphasis on the special effects. I found myself contrasting HP7.1 with yesterday’s movie, “The King’s Speech”. Whereas King’s Speechfocused on the story with no obvious special effects, HP7.1 seemed to focus on the effects just for the sake of the effects. This could be why it has made much more money, but it’s all eye candy surrounding a lack of substance.

One word about “the scene”. You know the one: where Harry and Hermione kiss, seemingly naked. It has generated quite a bit of controversy. My opinion that it worked fine in the context: it’s goal was to goad a character into action, and it did what it was meant to do. So it wasn’t in the book. Deal.

I am pleased to see the growth in acting abilities of the three principal actors. All have grown in skill (and we’ve seen Daniel Radcliffe on Broadway), but this was really Emma Watson’s movie. As I noted in my earlier review, a good aspect of a story is character grown. We don’t see it from Harry; he’s just reacting. We don’t see it that much from Ron. But we see Hermione grow in strength and nuance, and it was well played and well acted. It was also interesting to note the overlap in actors between this movie and The King’s Speech: in particular, Helena Bonham Carter and Timothy Spall. Take a look here for the full cast list.

We can look forward, if you call it that, to Part 2 of this in July 2011.

Theatre Notes. We saw this at the Pacific Winnetka, and Pacific is the parent chain to Arclight. The differences were astounding. Pacific had 5 minutes of commercials before the previews. The volume was loud enough to be painful. The projector bulb kept varying intensity, and the print and previews were showing signs of wear. The Arclight had none of these problems. Does that justify an extra few dollars. Perhaps.

Previews. This movie had five previews, none of which impressed me. “Season of the Witch” was a horror film, and in general I’m not a fan of those. Both “Green Hornet” and “Green Lantern” will be popular with those that love the superhero/comic genre, and will make a lot of money, but seemed to be too much action/special effects for me. “Kung Fu Panda 2 and “Yogi Bear” seemed to be aimed at the younger family audience with enough fart jokes for the teens—and thus drew no interest from me. So Hollywood was 0 for 5 this time. I think I’m spoiled by live theatre.

The Wrap Up. So that is likely it for my reviewing for 2010, unless I squeeze in something next week. In total, we saw 42 live theatre productions, 7 staged readings of episodes of “Meeting of Minds” (#2, #8, #10, #13, #19, #23, #24), 3 movies, 2 dance shows, and one Drum Corps show. The live theatre productions were “Lost in Yonkers”, “Camelot”, “The Andrews Brothers”, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”, “Ray Bradbury’s Wisdom 2116”, “The Story of My Life”, “On Golden Pond”, “See What I Wanna See”, “Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris”, “Damn Yankees”, “12 Angry Men”, “Little Shop of Horrors”, “The 39 Steps”, “The Wedding Singer”, “South Pacific”, “Dog Sees God”, “It’s Top Secret”, “The Rocky Horror Show”, “In The Heights”, “Grace and Glorie”, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot”, “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella”, “The Lieutenant of Inishmore”, “Young Frankenstein: The Musical”, “Seussical: The Musical”, “[title of show]”, “Speech and Debate”, “Side Man”, “U.S.S. Pinefore”, “Free Man of Color”, “The Glass Menagerie”, “Leap of Faith”, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, “FDR”, “Happy Days: The Musical”, “Varney the Vampire”, “Bell, Book, and Candle”, “Amadeus”, “The Wild Party”, “Harps and Angels”, “Uptown, Downtown” and “Next to Normal”. The movies were “It’s Complicated”, “The King’s Speech” and this movie. The dance shows were Celebrate Dance 2010 and VNHS “Momentum”

That was a lot. I hope you enjoyed reading the reviews as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Celebrate 2011 by going to see something: a live theatre production, a dance, a concert, or a movie. Share your opinions about what you see. I look forward to reading them.