Sunday, July 05, 2009

How WB made a whore out of Harry Potter

I miss Harry Potter.

Not that I was dating him or something, but there was a time not many moons ago - when the I'd been reading the third instalment of the hugely popular franchise - I was contemplating taking a membership in the Harry Potter Fan Club, if ever there was one. But then I saw the movie based on the third book - Prisoner of Azkaban - and I was left completely blah! by the end of it. I wasn't overwhelmed by the end of it, the trademark Harry Potter theme music that I'd come to love in the series' first two instalments had been replaced by something that resembled like a group of kids singing in a church choir.

Well I got no complaints with kids singing in the bathroom, or in the school bus or in the church choir for that matter, they may sing wherever they please, but how could Warner Bros mess with the theme music? One of the most important things that binds us to a super-hero series, or a whiz-kid series for that matter, is the background score. Superman Returns was wildly nostalgic, and much of it had to do with Bryan Singer's judgement in keeping the trademark soundtrack alive.

But that's as far as the music goes. The Harry Potter movies, by the time they reached its fourth instalment - The Goblet of Fire - had begun to resemble a hamburger filled with just too many stuffings, and too little a mouth to feed them. Simply put, as the books grew thicker, their equivalents on celluloid just failed to translate the magic. Shit happened yet again in the Order of the Phoenix - I found the screenplay too restless and hurried, and there were just a handful of moments which conjured up any magic similar to J K Rowling's narrative skills.

Some of you who're reading this may just sit back and say, "Oh, but the movies are rarely as good as the books!"

I'd like to point out that there have been some great adaptations, some which have been even more successful than the books themselves. I found Mira Nair's The Namesake particularly fulfilling and exceptional, as was Peter Jackson's The Lord of The Rings. Ditto for Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather series, and Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road.

Looking back, personally, what happened with the Harry Potter series is that I realised that its all a huge money making franchise, a big hoax, and the producers would go to any lengths to compress, devastate and puke out anything that comes out from the Warner Bros. studios that lasts 2 and a half hours long in the name of Harry Potter.

Basically, they've made a whore out of Potter.

Unfortunately for me, these feelings took a toll on my further reading of the series altogether. After I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I abandoned the series altogether, and today even if I have to make an attempt to read The Half Blood Prince, I give it a pass. It'll seem like an exercise in futility I think.

As readers, we often picture the characters in our heads in a certain way, and believe me, the reason we ended up loving the Harry Potter movies so much initially, was because our visualisation was much in sync with that of Christopher Columbus, the director of the first two movies - The Sorcerer's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets. However, the Prisoner of Azkaban was the ultimate letdown since it was unlike anything I'd pictured - I found it too dark, and missed the candy floss imagery that I still continue to attach to Hogwarts surroundings.

After that sequel, they got a new director to make a film out of Rowling's work - and each of them has added his own style. Now, while that's a good thing, what's bad is that there's a clear disconnect between the first two movies, and the rest of the series. Some may argue that the series itself got darker and very serious - Harry's learning the Dark Arts after all - but that's an excuse for a production design that seems heavily borrowed from the Kate Beckinsale's Underworld movies.

The people at Warner Bros have clearly realised that come what may, its time to make money out of the franchise as soon as possible and close the Harry Potter chapter. While that may bring excitement to Harry Potter fans, it does not bring the promise of satisfaction of seeing a good movie.

A lot of us who'll watch The Half Blood Prince when it releases in theatres this month, will probably watch the movie knowing that they'll be disappointed. But the allure of Harry Potter, created by J K Rowling, cannot be dismissed by the prospects of a 2-hour special effects bonanza steeped in regret.