Episode 121: HP7DHPt2 (Accio Spoilers)

July 22, 2011

deathly hallows part 2 podcast

We’ve given you a full week to see the film and something like four years to read the book, so we’re not even going to bother warning you this episode/blog post contains spoilers. Your puny Petronus is no match for our Avada Spoilavra anyway.

A decade of Harry Potter comes to a close with HP7DHPt2. Which is the second half of the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and not a new virulent strain of the flu.

Yet, like a malaise, this cinematic end is causing acute sadness in some people. It’s the end of a magical era. There will no longer be another installment to look forward to; No annual booster shot of enchantment to revive the spell cast by the books that were such a profound experience for so many.

In others there’s merely this vague sense of relief or, if that’s putting it too strongly, a sense of finality somewhat similar to putting a cherished pet to sleep after a long and fulfilled life. But a pet you were never really that fond of. What’s playing next?

Read the rest of this entry »

Project Potter: The Final Chapter

July 17, 2009

Now that I’ve read The Deathly Hallows—which really isn’t bad—I can finally lay this series to rest and sum up my views on books once and for all. Feeling I’d need to see how they ultimately played out, I’d been reserving judgement on a few things.

The first is the “friendship” between Harry, Ron and Hermione. I put friendship in quotes because throughout the seven books I never got the sense they actually like each other. Not truly and, to be honest, they’re all insufferable bores. Ron most of all who is a wiener through and through. His perpetual emo whining is bad enough but when coupled with his lingering jealousy of Harry’s fame and talent he becomes the biggest douchebag of all the characters. That’s including Malfoy and Snape. Suck it up, princess and grow some. What a twat. Hermione and Harry don’t rate much better. Between Harry’s stubborn moodiness and Hermione’s tight-assed know-it-all-ness, there’s not much to recommend any of the three. And in a book series where the theme of friendship and loyalty is a key ingredient it’s a problem when your trio of friends only hang-out together because no one else can stand them. The movies do much to fix this problem, but on the page it’s a flaw.

The other main flaw in this seven book series is it’s really a three book series. Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets could have been condensed down to one book. Goblet of Fire is fairly decent as it stands but could have incorporated the essential bits of the lesser quality Prisoner of Azkaban. The dismal Order of the Phoenix could almost be abandoned wholesale with any important information from it shoehorned into a combined Half-Blood Prince / Deathly Hallows. Though I can appreciate the seven books for seven horcruxes/years gimmick, I can’t see any evidence the story was enhanced by stretching it out over seven books. Clearly what was enhanced was the bank accounts of Rowling and her publishers. I can understand that as well. Potter became an industry and if they thought they could have stretched the series out to thirteen books, I could appreciate that from the standpoint of appreciating sheer marketing cajones. But as far as being a work of art (or entertainment), it’s a flawed concept in that it spread the story too thin.

Speaking of bank accounts. I suspect if Rowling’s ever gets too low we’ll see a new series of books where Voldemort’s crumb of a soul left in the King’s Cross purgatory to die will be brought back to life by a Death Eater who escaped arrest after the final battle. Just sayin’

Project Potter: Half Blood Prince

July 6, 2009

Though I enjoyed it more, generally, than Order of the Complainers, I can’t remember much of The Half-Blood Snape. I’m finding there’s not much to say about it. My one complaint is with all that’s going on, I find it hard to believe Harry would care much about quiddich or house points or girls. Okay, girls maybe. Love always flourishes in times of strife. But when Snape is unfairly taking points away from Gryffindor, the fact Harry thinks any of that matters just further strengthens my belief he is a big wiener. He may as well change his name to Skywalker.

Otherwise, there are only two things I can remember about this book. The first is the underground lake full of zombies. Awesome. Though Rowling massively pulls some punches in the that scene. She may have brought zombies to the table, but then she doesn’t let us have any. What a crappy host. I can only hope these Inferi creatures show up again in The Deadly Marshmallows and are used to their full potential.

The second big event is of course the Snapester killing Dumbledor. I have to give Rowling props for not having him saved by some contrived bit of magic like Snape’s curse was blocked by a cigarette case or a jinx-proof vest. Which is what I was expecting. I am however concerned he’s going to pull an Obi-Wan and show up as a ghost or, worse, is perhaps living in Harry’s wand.

Anyway, Half-Blood Prince. It’s alright. Don’t have much to say about it.

Project Potter: Order of the Phoenix, part 2

June 22, 2009

The waiting is over. I’ve finished reading Harry Potter and the Longest Wrap-up Ever. Although I can sort of appreciate what I think Rowling was trying to do with drawing everything out in this book—create a sense of tension leading up to the outbreak of the second war—I mostly just felt tediously annoyed by the annoying tedium. Even the final, perhaps a little too chaotic, climax drags its feet getting started. And after that grinds itself to a halt, there follows a denouement not even Tolkien’s attention span could grasp. OOTP so far holds the strange distinction of being the best written and worst edited book of the series. J.K.’s done a pretty good job here, but her publishers were asleep at the wheel. A position I found myself in as a reader for most of the book.

Project Potter: Order of the Phoenix

June 18, 2009

So, I’m halfway through Harry Potter and the Order of Whiny Emo Bitches. It starts with the titular Harry being the biggest whingey tit he’s been thus far in the series. Which is somewhat acceptable since he’s a teen and sometimes teens get irrationally moody about minor injustices. Fair enough. But then Sirius gets seriously mopey too. Not to mention the regular wheezings of the Weasley clan. What an annoying group of people. It’s a bad sign when Hermione is most pleasant character to read.

I suspect the whole Umbridge story resonates with teens in school more than it does me as well. Once you leave school, people like that aren’t in your life anymore. It’s hard not to feel like they’re playing it all wrong with her. They should keep their heads down and wait it out. But then it’d really be a whole book about people sitting around waiting for something to happen. I mean, more than it is already.

Project Potter: Goblet of Fire

June 12, 2009

Quiddich is probably my least favourite aspect of Harry Potter. Goblet of Fire starts off with a lot of quiddich. If I wasn’t already aware the titular goblet isn’t a quiddich prize, I’d have been worried the book was going to be all quiddich all the time. But in fact, after the quiddich heavy opening, the book is almost quiddich free. Which might be why I started actually enjoying the book about a third of the way in.

That’s right, at least the last half of Goblet of Fire is actually fairly decent. For the first time the characters are actually fleshed out into three dimensional (though still stereotypical) people and more time is spent on believable interpersonal relationships. These interpersonal relationships take the form of Degrassi-like jealousies and emo-douchiness, but at least they ring true. Finally people are behaving in this magical world like people instead of archetypes cut from  farytales. Which is why, in spite of the series seeming to get better, the first three books are still lifeless and shallow. I can see how readers can project the three dimensional characters from the latter books onto the early books in hindsight, but that doesn’t make them good books. They should have been able to stand alone. I still feel the strategy to begin the books for a young audience and age them progressively with the characters was a conceptual flaw. The last third of Goblet of Fire just affirms that more. The darker, deeper, and better, the writing gets, the worse the earlier books seem to be.

Another problem attached to this is the way the wizarding world fits in with our muggle world.  In Philosopher’s Stone the wizarding world being hidden from us more or less works because the book, written in a simpler more just-go-with-it-it’s-a-damn-kids’-book way, allows for more willful suspension of disbelief. The sheer goofiness of the first few books is their get out of Azkaban free card. But once Rowling took the plunge and started to bring the stories homea bit more, the holes in the premise that there’s hundreds of thousands of wizards living secretly all over the world become a little more gaping. Why are they hidden? How do they manage to stay hidden? Surely there’d be enough rogue criminal wizards running around using magic to rob muggle banks and live the good muggle life there wouldn’t be enough memory charms to keep it secret. Are there wizard “Men in Black” running around continually flashing us? And I don’t believe they could catch all the bad wizards and stick them in Azkaban either. If the wizards live among us, why don’t they understand our technology at all? For that matter, do they or don’t they live and work among us? It seems to flip back and forth to suit the situation. Again, why are they hidden? Why aren’t they helping out with climate change and pollution? It’s their planet too. Are wizards just bastards? And what are the rules about muggles not being able to see magical creature like dragons and gnomes but other stuff needing to have charms placed on it to “hide” it? How does that all work?

This is my main qualm about the series at this point. While the action is taking place at Hogwarts, I can ignore it. But once we’re back at Privet Drive, all these WTF questions keep popping up in my mind. I’m wondering how (or if) this is all going to get explained by the end of the books.

Project Potter: Chamber of Azkaban

May 29, 2009

I finished Chamber of Secrets a while ago. For that matter, I also finished Prisoner of Azkaban. I’ve been terribly neglect in keeping blog posts up to date on my progress.  I guess I haven’t wanted to spoil any comments I might make on the podcast segments. I guess I have to get over that hurdle and blog as I read. Anyway, here’s my thoughts on books two and three of the Harold Potter epic.

Chamber of Secrets:

Plagiarism 1: The flying car was bad enough before it freaking turned into Herbie the Love Bug.

Plagiarism 2: Aragog the giant spider is not only a cut-and paste of Shelob from Tolkien, she isn’t even used to full effect. Half the book is spent building Shelob, I mean Aragorn, er, I mean Aragog up as the monster only to entirely discard it 6/8s of the way through. The final battle at the end would have been way more epic if it’d be between a giant freaking snake and a giant freaking spider instead of a giant snake versus a weepy bird and a blubbering emo git.

Ridiculous contrivance 1: Tom Riddle‘s name being the lamest riddle ever didn’t add much to the scene. If you’re going to play the anagram name game, you need to do a few things. First, you have to give the protagonist and reader all the clues early enough on in the book that there is even a point to having the riddle in there. Springing it at the 11th hour just seems pointless. Secondly, the name needs to be believable enough to not be obviously contrived to make the anagram work. Movolo is not only worst made-up middle name in fiction, it’s doubly bad that it’s only there because it’s the best Rowling could come up with to spell out something to do with Voldemort. A much better anagram of Voldemort is Dr. Tom Love.  No one would suspect Dr. Love of being the dark lord.

Plagiarism 3: At some point they start talking about wizards “going over to the dark side.”  Steal the concept, sure.  But come up with your own terminology at least. Shameful.

Ridiculous contrivance 2: Why the hell does Harry have to go back to live with the Dursley’s every summer. Surely Hagrid, the Weasleys, the Grangers or even Dumbledore would take him in for the summer if they knew the extent of the psychological abuse he was enduring. Or does Dumbledore think it’s character building? Does it keep Harry’s ego in check? Is this ever explained? Mandi suggested there’s a protection charm on their house, but I think she got that from a fanfic. At the very least, it couldn’t be safer than Hogwarts.

But also, after battling Voldemort, giant snakes, werewolves, giant spiders and Dementors, you’d think Harry couldn’t take Uncle Vernon as a serious threat anymore. Even if Harry isn’t allowed to use magic against Vernon, you’d think he’d view the man as a total joke after what he’s been through. “Sure, bellow at me in  ALL CAPS. What-ever, you fat pathetic fuck of a loser. I just killed a fucking giant snake with a fucking bejeweled sword and killed it’s master with it’s fucking poisoned tooth.” Harry is an actual teenager, right? He needs to take a page from James Tiberius Kirk‘s book.

Plagiarism 4: Dementors = Nazguls. Cut and paste.

Ridiculous contrivance 3: I guess we’re into Prisoner of Azkaban territory now. Remus Lupin is raising Rowling’s cornball naming conventions to a new low. Mrs. Sprout the herbalist was bad enough but a werewolf named Lupin is shameful. Naming him Remus is even worse. Especially since he doesn’t come from a werewolf clan, he was bitten as a child. How his brother Romulus, or anyone in that world unfortunate enough to be named Wolfgang, escaped being bitten is beyond me. Apparently if you’re a wizard, names are entirely prophetic. Or, at least, maddeningly contrived. If your last name is Welles, don’t name your kid Trip.

Ridiculous contrivance 4: Though it’s nice they used time travel to rescue Buckbeak, there was no need to use Buckbeak to rescue Sirius Black. They didn’t need a flying creature to get up to his window when they all have freaking broomsticks. I guess just like all the times they forget they have an invisibility cloak to better drive the plot, they forgot about the broomsticks. Fair enough, it was more fun to read about than a simple, intelligent plan.

Ridiculous contrivance 5: I’d like a little more information about the wizard judicial system because it seems to be a kangaroo court that operates on circumstantial evidence.

Now, there were things I enjoyed about these two books. I would hate for you, dear reader, to think its been one long torturous slog I haven’t been enjoying. Not so. The books are fun and entertaining. And though I take issue with some of Rowling’s more contrived plot machinations, she does write with a well-paced flow and is a master of foreshadowing. She can write a satisfying page-turner, I will give her that. She’s not bad a light humour either. I can’t actually remember anything I did like especially. I guess just everything except what I’ve listed above.

In some ways, I’m not sure why Harry Potter brings out the critic in me. After all, I can swallow Star Trek lock, stock and two smoking phaser-banks. I think Potter is a classic nerd hurdle for me. Classic in that it’s the fervent passion of the fans that get my critical back up and make me say, “Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa! It’s not that good. And here’s why…”

Next up: Goblet of Quiddich. It’s not all about freaking quiddich is it?

Project Potter: The one with the flying car.

May 12, 2009

So, I’ve taken on Project Potter. This summer I going to read the Wizard People books from the one with the flying car to the one people went batshit over when it was released. I’m not reading the first one because I’ve read it already and have seen the movie three times, including the much improved Brad Neely version. I feel like I’ve lived that one sufficiently. With Project Potter I’m going to take you on this reluctant reader’s journey into a magical world of uncited plagiarism of a thinly veiled Discworld fanfic.

So far I’m several pages into the one with the flying car. It’s alright. Too many sentences are set in ALL CAPS. The ALL CAPS are not set in BOLD so I suppose that’s a touch of restraint I can give J.K. some props for. The worse-than-Lucas naming conventions have not angered me too much. Except for Miss Sprout the gardening instructor. Dear Reader, what you are not able to witness is me shaking my head in resigned disbelief.

I invite you all to join on this quest. We can get through this.

~ Jakob

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