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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” – Shakespeare

So. Many. Thoughts. Where do I begin? Perhaps at the very beginning – when a little magical baby survived a deadly attack from a very cruel wizard setting in motion events that culminated in the Battle of Hogwarts in which the evil wizard was finally defeated. But what if the magical baby did not survive? Or what if that cruel wizard did not kill him? What would have happened then and what would the world of Harry Potter look like today?

The Cursed Child may be a story in the future but its feet are planted in the past. At the heart of it is the misunderstood Albus Potter and his troubled relationship with his father, Harry. Albus is Harry’s middle child, mediocre in his magical prowess, forever in his dad’s shadow and a Slytherin. Can you imagine being a Potter and a Slytherin? Though 22 years have passed, the prejudice dividing the houses remains unchanged. He is further alienated from his friends and family because of his close friendship with Scorpius, Draco Malfoy’s son. Scorpius is rumored son of Voldemort which makes him very unpopular in school. Scorpius maybe Draco’s son but to me he seemed to be Ron & Hermoine’s progeny. He is funny yet nerdy and by far the most lovable new character in the series.

All through the story, Harry and Albus have a difficult relationship. Albus resents that his father’s celebrity status and is determined to find his flaws. Harry does not know how to deal with this moody, rebellious kid. Their failing relationship drives impetus to Albus’s mission to undo the wrongs of his father. A chance encounter with the Diggorys, Amos and Delphini, set Albus and Scorpius on a quest to reverse the past and save Cedric Diggory’s life. Time-Turners come into play and famous landmarks are revisited. We skirt the forbidden forest, swim through the pipes in the 1st floor girls’ bathroom at Hogwarts, take a dive into the Hogwart’s lake and find ourselves inside the Whomping Willow. Every time Albus goes into the past, he changes the future. The Cursed Child is a chance for JK Rowling to legitimize all the alternate endings which would have swirled in her head when she wrote Harry Potter the first time. There is a lot of fan service as we go back to some of the most pivotal events of the series. The most poignant is when we along with Harry witnesses the death of Potter’s parents – the gravity of letting fate take its place for the greater good.

I found the book to be surprisingly consistent to most characters. It’s not strange that Harry is not the greatest dad, he had after all very little experience with his own parents. It’s also not unusual that he is a bit self-absorbed by his past. He has been a celebrity since he was 11 years old and no one lets him forget it. He of course suffers from PTSD. Hermione has become the Minister of Magic and continues to be bright and resourceful. Ron has been reduced to a bumbling idiot – which was his point wasn’t it? Hermione’s daughter would of-course be named Granger-Weasely. All three of them would of course be celebrities – their lives well documented and well known.

This books is full of self-references and tongue in cheek humour. The irony of Albus, Scorpius & Delphi polyjuicing into the Ministry of Magic as Ron, Harry and Hermione isn’t lost on us. Inside jokes abound – lax security of Hogwarts, how you ‘must’ find life-long friendship on you first time in Hogwarts Express and so on.
There has been criticism on the quality of writing and stupidity of the story arches of The Cursed Child. I wholeheartedly agree. The writing is sloppy and simplistic at times. Scenes are wrought with high emotions. In one scene Dumbledore & Harry are crying and declaring their love for each other (not what it sounds like!) which seems quite out of character. Two young kids hoodwinking enchantments set by Hermione in the library scene seems far-fetched. Hermione repeatedly fooled experts when she was 17 – there is no way her enchantments would be this lame. What really saddens me is that somehow with age Harry & Hermione have become more of the politicians and less of the righteous wizard that we knew.

JK Rowling’s strength has always been in the storytelling – intricate plotlines that form pieces of a larger puzzle that keep coming together. She loves exploring relationships – with a lot of focus on friendships and familial bonds. You see patterns in our first seven books. Harry’s abusive childhood would lead him to form strong attachments with Hogwarts and the people he met there. With Albus, the story is inverted. Hogwarts is place he hates. But both share an unhappy childhood and both feel isolated. Both carry resentment for the life they were given are quick to anger and reckless. Both rely on friends over family. Both share a love for foolish adventure.

As The Cursed Child is a script, readers have complained that it doesn’t do a great job in creating a visual spectacle of magic that prose format does. I don’t necessarily agree. Magical is secondary in this story. The assumption is that the people reading are inherently familiar with the world of Harry Potter. Magic just happens and does not need to be explained. The story is really about love and friendship and loss. It’s about good versus evil. That’s what Harry Potter has always been about.


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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows : Part 2

Be warned! Spoilers Ahead!

IT ALL ENDS. Well not really, there is Pottermore coming up in October, so JKR ain’t done milkin’ this cow yet. But back to what would appear to be a graceful conclusion to this decade long saga…

It ALL ENDS. This summer’s biggest blockbuster release – the concluding part of the movie finale to the famous book series – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2– hit the theaters with all the associated mania. People lined up in mile long queues, dressed up in costumes, bought back to back tickets for the same movie and did a whole bunch of crazy stuff. Well, did the movie live up to the hype – I think yes!

I really looked forward to HP Part 2, not so much as it was the end of all the drama, but because I was really impressed by Part 1 and was quite eager to say how the rest of the more action packed half of the story will play out on the big screen. I oddly did felt a bit sentimental about it (though I was more emotional when the last book came out) and wanted to watch this quietly so decided to give the cinema a wide berth on the premier weekend. I waited for a week after the release and decided to catch an afternoon show. The wait paid off, I got excellent seats and an almost empty theater.

Now on to the movie – the first thing that hits you is the scale – everything is larger, darker, scarier and better. Every character has a permanent expression of impending doom on their face, except for Voldemort, who shows signs of megalomaniacal happiness. The whole movie can be basically seen as sum three segments of :

Now on to the movie – the first thing that hits you is the scale – everything is larger, darker, scarier and better. Every character has a permanent expression of impending doom on their face, except for Voldemort, who shows signs of megalomaniacal happiness. The whole movie can be basically seen as sum three segments of :

  1. Harry, Hermoine and Ron continue their journey to find the remaining Horcruxes.  A brilliant scene to watch out for – Hermoine impersonating Lestrange (excellent performance by Helena Carter) that really lightens the otherwise dark movie.
  2. Battleof Hogwarts – Very soon, the trio are in Hogwarts, and its here almost after 20 minutes into the movie, where the action really begins. It is also at this moment and onwards, that this movie truly belongs to Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry. I have always thought Radcliffe to be a bit of a wooden faced actor – but I think he really shows off his stuff here. He was extremely convincing in this intense performance – without the usual support of stronger adult actors in the same frame. Even Rupert Grint and Emma Watson had very little role in the final movie
  3. Harry Vs. Voldemort – This is the most crucial part of the story and the logical conclusion to all those years of adventure, pain and sacrifice. The first confrontation was perfect – exactly as I had imagined it. My all time favorite scenes from this were the “after death” conversation with Dumbledore and the scene where Harry sees his parents. The second and final confrontation left lot to be desired. In the book, this is an extremely important “coming of age” scene for Harry where he finally confronts Voldemort in front of everybody but without their help in a very classic “just you and me in this till one of us dies” scene. The movie took away the grandness of the scene by making it a very long chase through Hogwarts, a random free fall and the final confrontation which NO ONE WAS WATCHING

So did I cry – not really? I did get misty eyed a couple of times. However, I did so cheer for Hogwarts when the armored men came to life and formed a battalion against Voldemort’s men.  This scene looked and felt so much better than what it was in the book. And I felt so proud when Neville stood up to Voldemort and then killed Nagini – he has come such a long way!

I thought it was a pretty good movie – but I believe Part 1 was way better. There was something subtle and classy about it that just did not pull through to the second half.



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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Watching the seventh movie, made me go back and read the books again. Although I have re-read almost all the books several times, it really amazes me that these are still as engaging as in 2000 when I first started with the series.

In this post I will attempt to analyze the first book and a bit of the series and why it works. After all, fantasy fiction genre has a lot of literature to its credit – what was so unique about Harry Potter that it “revived” the reading culture, spawned a multi-million dollar movie franchise, gave a new life to fantasy literature and basically created history. Yes, savvy marketing and media generated hype for sure – but there is surely more credit to be given.

Let’s take a look at book one specifically. The book starts with an unusually quiet scene in a non-descript suburban neighborhood with something extraordinary going on – a cat that can turn into a woman, a flying motorcycle, an orphaned child and old man who most definitely is a sorcerer. You have to know what comes next! So in the very first chapter an interesting premise has been established.

Then the theme of the series is established in the first few chapters – “underdog wins the day”. No matter how many books and movies use this theme, it always works. Even though Harry Potter is this really famous wizard and is a celebrity – he is still the underdog. Its remarkable how JK Rowling creates this dual persona for him – super famous wizard since 1 year old, but orphaned, abused as a child, love hungry, dying to be someone. He comes to Hogwarts with no advantage – right from the beginning your heart goes out to him and you want him to win.

The third thing that interest you are the characters – for me a book never works if I can’t somehow empathize with the characters. And it’s easier said than done. JK Rowling does that with not just creating one but several immensely pleasant characters. But mostly she creates three very likeable protagonists – again not easy.

Harry, by the age of eleven, has had a pretty miserable life. It’s high time he was happy.  As a person he is quite nice – he is witty, intelligent, a little rebellious, eager to learn and so desperate to be loved. He may not be the perfect role model like “Hermione” but he has his heart in the right place – he inherently wants to be good. He is a believable hero.

How can you heart not go out to Ron Weasley – the youngest of six brothers, always getting hand me downs , destined to be friends with the most famous wizard in school – always living in the shadows.  In spite of his disadvantages, he is friendly, kind and fiercely loyal.

And then there is Hermione, my absolute favorite  character of the book. She may be slightly bookish and very competitive but she is intensely loyal, earnest, generous and the most compassionate of the three. She has the most defined moral values and sees generally sees things in black and white unlike her two best friends. Without her brilliance and presence of mind, Harry and Ron just can’t get very far.

Hagrid and Dumbledore are also very important characters in the first book. I believe that these two characters sort of fill the “paternal void” in Harry’s life as they mentor him through his first year at Hogwarts. The fact that they knew his parents also ties them to Harry strongly

The other ingredient to the story is the magical world that JKR creates – Hogwarts is fascinating and your mind leaps and bounces as you try to create mental images of moving pictures, hidden staircases, dark dungeons and the great hall. Wouldn’t a place like Diagon Alley be fun and entertaining? The attention to detail in creating this other world makes you almost wish that it was real.

The last but not the least, and what I believe is the defining reason as to why everyone is hooked from Book 1 is that, at the end of the day the saga of Harry Potter is really a puzzle. Every chapter in the first book reveals little pieces of the puzzle, and as we will read ahead, every book is a huge chunk of the larger story, but the complete picture remains  elusive till the end. As you read book one, there are so many questions to be asked – Why did Harry survive Voldemort’s attack? What was stolen from the safe at Gringotts? Why does the sorting hat suggest Harry be in Slytherin? What is the significance of The Mirror of Erised? Why does Dumbeldore see socks in it? Why is it “curious” that the wand that has chosen Harry is the twin of the wand that left the scar on his forehead? Will Voldemort return? What is Snape’s agenda? What were Harry’s parents like? Why did Voldemort attack Harry? What is Harry’s destiny?

Some of the questions get answered in the first book and others later. And sometimes, there are people, incidents and conversations that seem irrelevant but make much more sense later on.

The Philosopher’s Stone’s main purpose is to basically lay down the main characters, relationships, plot and landmarks for the larger story to unfold. It’s a very good start to a very entertaining story.

If you are interested in the movies, do check out  my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part


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Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows


When I first saw the previews of the HPTDH I got goosebumps on my arms. This was going to be the final release ( in 2 parts) that will truly end the magical saga of Harry Potter. Even though I loved the trailer. I had very low expectations from the movie coz I did not like Yates take on Book 5 & 6. There was so much going on Book 7 that I really hoped that he would not go about  changing the plot and adding inane scenes. And he didn’t.
Therefore, after a really long time. I went to watch a Harry Potter movie and came back thoroughly satisfied. ( the last time was after Harry Potter & Prisnor of Azkabaan ) . Yates and team got everything right – the tone of the movie, the pace, the relationships, the action sequences, the special effects and the little details.

The book fans will be very happy – others not so much. As one critic said – “Where the film falters is through the calculated exclusion of anyone not already steeped in Harry Potter lore. You’ll need to come in emotionally invested, though the chances of that are solid if you’ve read this far. Newcomers need not apply, as the whole affair would likely come off as a blustery exercise without prior knowledge of the books or films. ” ( falters according to him, not me)For me this was what I really liked most about the movie – that it stuck true to the book, did not pander to shipper fantasies and waste valuable screen time and did not explain any context. You were expected to know your Harry Potter ! About high time too!

Let me start with the things that I loved – spoilers ahead – you have been warned ! The focus of the movie was on Harry, Hermoine and Ron’s journey to find the Horcruxes –  not unlike  a coming of age cross country road trip that friends must take before high school is over! No I do not intend to trivialize. Nothing about this movie is trivial – Yates did a brillaint job of creating the sense of fear in the magical world – Voldemort’s rule has begun with him taking over the ministry and Harry Potter is the most wanted outlaw. Its hard to miss the fascist references with the red flyers, uniformed guards and dubious court proceedings against “mudbloods” and “halfbloods”. The war is on. And its upto 3 seventeen year olds to defeat Voldemort.  As Harry is being hunted, his presence only brings dangers to those around him. Harry, Hermoine and Ron leave the safety of the Weasely home behind and start the journey to find and destroy all the horcruxes. Now the first thing that I liked about the movie – the cinematography of this mostly outdoor shoot – the locales are beautiful but have this haunting , gloomy quality that convey the soberness of the movie. And the weather is always always cold. As you hear the constant noise of the radio announcing the names of the dead/captured in a soft monotone – you realize that this is not a kids movie anymore.

The second thing that I loved was that with the seventh installment, the focus is back on the three – Harry, Ron & Hermoine. Theirs is the most important relationship in the series and it is fitting that the 7th book be about their journey together. Radcliffe and Grint did a remarkable job but I thought Watson owned the screen. Her face was always an array of expressions that deftly dealt with changing situations. Watson is Hermoine Granger !! I am always partial to her as Hermoine has been my favorite character – she has more brains than Harry & Ron put together, and can be brave and can see things much far ahead than anyone else. I always maintain that she is the true hero of the series!

Anyway, moving on. I am not a fan of moview that mix narrative techniques but the macabre animation sequence to narrate the story of Deathly Hallows was absolutely artistic and brilliant. One of my favorite 3 minutes of the movie.

Yates & team got the action sequences spot on – the mid-air ambush over London, stealing the pendant from Umbridge in the Ministry, getting caught by the Snatchers and the face off with the death eaters. Perfect. The special effects were so brilliant that you did not even  notice them.

I also loved the fact the Yates did not gloss over the details this time and enough time was given to build the story – there were scenes where stuff was discussed and figured out and not just assumed or skipped over. It also gave time for character evolution.

I really cannot think of anything that I did not like. And its all because they stuck to the book  – thank goodness for that!

The movie ends also at the appropriate place  – it must have been tough to find that exact break in the story. Yes it is incomplete, but the end holds a lot of promise for the sequel. Cant wait for July.

Also, do check out Zoya’s reviw at http://silvermists.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/the-deathly-hallows-return/


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A huge let down : Harry Potter and Half Blood Prince Movie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a motley group of us who went to watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Some of us were die hard fans of the books, some of us die-hard fans of the movies ( and had never read the book), and some of us just for watching an interesting movie. And not one of us liked it.

I just love the Harry Potter books and hence have been time and again moderately disappointed by the movie versions simply because they dont always capture some of the essential details or parts of the storyline. But I have always appreciated the fact that it is practically not possible to do so in a movie.

However, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is so far away from the actual book that you wonder if David Yates had even bothered to read the book. And how on earth did JKR allow this to be screened.

Okay now for the review ( spoiler alert for people who have not seen the movie!). The story gets darker as Voldemort has risen and death eaters cause havoc throughout England.Harry has been declared as the Chosen One and the pressure on him to protect the wizarding world is even higher. Draco Malfoy also has chosen his side and its apparent that he is working under the orders of the Dark Lord – but what exactly are those orders? Meanwhile,Professor Dumbledore and Harry, work together to find that one weakness of Voldemort that can help in destroying him. An important new character in the movie is Professor Horace Slughorn, the new potions master, who is the only one who possesses the secret to Voldemort’s immortality. Sounds action packed and dark enough right?

Wrong. What could have been the darketst movie of all…is instead a frothy angsty teenage romance movie..urgh. The main themes mentioned above are given fleeting moments in the movie but otherwise we only watch and suffer the hormonal changes that trio ( Harry, Ron, Hermoine ) go through.

What is really frustrating is that not only has Yates taken away the meat of the 6th book – Voldemort’s history, the fight between the death-eaters and Order of Phoenix , the grand funeral of Dumbledore but has added scenes that we could have done without. The inane Lavendar Brown romancing Ron, Ginny tying Harry’s shoelaces ( WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT ABOUT), the stupid smirking and snogging by Hogwart’s students – yes we know they are getting older and horny, but do you really want to spend  1 hour of precious movie running time on that??

Enough said. Even if you had not read the book, there is very little in the movie to watch out for maybe except for the performances. Daniel Radcliffe is definitely maturing to be an above average actor ( still struggles with the emotional scenes), Emma Watson is convincing as usual and Rupert as Ron is hilarious and fits his role to a T. Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasly is boring. Jim Broadbent is a delight as Prof. Slughorn and the rest of the teacher’s team perfect.

Verdict: Yuck. It made me want to go back and read HP series once again just to remind myself why it was a good thing.

And I am not being biased – do check out another review by Silver Mists on this movie.