The Chamber of Secrets (partially) Opens…

Well, the first four chapters of the Chamber of Secrets opened this morning on Pottermore for members of Slytherin House. And of course, that means that they will open tomorrow for EVERYBODY!

I wrote in my most recent post that I will be reporting about the new content on the day that CoS opened to Slytherin. However, Pottermore is up to its usual coding problems. Some Slytherins who have been on Pottermore since the Beta cannot currently access CoS, while some Slytherins who just joined yesterday can.

Unfortunately, I was one of the Slytherin Betas who could not access it. However, a friend of mine told me a nice workaround, so I just gained access. I’ll post my friend’s workaround here for any Slytherins who are still having trouble gaining access (this should work tomorrow for anybody else who is having trouble getting in to CoS):

SLYTHERINS: If you go to the very end of PS/SS and click the arrow at the end of the chapter to get you back to the Gateway and then click the snake icon for CoS, you should find that CoS has now entry points.

So, now I’m going to go explore the first four chapters of CoS and report back in my next post… in between these lovely spoiler tags:

SPOILERS EXPECTO PATRONUM STYLE!!!

Enjoy!

Waiting for Pottermore: checking the spam

Well, here’s a little trip down memory lane… a blog draft that I never actually published.

It has, perhaps, some historical value in that it offers a sense of what the wait for Pottermore was like for the Beta testers who had not yet received their welcome emails. All we could think about was… WHEN AM I GONNA GET THAT STUPID EMAIL?!?!? It was really a lot like watching paint dry.

Here’s a little example of how I killed time while waiting (written August 20, 2011)…

Hey, you know the wait for your Pottermore Welcome email is starting to get to you when you start seeing poetry in the gibberish dumped in your spam filter.

After representation whatsoever of your blogposts I moldiness say i pioneer this particularised one to generally be top nick. I mortal a weblog also and necessary to repost a few shear of your articles on my own diary tract. Should it be alright if I use this as daylong I private reference your web diary or create a incoming linkage to your article I procured the snipping from? If not I make and could not do it without having your tolerance. I [deleted] collection starred this article to cheep and [social network mentioned] calculate motivated for publication. Anyway revalue it either way!

At first, I wondered if it was an honest attempt at communication in a second language. Then I checked the URL the spammer left. Porn site.

So yup, it’s spam alright. But the English is sooooooooo incomprehensible that there’s something  wonderfully surreal about it. I mean, “I moldiness say i pioneer this particularised one to generally be top nick”? Could Monty Python be much funnier than that?

Perhaps I really do belong in Ravenclaw!

Why?

Because as the House History tells us… the key quality for being sorted into Ravenclaw House is not merely intelligence but eccentricity. The House prides itself in its independence, intelligence, and eccentricity. After all, it’s the House of Uric the Oddball… and what could be odder than running through the spam filter with comedic intent?

Geez, that Hat had better not sort me into hyper-normal Hufflepuff.

Six days later, the Hat sorted me into Slytherin. And I’ve never looked back!

Still Waiting for Pottermore? – Here’s More DH2

I’ve got about 40 minutes until my potion finishes brewing, so… okay, where were we before I got sucked into Pottermore? As I recall, we were discussing DH2. And I still had a few things left to say.

For me, the movie “worked” all the way up until the final battle with Voldemort. Thankfully, it had worked in a big way to that point from the moody opening, with Snape on the balcony and Harry at Shell Cottage, through the tense conversation with Aberforth, through the the look of heartbreak on Snape’s face when he realizes he must duel McGonnagall (not to mention his quick-thinking in taking out the Carrows and leaving Hogwarts to McGonnagall), all the way through the Battle of Hogwarts, the Pensieve memories, and King’s Cross.

I cried when Hermione blasted Fenrir off the dead body of Lavender Brown, her former rival for Ron’s affections. I cried when Aberforth announced his return to the fight by casting a powerful Patronus. I wept, like everyone else, over the fallen heroes in the Great Hall… and then over Snape’s memories in the Pensieve and Harry’s walk into the Forest.

The first three times I saw the film, though, I did not cry over Snape’s death. I just sat there with my mouth hanging wide open, hyperventilating. Curiously, a few friends who do not like Snape did find themselves crying… and then hated themselves afterward. LOL.

On the fourth viewing, I finally did cry. I think maybe it was because the theater was nearly empty. Snape is the character who resonates most with me, and so his death is the one that is most personal to me. I think I probably just needed some time alone in order to really let loose. And when I finally did, I cried so hard that my eyes were burning with the salt of my tears!

But enough of Snape for now, what I really want to talk about is the big VoldyBattle.

I suppose that any moviegoer would prefer a running-around-the-castle-Wizard Battle over a Harry talk-a-thon. BUT the problem with the sequence for me is that it creates the misperception that Harry could actually match Voldemort in power and skill. I mean… Srsly?

In the book, Harry wins because he understands the situation (the Elder Wand belongs to him) and because he sacrificed his life in the Forest to kill the scarcrux… not because he’s more powerful or more skilled than his antagonist. As a consequence of Harry’s sacrifice, Voldemort really can be killed. All it takes is for Harry to cast a disarming charm at the same moment that Voldemort casts a killing curse. The Elder Wand will do the rest.

Now, none of this is to downplay the significance of what Harry has done. In going into the Forest, he becomes a truly great man, a sacrificial figure, a young man willing to lay down his life in order that the Wizarding World might live. That, imo, is of far more significance than wizarding power or skill.

But the film plays up power and skill – matters in which Harry cannot begin to match Voldemort – and downplays the sacrificial significance of Harry’s walk into the Forest. Though I understand some of these choices from a cinematic standpoint, this is one matter in which I think the film does the book a disservice.

The point is not that Harry wins because he has power. The point is that he wins because he has love.

Well, my potion has finished brewing, and I was supposed to get House points, but the system logged me out, and I didn’t get the points.

(Funny how I never fail to lose points when I melt a cauldron but never seem to gain points when I successfully complete a potion. Argggggg. There’s Beta for you!)

Anyway, I’ve finally said everything I have to say about DH2. So next stop for those waiting is to start in on the Random Re-read. First chapter up is the first chapter in PoA: “Owl Post.” Should be fun!

Waiting for Pottermore DH2: The Taunting

A fifth batch of emails has been sent out, and there’s still not one for me.

So with that in mind, Expecto Patronum! continues the “Waiting for Pottermore” series…

Note: While we continue the never-ending wait for the Pottermore email, we carry on bravely with our discussion of the DH2 movie…

“Severus Snape wasn’t yours,” said Harry. “Snape was Dumbledore’s. Dumbledore’s from the moment you started hunting down my mother.”

I, and a lot of people, waited for that line in the movie…
and it never came.

After thinking about it, though, I have a theory about why the filmmakers cut it.

It was redundant.

In the book, Harry needs to say it out loud (or think it internally) so that the reading audience gets the point of what he sees in the Pensieve. Yet even with several pages of Harry circling around Voldemort, proclaiming that Dumbledore planned his death with Snape, there remains a tiny contingent of readers who still insist that Snape was truly working for Voldemort and that Harry was merely taunting Voldemort with Snape’s loyalties. He didn’t really mean it. *shrug*

In the movie, though, it’s kind of impossible to miss, or explain away, Snape’s true loyalties. Film is a visual medium, and here is what the viewers (and Harry) get to see…

"You have your mother's eyes"


"... and you're special"


"He doesn't need protecting..."


"So... the boy must die?"


Sure, Severus cradling Lily’s body at Godric’s Hollow is extra-canonical. And sure, Severus never actually says “You have your mother’s eyes.” But movie-only viewers don’t have the advantage of reading the text… over and over and over again… and thinking about its implications. They need to have things spelled out visually. And this approach to the backstory does have JKR’s highest blessing:

“They do it perfectly in the film, that was a place I was very glad they were faithful to the book. Snape’s journey is important, it’s such a lynchpin of the books, the plot can’t function without Snape.” ~ J. K. Rowling

After witnessing the series of images from Snape’s demise through the Pensieve memories, the viewing audience has no question that Severus loved Lily from the time he was a child or that he had been working for Dumbledore – and against Voldemort – ever since the Dark Lord started hunting her down. Viewers don’t need Harry to tell them that. And so, in the movie, he doesn’t.

I’m disappointed, of course, to find one of my favorite moments missing. But I’m appeased by the recognition that it was not necessary to show it. How about you?

Let us know in the comments.

Waiting for Pottermore: Stupefied

Here’s an amusing follow-up to the last post on DH2. Enjoy!

And speaking of stupefied…

Luna is now a Gryffindor. Yep, Luna actress (and big HP fan) Evanna Lynch sorted into Gryffindor on Pottermore.
(Many thanks to janinavalencia for finding and sharing that information).

Here’s what Evanna tweeted out about the experience:

Ahhhh umm errrrrr…. Just got sorted. Slight identity crisis. Need to sit down and process this… #pottermore

I’m in Gryffindor. #Pottermore #confusion #shock #pride #happiness #LUNADONTLEAVEME!!!

I don’t know what to do. I feel like Jo just told me I’m a man. I’m SO utterly confused.

Gryffindor! Woahhh what an honour! I’m so happy! But confused! But happy! BUT CONFUSED. #Pottermore #farewellravenclaw

Dammit, now I have to change my whole bleedin’ wardrobe!!! #pottermore #butredandgoldarenotmycolours

Sorry for the tweet explosion… I’m just…having a moment. #farewellravenclaw #pottermore #JowhathaveyouDONE?!

Sounds a bit stupefied herself, doesn’t she?

I guess we can now use this pic with feeling!

Luna in her Gryffindor Lion hat

Waiting for Pottermore DH2: choices, choices, choices

Note: While we wait for the Pottermore email, we continue our discussion of the DH2 movie…

But first… you need to know about the most deeply horrible, astonishingly EVOL poll in the history of humankind:

It’s the Anglophenia Fan Favorites poll, in which we are given the choice of voting between Alan Rickman and Benedict Cumberbatch or between Colin Firth and David Tennant.

In fandom terms, that translates:

Professor Snape (or Colonel Brandon/Alexander Dane/Hans Gruber/ Sheriff of Nottingham) VS. Sherlock Holmes.

and…

Mr. Darcy VS. Barty Crouch, Jr. / The Tenth Doctor

Yikes! Those are choices that really hurt – probably at least as much as the choices the filmmakers had to face in translating the second half of Deathly Hallows to the screen.

Choices that hurt

Let’s say you’re doing a book that fans are passionate about. There are moments that fans have been dying to see…

Fred’s death, for example. Or Snape’s loss of Lily’s friendship. Or Dumbledore’s backstory. Or Snape saving Lupin’s life and telling the portrait not to say “Mudblood.” Or Harry taunting Voldemort with Snape’s true loyalties and giving Riddle one last chance at remorse.

But you’ve got this other audience to account for… the audience that never reads the books and only sees the movies and that could care less about the intricacies of wandlore.

How do you make a movie that gives the book-fans enough of what they want to see and is still comprehensible for the movie-only fans? That’s the dilemma that the filmmakers were faced with. And they left every single one of those “dying-to see” moments out… yet managed to leave most fans feeling satisfied.

Let’s talk about a few of those choices…

The Mudblood Incident

One of the key complaints I’ve heard from one small corner of the fandom is that the film’s portrayal of “The Prince’s Tale” makes Severus Snape look like an innocent victim by failing to present the “Mudblood” incident or its aftermath.

Okay, I personally wanted to see this material on the big screen, but after giving it some thought, I realized that it presents a devil’s snare of potential difficulties. Here is what I wrote about it on the CoS forum:

I would have liked to see them include the “Mudblood” incident too, but in thinking it over, I realized that its inclusion is fraught with all sorts of potential difficulties for other characters – difficulties that I doubt the filmmakers wanted to unleash, particularly given the raw emotional power of Rickman’s overall performance.

As soon as Rickman’s Snape starts showing the depth of his pain, he’s got the audience in the palm of his hand. If the pain had started sooner, beneath the portrait of the Fat Lady [when Lily cut off their friendship], it could have swayed movie-only audience opinion in directions that the filmmakers would not have wanted – like against Lily, for instance. That wouldn’t be fair, since he used the word [Mudblood] on her, but film is an essentially emotional medium, and film audiences love redemption stories – especially when a character is in love. Film audiences generally want to see all but the most monstrous characters given a second chance after they’ve blown it in a big way.

In that context, the filmmakers probably made the right decision to cut the incident. They could not really tell which character(s) would get hurt the most by showing it, and filmmakers like to know exactly what audience impact will be.

There are additional problems with its inclusion as well. David Yates used a portion of SWM (“Snape’s Worst Memory”) in the OotP movie, but he did not incorporate the “Mudblood” incident. Adding it for DH2 would require re-shooting the earlier scene or working some digital magic to insert Lily into it. And that, of course, would mean casting a third actress to play Lily’s part – and getting Alec Hopkin (Teen Snape) back to utter the unforgivable word. (ETA NOTE: The additional material with a third Lily that was originally shot for OotP and then cut would not help since Harry is in the frame – in completely the wrong clothes and without all of the battle grime and gore that we see in TPT).

In addition, I think that the complaint that the exclusion of the Mudblood incident makes Snape look like an innocent victim is a product of very short-sighted thinking. What is most visually striking about the incident (and film is a visual medium) is watching James Potter and the Marauders launch an unprovoked attack on Severus Snape. In all likelihood, including the incident in the film would make Snape look even more like a victim.

Little James is puckishly cute as he runs through the halls tipping over his “victims'” school books.

This James, though, is hardly “cute” as he attempts to remove “Snivelly’s trousers”:

I would humbly submit that the filmmakers just didn’t want to go there with James, particularly given that they will later need to present him sympathetically in the Forest… and there’s really very little story to get the movie-only crowd to buy in to that sympathetic portrayal once the filmmakers re-unleash SWM. It’s hard enough already for many book readers to make the leap of faith into believing that James simply changed, and book readers have information that the movie-onlies don’t possess.

The choice the filmmakers made, then, was to make nobody look very much like the victim, and nobody look very much like the perpetrator. For purposes of the film, it was probably a wise choice.

Weasley Loss and Gain

Some book fans are angry at not seeing Fred die. And one big question many fans have asked is, “How the heck did Percy get there?”

That’s a good question! But there are actually other people whose return is a bit confusing – for instance Cho Chang (what’s she doing there in the Room of Requirement when she graduated the year before?) and Luna Lovegood (how’d she get there ahead of Harry, when she’d last been seen at Shell Cottage?). In the case of the Ravenclaw girls, my assumption is that they are there mainly to answer Harry’s question about the lost diadem. And yes, they are supposed to be there, even if the film never quite lets us know how they arrived.

Percy, though, has one of the book’s more dramatic entrances into the Room of Requirement, and we never see that drama in the film. I do think, though, that the filmmakers’ decision (while perhaps making Percy’s sudden appearance confusing for book fans ) actually makes matters less confusing for the general movie audience. Percy’s estrangement from his family has never become an overt plot point in the films. We do see Percy doing Ministry duties at cross-purposes to Harry and Dumbledore, but that’s about as far as that subplot goes. And let’s face it, without the subplot, many movie-only fans probably don’t really remember who Percy is anyway.

So, that nixes Percy’s big entrance because the big entrance would simply not make sense. And sorry, but if we nix Percy’s big entrance, we also nix witnessing Fred’s death. Yeah, we could still see Fred die, but we wouldn’t see it in the context of his welcoming Percy back into the family and later Percy throwing himself on Fred’s dead body.

If we remove Fred’s death from the context of Percy’s return, we may as well see Fred lying already dead in the Great Hall. And that is the choice the filmmakers made. Rather than go for overkill by showing Fred die on the screen and then show his family mourn, the filmmakers went the more subtle route of showing him already dead, surrounded by his family.

Whether we actually see Fred die or not, this scene still has tremendous emotional impact. I have not gotten past it once without breaking into sobs.

Dumbledore’s Backstory

King’s Cross is a big disappointment to many people. The wandlore, the backstory, Dumbledore’s remorse – all of it is missing.

Most of the essentials, though, were presented in DH1. And when the filmmakers decided (ACK!!!) to negate Grindelwald’s big moment of defiance and remorse, they couldn’t exactly go deeply into the Grindelwald plot in King’s Cross. In fact, I predicted in November that this would happen.

At least Ciaran Hinds’ fabulous performance – bringing to life Aberforth’s hundred years of bitterness – implicitly verifies the depth to which Albus Dumbledore had sunk in his youth. If we want to know more detail about the manner in which Albus’ choices sacrificed his sister’s life, we can always consult the books – or at least the nearest Potter fan. :)

Honestly, though, I did miss the King’s Cross wandlore. I suppose I experienced a bit of it vicariously through the interaction between Harry and Ollivander at Shell Cottage. But after all we’ve seen of the wand, would it truly have been too much information for the general movie audience if Harry had briefly discussed the Elder Wand with Dumbledore?

Well, at nearly 1500 words, this post has now gone on too long (thanks for making it this far with me!). So  I think I’ll devote my next DH2 post entirely to the element I missed the most… and why I think it made sense for the filmmakers to cut it.

Until then…

Waiting for Pottermore DH2: The echo of a memory

Note: While we wait for the Pottermore email, we are talking about the DH2 movie…

DH2 covers my favorite half of my favorite book in the entire HP series.

We have the heist at Gringotts, the trip into Hogsmeade, the Battle of Hogwarts, the dip into the Pensieve, Harry’s walk into the Forest, the final duel with Voldemort, and 19 years later.

When I saw this film – 3 times in its first 10 days – my mind, and my emotions, were so completely blown that I couldn’t even write coherently about it. I mean, how do you write about this? …


Lily’s Theme


This spare musical theme plays over the opening title, drawing us into a Hogwarts surrounded by Dementors while a solitary Snape overlooks regimented rows of Hogwarts students marched grimly into the courtyard. Headmaster Snape – one of  the “abandoned boys of Hogwarts” – oversees a Hogwarts that is no longer his, but Voldemort’s.

That much I got on first viewing. Then I learned the music’s name: “Lily’s Theme.”

The woman’s voice rising above the drone on the fundamental tones = Lily’s.

Her voice serves as the music of Severus Snape’s soul – his inspiration, the thing that keeps him going despite the darkness surrounding him. And it connects him with Harry Potter, Lily’s son.

In Snape, the Lily theme resembles the echo of a memory, but a memory very much alive inside him. When the lush, full-bodied string section picks up the theme at Dobby’s graveside, though, we see the theme’s full embodiment in Harry.

Lily’s voice returns, growing stronger as Severus Snape slips from life. And her voice again marks Harry’s victory over Voldemort, a victory set in motion by his mother’s sacrifice.

There is an inexpressible quality to all of this. The effect cannot be captured in words – at least not by a writer of my own meager skills. And the movie has inexpressible moments like this in abundance – that stark opening, Snape’s demise, the Pensieve memories – all underscored by Alexandre Desplat’s powerful, often impressionistic score.

This is why it has taken me this long to write about this film. I do analysis, but how do you catch hold of and dissect these moments of the sublime?

I shall attempt to come down to earth in my next DH2 post and just talk about what I liked and didn’t like… and then why the filmmakers may have made some of the choices they made.

Until then, I hope you enjoyed the music I linked to in this post. It truly sets the mood for much of this film.