Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
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Right, that’s it. If Transformers isn’t any good on Sunday, I’m giving up on fun-but-dumb films altogether – I no longer enjoy them. I didn’t like the latest Pirates of the Carribean, I hated Die Hard 4, and last night even Harry Potter left me cold. My brain just doesn’t have enough to do during these, which is really saying something given that I enjoyed Gerry, a film where the memorable quotes page on IMDB constitutes the entire script, and the only two characters have the same name.
So I either think about other things entirely (is this seating arrangement socially optimal? Almost, I decided), or pick holes. That CGI object isn’t correctly synced with the actor’s hand. The next line is going to be “Something to fight for.” Emma Watson can only act during even-numbered minutes of the odd-numbered Harry Potter films.
When I read the same story in book form, I cared about everything. And really, it’s a story that suits cinema better than literature in a lot of ways – the fizz and crackle of wizardly battling comes across very poorly in text. But this director’s concept of being faithful to the book seems to be checking all the subplot boxes, which is impossible to do well in under six hours. So the three most affecting elements of Phoenix are all glossed over with almost comic brevity. Those being:
(Neville Longbottom is standing in front a wall looking at a newspaper clipping that shows a photo of his parents. Harry joins him)
Neville: Hi Harry my parents were killed by Bellatrix LeStrange after she tortured them for information I’m proud to be their son but worried that I won’t live up to their good name thanks bye.
In Phoenix, Snape is the only one able to teach Harry to defend his mind from Voldemort’s invasive telepathy, an arrangement they both resent enormously. But also a great device not only to force Harry to see Snape as a good guy, but to let both of them find out the truth about each other.
By repeatedly invading Harry’s thoughts, Snape quietly has to face that most of his conspiracy theories about Harry have been wrong. But when Harry inadvertantly gets into Snape’s mind, he has to face that more or less every disparaging thing Snape has said about Harry’s father is true, and a lot worse besides. This is a huge deal, a genuinely quite brave twist, and the most devastating thing that’s happened to Harry so far. His only reason for enduring the increasingly horrible things life puts him through is this dream of living up to the example of his parents, and avenging them.
We do get the moment of discovery itself in the film, inside Snape’s mind, but it’s topped and tailed: it happens almost immediately after the lessons are started, so we get nothing of the way Harry and Snape’s relationship has changed, which is probably the most interesting thing in the book. And we get nothing of the aftermath, which is easily the most important thing in the book.
It feels like they think fans are more interested in seeing every subplot paid lip-service than in any of them being done justice. I could be entirely happy with a film of Phoenix that left out all three of my favourite things about the book, if it just did anything else well. If it just had some downtime, some of the day-to-day stuff that lets you get to like the characters before they get knocked around, I’d care.
The fun of Harry Potter is never the plots, it’s getting to live in their world for a bit. It’s enduring the Dursley’s long enough at the start of each book to be relieved and excited to get back to Hogwarts and his friends. It’s butter-beer in Hogsmeade, non-plot-critical Quidditch. This ruthless, workmanlike cramming the films are so hellbent on is wrecking the magic.
Visually it’s marvelous; another adoring tribute to the universe that matches my imagination beautifully. The effects guys really do care about doing everything justice, and they’ve got the creative juice to manage it all and more. That just makes it more irritating that they’re still using directors who waste it incompetently, when in Alfonso Cuaron they’ve already found the guy who can give the rest of film the character its effects already have.
Tom Camfield: I thought it was surprisingly good, given I've never read any book and only watched a bit of one previous film. I had a lot to do in understanding all the relationships, all the sub plots, and it wasn't dull because my brain was always making connections and seeing links. I thought it did a great job of hinting at the depth of the book, and creating a living breathing world that looked beyond the main characters and avoided stupid instances of elongated exposition. I think if it had just done the main story and missed the sub-plots I would have been bored senseless, because I hate most summer movies as they usually are so witlessly cut down so that no brain work is needed at all. Probably just a difference of knowing the source material or not.
Graham: I agree with Tom Camfield, and I've read the source material. There are some things I wish were there. I want Tonks to have had more time, and the revelation about Harry's father being a dick should have been a bigger deal. But I thought it worked well as a movie, if a little rushed.
Perhaps it helps that I've forgotten quite a lot of the specifics about the book.
Tom Francis: Huh. It can't have been as bad as I thought if it worked so well for you. Obviously my complaints relate to differences between book and film, but I'm not fussy about how closely the two match up, I just want both to be good in the same way. The books let you live a little there, I didn't feel like I got that here. Interesting that you did.
It didn't occur to me until after I posted this that it's obscenely against the James prime directive: no negativity. I'm tempted to delete it, but I really like that picture of Gerry.
The_B: A blog without negativity? That's unpossible!
Aura: Absolutely loved this book! This was the first Historical title that I had read, and has got me hooked ever since! I relaly got into the story, and felt that I was watching a film rather than reading a book! I loved the lead characters and the passion that was between them too! Would recommend this!!by: smlindas