The missed opportunities of Harry Potter films

Obviously, spoiler alert. Also, I have to make this disclaimer: I have not read the first three books. So, the only thing I can criticise about the first three films is their cinematic quality, not their faithfulness (or the lack thereof) to the source materials. But, I am more confident regarding the other adaptations.

Here, I will solely talk about Goblet of Fire (GoF) and Order of the Phoenix (OP). So far, they are my favourite books in the series and I love them for distinct reasons.

In spite of dark and intense moments here and there (especially during the climax, falling action and resolution), GoF is still a generally cheerful book. To this day, I am still gravely excited about the Quidditch World Cup, the Triwizard Tournament and the Yule Ball, even though the real me is far from a sports spectator and a party animal. I also adore the expansion of the magical universe where it is portrayed as a global community in which our hero’s home country is a tiny part of it, not its entirety; I am a sucker for such theme. It is mostly a festive of jolliness that makes the child in me rejoice… unlike its direct successor.

OP is gritty AF. In contrast to its more colourful predecessor, the fifth book is nothing but a barrage of grey and ferocious socio-political disheartenment. Dangerous misinformation. Political restrictions of the academia. Institutionally-sanctioned prejudice. The establishment embracing unsavoury individuals, opting to make enemies with ones who are innocent and/or more tolerant. Those are real life issues. To top it all, our hero has to deal with them while suffering from PTSD, adding the emotional severity. For the standard of escapist literature, this novel is a tough read; a reflection of the reality is inescapable.

I have high praises for both and I also had HIGH expectations of their screen adaptations. GoF was literally the first film I watched whose original source material I read beforehand. I was deeply disappointed because, back then, I expected any good adaptations to be literally exact copies of the source materials, albeit in different formats. Took me some time to recognise my own stupidity.

But, even after the slap on the face, I am still disappointed. The feeling of excitement is the only thing it got right. Well, not entirely. It explicitly depicts the Triwizard Tournament and the Yule Ball, two of the three main sources. But, it does not show a single second of the Quidditch World Cup match!

Like, why? No, time constraint is not an excuse! Even when shown in snippets, it still could exude the feeling! Exclusion of the entire match means the audience members who have not read the book cannot experience the excitement in its totality. Therefore, they don’t know the whole story and I am still scratching on the surface here.

I mentioned that GoF is a cheerful book with dark moments. Well, those moments give the story more layers of depth. Ludo Bagman, Bertha Jorkins, Dobby and Winky! They are characters with secrets and their erasure from the film is regrettable, considering they have the potentials to expose the tangling webs of secrets and deceit that grip the novel. I find it intriguing when lightness and darkness balance each other out in a work of fiction. As a result, the film’s darkness is still very lightweight in comparison. But, at least, it is still partially faithful to its source material, unlike its successor.

The novel’s embodiment of desolation mostly did not make it to the screen. Instead, the film is more of an adventure-comedy. Yes, I said comedy. Admittedly, I love its youthful sense of humour and I believe, when done correctly, it would blend well with the bleak storyline. But, the filmmakers preferred to drench the story in sickly sweet syrup, removing the acquired tastes for the sake of palatability.

Where’s the socio-political grittiness? Where’s the mental anguish? Never mind that they are the driving forces. They are the reasons why Order of Phoenix possesses such outstanding profundity! They are the reasons why the novel stands out! They are the soul of the story! The film may call itself Order of Phoenix and some moviegoers believe that. But, deep down, it has an entirely unrecognisable heart. It is a fraud who is beloved by the ignorant and most gullible among us.

Also, the climax of OP the novel is not the fight at the Ministry building; it is, in fact, Harry’s outburst at Dumbledore’s office. It is an accumulation of the suffering he has been experiencing for the past twelve months (and possibly his entire life) and Sirius’ death triggers the cascade of negative emotions. Its climax centres on raw emotions rather than superficial physicality. It can only be achieved by the embrace of emotional depth. You know, something that the adaptation refuses to do.

God, I sound like a total fanboy. I even haven’t reached to another problem present in both adaptations: how they conclude the plot lines.

The novels’ endings are rather bleak. GoF’s marks the beginning of the sufferings our protagonist will endure in the next volume. OP’s shows that, even after everyone believes and starts revering him, he still cannot feel joy because of his godfather’s death. Oh, and I said rather bleak, not completely so. For me, there are still shreds of warm yet unsentimental hope in them. How about the films’ endings? Horrible, of course.

GoF the film ends with a cheerful farewell for the foreign students and Cedric’s death as the only moment of sorrow; there is no foreshadowing of Harry’s own incoming misery. OP the film ends with a sentimental monologue by Harry; his own grief is given a half-hearted presentation. They are all about cloying sweetness. Again, no depth.

Okay, this is the part where I pretend to know what my readers are thinking (LOL! Who reads my blogs, anyway?).

You may argue I am being too harsh against OP and I sincerely acknowledge the possibility. You may also argue that not everything has to be profound which I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I feel sorry for those proudly flatulent dweebs who think having fun is beneath them. But, after much contemplation, I can say I am fair with my judgement.

People will hate me for saying this: I believe that an adaptation can still be faithful even with significant alteration to the characters and the storyline, as long it cherishes the source material’s deep-rooted spirit. In spite of being a fantasy novel, OP’s spirit is neither escapist nor fun; the narrative commands us to acknowledge our own wretched earthbound existence. Based on what I illustrated before, it is clear how the film refuses to share such burden.

Also, it feels like its script was written by an elitist Pothead with no experience in filmmaking who thinks Harry Potter films must be exclusively made for anyone who have read the books and inclusivity besmirches the prestige of his/her beloved series. To simplify my words: the film’s confusing AF.

Yes, exposition makes a horrible storytelling. But, the audience deserves any implicit hints about why and how the story came into being! Also, Tonks is not properly introduced, Lupin is not properly re-introduced and Percy suddenly appears out of nowhere, inexplicably working for the corrupt ministry! If an adaptation cannot stand on its own and still needs the source material for intelligibility, why bother making one in the first place? Oh, wait. Never mind! Of course, it is all about money…

Now, I am going to be slightly SJW-ish here.

In GoF the film, the Beauxbaton and Durmstrang students make a hell of an entrance. Of course, I am referring to the gender stereotypes-affirming scene that portrays women as unnaturally tender and men as laughably brute. Disappointing, but expected from a Hollywood film. But, in this case, I am infuriated because the original scene is actually very gender-less (I made up that word).

When the visitors enter the school ground, they just walk straight in! No spectacles whatsoever! There is nothing about it that makes us think about genders! If I have to make an assumption, it feels like someone involved in the filmmaking read the books, became infuriated with their debatably feminist nature, decided to transform the co-ed schools into single-sex ones and shoved outdated gender stereotypes to one gender-less scene. It is too PC! Too liberal! We must protect our traditions of lumping complex human beings to superficial and repressive boxes!

See? I told you I would sound SJW-ish.

Now, to finish up my winding rant:

If only GoF the film also has the same complimenting and intricate subplots as the novel does and refrains itself from unabashedly committing gender pigeonholing…

If only OP the film opens itself to non-HP fans and embraces the novel’s dark and fierce spirit that makes it great in the first place…

If only both films do not conclude on such unrealistically positive notes…

I can confidently say that not only they would be of outstanding quality, they surely would elevate the merit of Harry Potter films or even the entire franchise! Even if they fail to elevate the artistic prestige of fantastical and commercial cinema, they surely would have special places in it.

GoF the film would probably not be hailed as groundbreaking regarding this. But, surely, it would not elongate the already-long list of motion pictures that unintelligently depict genders!

If the existing OP film balances its childlike humour with the novel’s sense of desolation, it could result in a high-quality drama-comedy. Who knows? Maybe the film’s merit could surpass the novel’s! Such a rare phenomenon would historical, convincing fans of certain works of fiction that film adaptations have the potential of reaching excellence!

After watching those wonderful adaptations, some Potheads would probably end up being blessed with higher sense of cultural sophistication, enriching their lives through inquisitive musing and love of cinematic beauty.

But, none of those matters, of course! The only noble goal in life to earn profit! Who cares if you have to exploit the feelings of devoted fans?

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Music (and a bit of cinema): the lovely/fringe and the dull/traditional

 

I have a new musician to admire: John Coolidge Adams. His music is minimalist. As the name suggests, it is a postmodern style. I don’t know how to succinctly explain what minimal music. But, I can explain how it affects my psyche.

When I listen to it, I feel like I am stuck between two worlds: the corporeal and the metaphysical. It is unusual because most musical works bring me to either one, never both at the same time. I love such balance. It is a feeling which I wish I can experience more. It also gives me a fresh outlook about the arts.

Oh, and when I said I listen to minimalism, I was referring to the works of Adams. I have barely listened to the ones made by other similar composers. The sensation I described was provoked by Adams’ own aesthetics. But, that does not mean I cannot appreciate minimal music in general.

When you listen to it, the postmodern inclination is very audible. But, unlike many postmodern works of art (the ones I have encountered, at least), minimal music does not try too hard to be weird. It sounds odd, sure. But, there is still sincere artistry. I also wish it is being used more as film soundtracks.

I hate how sterile Hollywood soundtracks are. The same boring melodies and arrangements over and over again. Of course, it is unsurprising for mainstream entertainment with their orthodox mentality. But, orthodoxy is not always a bad thing.

John Williams can conjure refreshing tunes out of long-established musical style. Some of the most memorable melodies in Hollywood are his creations. But, he is a rarity. Many contemporary Hollywood composers seem to suffer from a case of creative infertility. They let the strictly-imposed orthodoxy hinder their creativity. They easily give in to the cultural establishment.

Yes, minimal music is odd. But, it is also not entirely distinct from what we consider to be classical music. Why is it so hard to find films that embrace it? Besides Philip Glass, I can’t think of any other minimal composers that compose original soundtracks. This issue is not just about creativity, it is also about pragmatism.

Proper soundtracks mean greater immersion. Horror and thriller films match well with eerie-sounding experimental music, sci-fi films with electronic music, fantasy films with ambient genres like new age. Oh, and speaking about fantasy films….

I love the Harry Potter franchise, the soundtracks included. I applaud John Williams (him again) for composing one of the most memorable theme songs in the history of cinema. I applaud him for including Jazz, medieval music and unworldly ambience for the soundtrack of Prisoner of Azkaban. I applaud Nicholas Hooper for including Celtic influence in Order of Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince But, I am also greatly disappointed.

Apart from the things I said, the music is still plagued with boring cliches. In fact, I also hate its constant lack of ambition. First of all, Harry Potter is set in Great Britain, specifically its technologically-quaint magical world. How come there are only three HP films that use Celtic and medieval European music? Wouldn’t they be more culturally fitting?

Second, the Harry Potter universe is a place where magic exists. How come that none of the soundtracks embrace ambient styles which can evoke a sense of unworldliness? There are lots to choose from. Ethnic music, including the Celtic one, can be ambient. How about new age with its fairy tale-ish inclination? Heck, even minimal music, like the ones by Philip Glass, can be ethereal.

Wait, I said something about this issue is about artistry and pragmatism. I forgot to talk about the latter. My apologies.

As I said, employing more fitting music induces better immersion. But, my statement was in the context of enhancing films’ overall artistry. People don’t realise how it can also be used to generate profits.

The idea of artistry’s profitability does sound bizarre, especially to the most uncultured swines and to cynics like me. But, idealism and craftsmanship stand out in a sea of conformity and mediocrity. They foster uniqueness.

Yes, uniqueness can be a financial suicide. Can be. Not always. With the right filmmaker and marketing strategies, a well-crafted film can still a box office success by being conspicuous. It does sound like a fanciful hypothesis. But, there are notable examples of profitable artistry.

Pixar films came to mind. They are distinct from most so-called family-friendly films. Their emotions are quite raw yet unsentimental. Romance is not the force that moves the story forward. The characters never burst into songs in unlikely circumstances. When there are villains, they are of shades of grey. Relatively defiant, still popular.

Harry Potter franchise itself can be quite defiant. The adaptation of Prisoner of Azkaban successfully evokes the feeling of sinister force lurking in every second. The Half-Blood Prince one has pacing and atmosphere so calm, it feels quite soothing. They stand out among other HP films and any films marketed to younger demographics. Again, relatively defiant, still popular.

Easier said than done, I know. But, without doubt, sell-outs are not the only who can money; visionaries can do as well! Knowing the original source material, with its thematics and commentaries, Harry Potter films have the potentials to be even more profound in every aspect, including the music.

Sticking to the already-established styles does not make you pragmatic, it makes you a coward who let himself/herself crippled by risks.

Oh, and I use the words ‘visionaries’ and ‘sell-outs’ too liberally here. I know we should not throw words around just like that. But, I cannot help myself. I admire anyone who still nurture their idealism despite the immense coercion and I hate anyone who easily gives in to even the weakest of all pressures. God, I hope I will never be a sell-out.

My self-righteous rant ends here.

Image credit to US Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

I don’t get the Potheads

No, not stoners. Harry Potter fans.

Well, I have yet to read the first three novels and all but one supplemental book. I have yet to read The Cursed Child, the official HP fan fiction. But, I know that I am a fan.

Harry Potter is one of the things I love the most in life. Love the characters. Love the thematics. Love the vast world-building. I’ve also made my own (borderline pretentious) interpretations about the series. Harry Potter is a huge inspiration in my life.

But, if you have read my past articles (as if!), you would know how I despise fandoms, especially the ones where I supposedly belong to. I did a whole article dedicated to bashing my fellow bros aka Pewdiepie fans. I am going to do the same thing to my fellow potheads.

Just like how bros misunderstand Pewdiepie as a persona, I believe Potheads also do the same thing with their beloved series. In this case, they distort the messages to be the complete opposite.

Hogwarts school of hypocrisy and misguided elitism

Potheads love to lump themselves to the four Hogwarts houses. Gryffindor for the courageous, brave and determined ones, Slytherin for the ambitious and cunning ones, Ravenclaw for the witty, learned and wise ones…. and Hufflepuff for the sad, soon-to-be-nobodies weaklings.

Hufflepuff is a sad story. It has an unflattering image not because its values are debilitating, but because they are empowering: Hard work, patience, loyalty and fair play.

It is arguable whether loyalty has an important role in it. But, you cannot deny how important the other three are in our learning experiences, in and outside the classrooms. Learning requires efforts (hard work), time (patience) and ethics (fair play). Hufflepuff’s values are essentials in education.

Don’t get me wrong. I do think every single Hogwarts house cherishes commendable values. We must thrive to embrace them in how we live our life. But, Potheads often forget that Hogwarts is a school and knowing our priorities is key.

You may be a courageous Gryffindor who thinks you can brave the exam. But, if you think you can do so without sparing time for after-class study, you are a prime example of the blurred line between bravery and idiocy. You may as well start a magical duel while wandless.

You may be a knowledgeable and intelligent Ravenclaw. But, if you are too lazy to put them into use and too lazy to learn more, your knowledge and intelligence would have less worth than trolls’ diarrhoeic shit. Do you seriously think mere brain equals instant success?

You may be an ambitious Slytherin who competitively pursues academic achievements. But, if you are willing to cheat to get what you desire, you don’t deserve the rewards. You are not entitled to something just because you feel so. In fact, outside the school setting, you would be considered a felon. It is surprising that Death Eaters are not dominated by Slyther… oh, wait.

I believe that elitism can be a force of good. Demanding the most skilled and learned to perform the most important jobs is reasonable and perfectly human. Not only such elitism is perfectly fine, I think it should be encouraged in our lives. But, that is not the case with Hogwarts.

From all of four Hogwarts founders, only Helga Hufflepuff understood the essences of education. The rest thought education should only be reserved for anyone who possess those irrelevant traits. It is the same as making Gods out of people for simply being rich (whose money may also be inherited). It is a misguided form of elitism.

And just like any forms of misguided elitism, those three Hogwarts houses are racked with barefaced hypocrisy. Despite constantly patting themselves on the back, not every Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Slytherin embodies the values of their respective house.

Peter Pettigrew was a Gryffindor. He did not have the gut to face his ‘best friends’ whom he betrayed, did not have the gut to face Voldemort whom he swore loyalty to. He was too much of a coward to confront the consequences of his own actions.

Slytherins like Draco Malfoy, Severus Snape and Horace Slughorn are strongly driven by sky-high ambitions. But then, there are also Slytherins like Crabbe and Goyle whose only ambitions is to be the ‘little’ bitches of Draco Malfoy, world’s number one Daddy’s boy.

But, by far, Ravenclaw is the worst house regarding this. From all the Ravenclaws that have interacted with Harry, none of them seem to embody wits, wisdom and love of knowledge. Despite her magical prowess, Luna Lovegood is also a conspiracy theorist and literally the Anti-Hermione. Cho Chang is an expert in being a guilt-tripping bitch. Gilderoy Lockhart is a narcissist whose only skills are obliviating others’ memories and stealing their works (I have to give Flitwick a pass. Apart from his magical prowess, we know little about him).

But, the worst thing is, all of the intelligent characters in the series are non-Ravenclaws. Hermione Granger, Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Ginny Weasley, Cedric Diggory, Severus Snape, Lily Evans, Tom Riddle aka Voldy, Remus Lupin, the Weasley twins, just to name a few. Heck, even Harry and Draco seem more intelligent than those Ravenclaws.

If you value something so much, why don’t you practice it instead ? Why keep preaching to resisting ears? Is it about trying to impose an air of superiority while simultaneously sneering at others because you suffer from insecurity and trying to compensate for it? I guess we will never know.

Yes, I know this is unconvincing. It is never addressed either by the characters or Rowling herself. This is purely my interpretation. But, I have another opinion about the series, which I am more confident about.

Marauders’ so-called integrity

Say ‘Wormtail was a cowardly traitor’ and every pothead would nod in agreement. Say ‘the Marauders were a bunch of remorseless bullies’ and you would encounter polarising reactions.

Regarding that, the HP fandom community is divided into two factions: one who sees the Marauders (apart from Wormtail) as heroic angels and the other sees them as a gang of bullies.

I belong to the latter.

It is explicitly shown in Order of Phoenix and Deathly Hallows how they made Snape’s life a living hell. They even started bullying him before their first arrival at Hogwarts. They didn’t see him as a human being worthy of respect.

“But, Remus Lupin didn’t participate in the bullying. Also, James and Sirius stopped bullying Snape after the former dated Lily.”

Remus was not a bully. But, his friends were ones and that didn’t seem to mind him. It does not matter if you never participate in it. If you tolerate any acts that harm your fellow human beings, you are also a complicit.

And yes, they did stop bullying Snape after James dated Lily. They did mature as individuals. But, there is still no indication of remorse. End of torment does not mean repentance. It just means the tormenters stop giving a shit about their victims.

In fact, when reminiscing about their past in Order of Phoenix, Remus and Sirius saw themselves as nothing but misbehaved children. I don’t care if you are a six-year-old or a sixty-year-old. If you are a bully, you are a fucking bully! Do not sugarcoat it! Your age cannot and will never absolve you from your sins!

After learning the truth, Harry didn’t end up hating James and Sirius. I mean, one is his biological father and the other is a surrogate. Some of us cannot stop loving our loved ones even after their horrible deeds; it is a human thing. But, Harry also stopped seeing them as perfectly angelic figures. Harry has learned to accept that humans are creatures of many shades of grey.

Closing statements

My identity and a bit of Newt

If I have to choose one house, I would definitely choose Hufflepuff based on the reasons I stated above. But, deep down, I am not a Hufflepuff. I am a Ravenclaw.

My idea of fun involves having intellectual conversations, watching documentaries and arthouse films, visiting museums (another reason why I go out, besides foods), reading and googling (mostly googling) for knowledge that has no practical purposes, (over-) analysing works of arts and entertainment and pondering about everything that intrigues me. People have called me a pretentious little prick, which is not that inaccurate to be honest. I often look down on others for simplistic thinking which I sometimes feel guilty about. Sometimes.

That proves how not only I am staunch Ravenclaw, I can also be anti-Hufflepuff at times. And still, if I am enrolled at Hogwarts (as if!), I would choose Hufflepuff over any other houses. As much I love them, my values cannot be of any service or even appropriate in every setting. I have to admit that mine are far from perfect.

Oh, and don’t preach me about the so-called perfection of Gryffindor. It is a house where self-righteous pricks congregate their self-righteous arses from which they preach their self-righteousness. Instead of genuinely courageous beings, I often see Gryffindors as the fictional equivalents of Social Justice Warriors, constantly derailing their own progressive causes.

I am going on a tangent here.

On Pottermore, there is an article called 7 ways Hufflepuff are way better than you realise. From the title alone, you can tell it is one of those amateurishly-written blogs (yes, I am projecting). Some of the points make sense, albeit weakly argued. Others are unfounded altogether. I would be disappointed if Rowling wrote it herself. But, there is one point that attracts my eyes: the house’s lack of conventionality.

The article uses Tonks’ appearance as a representative of said unorthodoxy. But, it is too shallow of an example. We need something that goes beyond the physicality, something more profound and.. I can think of one example: Newt Scamander.

Google ‘Newt Scamander masculinity’ and you will see articles about how the magizoologist defies the traditional masculinity. Instead of being conceited, insensitive and showy, he is nurturing, emotionally sensitive and unassuming. He is a deviant male lead. Even in this regard, Harry Potter is still a cliche character. Unsurprisingly, deviance like this one is not universally loved.

In his Pop Culture Detective video, Jonathan McIntosh shows how film reviewers from mainstream media outlets criticise the character for his supposed lack of charm. Their minds are still indoctrinated by the cultural establishment to love – and only love – what we have been accustomed to. Feel pity for them.

What is surprising about Newt Scamander’s ‘deviant’ personality is not the deviance itself. Many works of arts and entertainments have violated the norms since the beginning of time and will always do. As zealous as they are enforced, disobedience should be expected once in a while.

What is surprising about Newt Scamander is him not being a major character in an indie or arthouse film. He is a major character in Harry Potter, a profitable franchise with strong mainstream popularity. Pop culture is infamous for its obedience to the establishment. The fact that a form deviance can exist in such sphere is a marvel in itself.

I am disappointed with myself. As someone who loves to analyse entertainment and hates traditional gender roles, I should have spotted it myself.

The lesser bullies

Snape is indeed a well-crafted character. He has sacrificed his body and soul for the sake of defeating Voldemort. It is dishonest for us to dismiss both. But, at the same time, they cannot erase one absolute fact: he is a fucking horrible person!

He abuses his power as a teacher, he preys on vulnerable students and he finds pleasure in torment! Praise his heroism. Praise how well-crafted he is as a character. But, there is no sound justification for us to romanticise someone who can be described as a heartless bully…

… And the same mindset should be applied to the Marauders.

Yes, I know. In comparison (Wormtail excluded), they are a lot kinder, warmer and more virtuous than Snape will ever be. But, again, you cannot ignore the facts that James and Sirius are also remorseless bullies and Lupin consciously tolerates them. They are the reason why his heart is ravaged with a sickness called bullying.

Despite everything, some of you still lay your eyes on the Marauders through rose-coloured lenses. This blog is not the first time I spout such rant. It seems nothing will convince you to take them off. But, I will keep trying.

I have this one trick, though. A trick so painfully obvious, anyone would have thought about it long ago: stop comparing them with Snape! Of course, they would look angelic with him in the picture. From now on, remove him out of it! Judge every single one for who they really are, not for someone else is.

The greater bully will always look worse than the lesser bully. But, like it or not, the lesser bully is still a bully.

It seems to contradict what I said in the beginning about how I love the characters. Well, I do love them because they are very grey.

Okay, a few characters are indeed black and white. The series also has the cliche ‘good vs evil’ theme. But, pay attention and you’ll see how complex many of the characters are.

When we think we know them, they suddenly reveal ‘new’ aspects about themselves; they are like infinite onions where every layer embodies a surprise. They also possess wonderful imperfection; their strengths and weaknesses make them feel more relatable, more human. Real humans are always more complex than we like to think. It’s sad how I have to point out this obvious fact.

We cannot completely hate many of the characters. We also cannot romanticise them as well. Once again, they are of many shades of grey. That’s the reason why I love them.

BvS: a never-ending, action-infested clusterf**k… with moments of surprising depth (a shamelessly late review)

From the title alone, one can tell I will be bashing the film which many people have relieved themselves on for the past two years. So, if you are a fanboy or fangirl who only see imaginary flawlessness in your beloved motion picture work, click away.

Or don’t. Besides bashing the hell out of it, I am also planning to discuss about the film’s positive aspects AND attempting to persuade you to reflect on the dissenting voices. I don’t care if I will be persuasive or sound like a self-righteous prick. Okay, now let’s start with the beating.

First of all, the story is horrendously tedious! Not slow-pacing, but tedious. A slow-paced story encourages us to patiently wait or even to not expect anything at all; we are encouraged to relish the present. This is more common in arthouse films where immersion is crucial and non-negotiable in every scene.

A tedious story, on the other hand, keeps lingering on the same points despite its promise of incoming fresh scenes. It is nothing but a spawn of broken promises and aesthetic disappointment. Unless you are easily awed by mindless jam-packed actions, there’s nothing that can save us from a film’s tiresome pacing.

In fact, BvS is unbearable because of its mixing of tedious pacing and high octane actions. The three-hour-long duration makes it even more gruelling. I left the cinema feeling mentally exhausted. Personally, I don’t mind the exhaustion as long as it is legitimate. A film may provoke strong emotions that last for hours (or days). It may also provoke us to think hard as it is either loaded with information or confusing at the first watch.

Confusing. Also what BvS is to me. On this part, I am not sure if the problem is with me. Maybe I failed to pick up vague hints that can enlighten me about the story. Maybe I was (and still am) unfamiliar with the original source material. If it’s the latter, we have a problem.

An adaptation must be able to stand by itself. The original source materials are its inspirations, not its extensions. If we need to explore them for more info, why bother adapting them in the first place? Is the entertainment really less about quality and more about profit-making? Did I just ask a rhetorical question where I seemed to fake some level of profundity? But, as I said, I am still not sure if the problem is with me.

Oh, and I am going to end the bashing with something predictable: Martha. Arguably one of the most mockable moments in the history of mockable entertainment. Two individuals immediately bond with each other just because their mothers share the same name. The heartwarming charade is so brazenly displayed, its so-called warmth becomes hollow and insincere.

And yet, meaningless and deceitful facades still dupe us. We still hate subtlety because it requires understanding of life beyond what the basic senses tell us. That’s unfortunate since subtlety is one thing that brings depth to works of arts and entertainment. Subtlety helps us to dodge traps like self-conceited pretentiousness, sickly sweet sentimentality or, in the case of Martha: the movie, shameless idiocy.

Enough with the bashing. As I said in the beginning, I will also talk about the film’s positive features. Just because I hate something, that doesn’t mean it absolutely lacks any redeeming values. In this case, it is the not-so-subtle menace shown in two scenes.

The first one is Batman’s nightmare scene. Apart from the drastic change of setting and Batman’s voice, it doesn’t feel dreamlike at first. The ensuing chaos also seems normal. But suddenly, in the middle of the mayhem, winged-demons are arriving from the sky, snatching every single human that is seen as a threat. It literally looks the beginning of God’s wrath.

Except they are not demons; they are not even supernatural. Once you take a close look, you will see they are mere human soldiers, completely clad in black armour and adorned with mechanical wings. But, how the scene was crafted really does wonders.

Camera angle, showing the ‘demonic’ soldiers’ daunting arrivals from the sky. Background music, laced with droning male vocals. The limited colour palette of light brown and black, evoking hell on earth and man’s inner darkness respectively. As a result, those flying soldiers look like they were born among hellfire. Even the wingless and more human-looking soldiers look demonic as well. It is a very nightmarish. But, not the scariest scene ever made.

Heck, it’s not even the peak of the film’s disquieting atmosphere. For me, Lex Luthor’s painting scene is the winner for possessing greater subtlety and requiring more in-depth dissection. The said painting depicts the biblical angels and devils, with the former emerging from the sky and the latter soaring from the underworld.

Its appearance on the scene is very brief. Brief, yet assertive. Once again, the background music was well-composed, this time with haunting string sounds. But, what makes the painting domineering is the remarks of Lex Luthor, who exudes a menacing aura (if I may use the word). He said:

[The painting] should be upside down. We know better now, don’t we? Devils don’t come from hell beneath us. No, they come from the sky.”

That’s not randomness. If you try to interpret it (using logic, of course), the results would be so fitting to the narrative… and internet users have done so. Some think it represents Superman who is probably seen as the devil by Lex. Others think it represents Lex, who sees himself as the ‘angel’ who fell from grace, aka the devil. Symbolism is one boundless space, always open for any sound interpretations.

Subtlety. Yeah, I know. Said that a zillion times before. Bla bla bla bla. But, I want to keep underlining its importance in conveying depth, as proven by the two scenes. Subtlety is the only reason why I don’t hate BvS completely. In fact, I am now open about the possibility of me hating the film less in the future. I might have missed other hidden messages!

Let me change the topic for a while and tell you a story:

I am a Harry Potter fan. I love most of its characters, their quirks and surprising complexities. I love the expansiveness of the fictional universe. I love the thought-provoking thematics, unpretentiously expressed throughout. I love its progressive social stances. I even have made my own analyses about the series, encouraging the growth of my critical thinking skill.

And because of that skill, I cannot unsee its flaws.

Apart from the inconsistencies (which is common in any long-running series), there are also defects like lack of novelty, unexceptional writing style and hasty series finale. I hate how Goblet of Fire and Order of Phoenix, especially the latter, are given poor film adaptations by having their depth thrown away. I also believe Half-Blood Prince understands the HP spirit more than the original source material itself. That’ll stir up the fandom.

I hope you, BvS fans, are still here. I know some of you are rational enough to not make a God out of your favourite film. But, for those of you who do and still adamant about its absolute perfection, let me ask you something:

If I have the ability to shit on Harry Potter, one of the things I love the most in my life, why can’t you accept that BvS, your beloved film, has its faults?

You don’t need to be a pretentious snob to criticise the film. No need to be a Batman and/or Superman hater. No need to be a hardcore Marvel fan. Heck, you don’t even need a highly intellectual mind.

All you need is to accept that imperfection is inherently inescapable, even for the things you love dearly.

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them: a wonderful gift (a very late review)

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I was initially reluctant to watch. For me, Harry Potter ended with The Deathly Hallows. Rowling’s milking on her own creation. But, I watched it anyway…and I’m not disappointed.

Not the greatest film ever made. But, it’s still good and fun. It also provides better grasp of the HP universe. As a pothead (uhm), that really excites me!

The Goblet of Fire made us (and Harry Potter himself) realise that not all witches and wizards were Brits. But still, the series was almost completely set in the UK.

Was. Fantastic Beasts is the first HP-related story completely set abroad. The NYC, to be exact. The male lead is a Brit surrounded by Americans.

I also notice how the American witches and wizards blend among the no-majs (American muggles). Their British counterparts tend to stick out like sore thumbs.

Of course, the film’s set in NYC, world’s biggest city. The magical humans have to learn stay low-key all the time. The British ones tend to be rural settlers; they rarely interact with muggles.

That makes me think: why the Brits prefer the rurals? Maybe there’s something about their culture that the Americans lack.

Or maybe, some of the Brits do live in cities. Every time we visit a character’s home, it’s always rural. But then, we have never visited the house of every single character!

Wait, I just remember. There is indeed one urban magical home: the Grimmauld Place. The family home of Sirius Black. He was unlike the rest of the Blacks.

They were proud ‘pure-blooded’ witches and wizards, comparable to racial supremacists. They had no reason to mingle with the muggles. But, why they chose to live among them is a mystery.

Okay, it may seem boring to know about fictional settlement geography. But, it’s an extension of the world-building! It excites me more than the magical wildlife themselves!

If Rowling thinks UK cities have significant magical communities, I would love to know their stories. If she doesn’t think so, I would love to know why they prefer the rurals.

I love analysing the societal aspects HP world. I’m a social studies nerd! I always try to do this with every long-running series. Again, more exciting than the magical wildlife!

Another thing I love about the film is its social commentaries. The trademark of HP franchise. Government is obviously not untouchable.

The British magical government is openly sleazier. But, its American counterpart isn’t trustworthy either.

Both willingly ignore glaring warning signs and uphold shamelessly antiquated legislation. But, the Americans are scarier in how quick they are to execute someone. Government is the dirty G word.

Entertainment like HP are a reminder for us to not take authorities for granted. Unfortunately, many still naively and blindly trust them and expect others to do the same. Well, they can’t complain when authoritarianism come into being.

Prejudice is also a target of Rowling’s wrath. She believes it does nothing but harm to literally everyone, even the bigots themselves. And I agree wholeheartedly.

Besides harming their victims, bigots let themselves shrouded in dark clouds of immorality, as shown to some HP characters. They become lower than their objects of inhumane contempt. We must always treat ourselves better than that.

Compassion is applauded in the series. Share yours with every single creature. Literally every single one of them. No exception.

Frankly, I believe not everyone deserves compassion; we need to put hateful on their places. But, at the same time, I still admire Rowling’s championship of humanity. Cynicism has yet to devour her.

Unlike the previous stories, Fantastical Beasts emphasises on compassion for the magical wildlife. Rowling reminds us of their greater vulnerability…and our inhumane, supremacist selfishness. You know, the badge of honour for some of us.

HP is also known for how it treats characters. Most of them are more complex than they seem, especially the female ones. Again, Fantastic Beasts stays true to the series.

I was initially distressed by the blonde lady with high-pitched voice. God, not another ditzy blonde! What year is this, anyway?

Well, she turns out to be quick-witted, level-headed and reliable, more so than her dark magic-fighting, combat-trained but reckless sister. Trustworthy, she is.

The fat guy. God, not another fat guy as the comic relief? Seriously? Is fatness the only thing that can draw laughter?

Well, his personal problems make him a really sympathetic character. He also brings out most of the film’s emotional depth. He is the heart of the story.

One of the film’s villains is very grey. He did kill people. So threatening that killing him was the only option.

But, at the same time, his victims horribly mistreated him. Their deaths aren’t worth our tears and make the world a better place.

I admit that I have my own guilty pleasures. I can love stories with predictable and completely happy endings. They entertain me in bad days. But, I draw the line at stereotypes.

They put me off more really bad, more so than formulaic plots. The older I get, the more I associate them with close-mindedness.

A close mind sees us as mere stereotypes, not as who we really are: a cluster of complex collectives, each a myriad of distinctive and often unrelated individual humans.

Seems like a dramatic reason to despise stereotypical fictional characters. But, my mind cannot separate them from real-life bigotry. Not sure if it’s good or bad. Anyway…

Overall, I’m personally satisfied. It’s a whimsical extension of the limitless HP universe, encouraging us to be more imaginative.

Despite the fun, it still embraces social and political conscious, reminding us of our own reality.

It treats its characters like actual human beings, not like a bunch of dehumanising pigeonholes.

It cherishes its predecessors and has a special place in the franchise.

Is Rowling milking on her own works? That, I don’t know. But, I can confidently say this:

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a wonderful gift to her fans.

A side note:

I am still skeptical about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. But, so was I with Fantastic Beasts. Now, I am seriously considering to buy the play script. Who knows? Perhaps, I will love it as well.

Hufflepuff is the worst house….

*puts on a mask*

…because it accepts anyone, as long as they want to learn! Like, seriously? That is unacceptable! Gryffindor only accept brave students (despite the Cowardly Lion mascot), Slytherin only accepts ambitious (and racist) ones and Ravenclaw only accepts students with brains bigger than their humility! They are willing to bow to academic elitism and that is the best form of education! We should focus on important things….and willingness to learn is not one of them! Academic elitism believes that not all students deserve proper education. I don’t know why many are against it. Inequality is a beautiful thing. It is the only one thing that keeps the world united. Equality is an atrocity. It has LITERALLY killed more people than famine, diseases and wars combined.

*takes off the mask*