Monday, March 17, 2008

Splitting Deathly Hallows

It's semi-old news but it goes without question that this is one of the biggest stories to break in the Harry Potter universe. Let's face it: With the completion and successful release of Book seven last year, Potter related news has been slow or otherwise painfully banal. The construction of a Potter theme park? Bah, who cares. At long last, we have something fans can get excited about. WB released an official statement on March 12 confirming that movie seven would indeed be split into two parts after rumors began surfacing months ago. This creates an interesting dilemma for the most successful franchise of all time since the bar has been set considerably higher for them to finally do the books justice and if it is not pulled of successfully it could mean disaster. The producer David Heyman was quoted as saying in the LA Times that "I swear to you it was born out of purely creative reasons," Heyman said during an interview in a converted airplane factory outside London that has been home base to all of the "Potter" productions. "Unlike every other book, you cannot remove elements of this book. You can remove scenes of Ron playing quidditch from the fifth book, and you can remove Hermione and S.P.E.W. [Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare] and those subplots . . . but with the seventh, that can't be done."

That may be all fine and dandy Mr. Heyman although it's diffcult for me to fully embrace this decision since it does feel like a marketing strategy to milk the franchise for everything it's worth since there will be no more Potter films after this one. Why wasn't the decision to split Goblet of Fire or Order of the Phoenix ever followed through? The latter is the longest book in the series and yet you decided to make it the shortest film in the series by massively excluding various plot lines/characters that are integral to the story. That sure makes a whole lot of sense.

My two cents is that right from the get-go, Warner Brothers should have gone the Lord of the Rings route by releasing both the theatrical version (with a slightly longer running times that don't rush the story) and an extended version. That way there would be less pressure once Deathly Hallows is released and everyone wins. It would help to satisfy the hardcore Harry Potter fans and for those who haven't read the books but go to see the movies will at least have a more thorough understanding of what is going on. The main problem with these films is that they focus on time constraints rather than the actual story. Now, WB realizes that this past mistake is going to bite them in the arse because of how the previous six books build up towards Deathly Hallows and since they decided it would be wise to overlook the importance of Rowling's story, they now have to fill in the missing gaps. They could rise up the challange and manage to pull it off except this creates another problem: Where do you make the split and retain continuity without alienating the audience? It is interesting to note that both parts will be released six months apart. During this time will Part 1 be released on DVD to get people excited to go and see Part 2? If not, excitement will dwindle and there is the possibility that many will lose interest. WB may have good intentions to finally do the books justice but splitting it into two parts puts the narrative in jeopardy. Wouldn't it make more sense to release a three and a half hour movie instead without a disruption of the story-telling act structure. There could even be an intermission. Presumably, the first part will lack a satisfying climax unless they come up with some ingenious way of leaving a cliff-hanger because of the way the book is structured. The first half deals with Harry's learning of the Horcruxes which means that it will more than likely be many scenes of exposition. The second part involves Harry taking action and the climactic battle at Hogwarts. There lies the dilemma. How are they going to pull it off successfully without hurting the narrative? I suppose we are going to have to wait and see. Any thoughts on this?

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