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The Dark Knight Rises – Trailer and Poster

Some of us that bore witness to the finale of the Harry Potter franchise over the weekend may have noticed the highly anticipated teaser trailer for Christopher Nolan’s latest and supposedly final addition to his Batman series. Whilst a bunch of over excited nerds couldn’t resist filming the trailer and posting it online, suffice to say it looked like a mess and it was hard to decipher what was really going on. Well, now we can bring to you the trailer in all its high definition glory, as well as a recently released poster seen above to accompany it. Enjoy.

(Anyone getting a sense of an Inception-esque style and mood from the poster and trailer?)

The Harry Potter saga: Was it any good?

The movie adaptations of JK Rowling’s beloved books began almost 10 years ago with HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Since then we’ve seen another 6 films released, over 1000 minutes of screen time and one of the most successful movie franchises in history. Now, with the new Harry Potter film coming out this summer (UK release date: 15 July 2011) I ask were they any good? And will it be worth battling through the crowds at your local multiplex to view the last instalment?

1: The series started off with Chris Columbus at the helm and a veritable who’s who of British actors representing the various witches and wizards. Much of the casting is solid with Robbie Coltrane putting in an inspired performance as Hagrid and Alan Rickman providing an appropriately slivery Snape. Unfortunately the film is far too faithful to the book and this leaves it looking and feeling wooden, uninspired and lacking imagination. Books and films are different: they need different emphases and pacing. But this film is timid and just goes through the motions. So, despite the hype surrounding the film, it was painfully boring.

2: Moving on to the second film (HP and the Chamber of Secrets): same problems, slightly better cinematography (darker, Hogwarts feels like an old creepy castle instead of a cartoon castle), a few jokes to break up the boredom, but all in all an overly long and equally timid adaptation of the book. In addition, the second film marks the point at which Daniel Radcliffe’s lack of charisma and acting ability begin to be a problem.

3: HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban – there was a change of direction in the series with this film. Columbus was replaced as director by Alfonso Cuarón and Michael Gambon came in as Dumbledore due to the death of Richard Harris. In addition, Gary Oldman was introduced as HP’s enigmatic, falsely-imprisoned godfather, Sirius Black. All of these moves proved successful and Azkaban was the first film to actually engage with the source material – offering an interpretation of the story and characters instead of providing a pale imitation like its two predecessors. As well as a more engaging story and adopting an appealingly dark feel, this film is well-measured in terms of its rites of passage theme. The kids are growing up and Cuarón handles this appropriately to give the film emotional weight. Another Cuarón success is the wealth of subtext and not-too-showy metaphor which gives the film a sense of depth and richness. HP3: a definite success and probably the best of the lot.

4: HP and the Goblet of fire – Another new director (Mike Newell), so how well did he do? The fourth instalment is a success in continuing the growing up theme of the previous film. It brings in some well-done teenage angst and awkward romance. In addition, the growing sense of dread, fear and confusion both within Hogwarts and in the wider world comes across effectively (maybe a little too much). Nevertheless, Newell is not bold enough and sticks to the book too closely. The film begins strongly – HP’s dream about Voldemort and then the Quidditch World Cup are exciting and narratively useful. (as an aside point – all Quidditch scenes in HP films are terrible. They are badly shot, blurry, boring and pointless). Unfortunately the film dwells on the teenage angst elements for too long – the Yule Ball seems to be given precedence over the return of Voldemort. Moreover, the action sequences are strangely boring. HP’s fight with a dragon and the climatic showdown are both disappointingly pedestrian, although Ralph Fiennes is predictably good as the menacingly creepy Voldemort. This film feels disjointed, with some strange edits and persistence with unnecessary elements. Basically, it tries to do too much and follow the book too closely when the film-makers should’ve been more selective and created a coherent, cohesive narrative.

5: HP and the Order of the Phoenix – as the titles get increasingly silly, the bad guys get worse (or is it better…) Either way, Immelda Staunton is excellent as the sickly-sweet Dolores Umbridge, and Helena Bonham Carter and Fiennes shine as Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort, respectively. For the longest HP book new director David Yates had to be careful with what to include. Certainly on that score 5 is an improvement on 4, with an increased focus on the central HP vs Voldemort (good vs evil) plot-line and a very well executed showdown between Dumbledore and Voldemort. However, because there is less emphasis on many of the characters we have come to know in previous films, the unevenness of the series as a whole becomes more apparent. Lots of the characters and relationships get lost in the rush to the Death-Eater/Order of the Phoenix battle. Chief among these is the Sirius/HP relationship which doesn’t carry the emotional weight it should.

6: HP and the Half-Blood Prince: This one was really quite boring: Too many overlong scenes and lots of inessential fluff which is entirely superfluous to the central plot. That plot seems to consist of the need to extract a memory from Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) in order to confirm something that Dumbledore pretty much already knows anyway. So, all in all, I feel like this is a waste of 2 hours 30 mins. Oh yeah and Dumbledore dies!

7: Part 1: To be honest, it’s just a set-up for Part 2. It felt like the quiet before the storm. There was no Hogwarts and very little from any of the adult cast. Perhaps some more Snape would have been welcome. Some positive stuff: Dobby (always good to watch), the nice little animated explanation of the deathly hallows is a highlight and in all fairness, some of the HP, Ron and Hermione character development is well executed. However, this does drag on. The drained colour gives the whole film the necessary feeling of melancholy and this is topped off by Dobby’s death at the end. It wasn’t bad, but it did feel like a set-up.

There are several problems with HP which run throughout the series:

1. Daniel Radcliffe is an intensely annoying screen presence. Much of the films’ believability rests on his ability to convey longing for his family and later, love for his friends (and in general to be able to act differently in different situations – I think they call it acting). However, Radcliffe seems stuck on one mode: awkward defiance. At best his on-screen transition from boy to hero has been stumbling, at worst it has threatened to ruin the series.

2. Dumbledore always reveals lots of things near the end of each book – to tie up loose ends and keep you in suspense throughout the rest of the book. This doesn’t work with the films.

3. Too many directors – there was no overarching vision from the outset about what the films should look like. Consequently, we’ve ended up with a disjointed and uneven series.

I wait in anticipation for the 8th film!