movie

I Solemnly Swear I am Up to Good Details…for the “Harry Potter” Movies

Unlike many fans, I found the “Harry Potter” films better than the books. I often have either liked the changes or cuts better in the movies, or, at least, didn’t mind them.

There is another post that includes content in the novels. But this post will only focus on the film franchise. It will include details that I noticed in the movies.

1: In “Chamber of Secrets”, there were mostly younger kids as extras

Did anyone else notice that most scenes with Hogwarts student extras had few to no older students (like 5th year and up)? Most looked like 1st and 2nd years, maybe a few 3rd and 4th years. Did the filmmakers have a different vision in mind that maybe most of the older students in the previous movie, “The Sorcerer’s Stone”, were 7th years and there were a lot more 1st years in “The Chamber of Secrets”? If so, that’s surprising (and probably not accurate), especially since they broke child labor laws at least once. In film, anyone under 18 has a mandatory limit of 4 hours on a film set. That’s why many times, teen characters are played by adults in their 20s, sometimes even 30’s (which I think is way too old), but rarely actual teenagers. That’s a different topic, though.

2: From “Prisoner of Azkaban” and on, the students have new uniforms, wear street clothes more often, and the Hogwarts campus looks totally different

Unlike the previous observation above, this reason has been revealed. The scenery looks different, because the filming location was changed from Scotland to New Zealand. I believe it was because they wanted a more fantastic-looking environment. Students are often shown in street clothes when they’re not in classes, because the director wanted to make the kids show more of their personalities instead of just wearing robes the whole time. Speaking of which, the reason the uniform look changed was never explained—I don’t think so.

3: Characters control their emotions far more than in the books

Many people dislike this. In “Order of the Phoenix”, when Harry is talking to Dumbledore shortly after Sirius’s death scene, he is calm in the movie while he is angry and out of control in the book. Most people were disappointed by that and liked his extreme rage in the novel. I, however, thought the film’s portrayal was completely fine. In fact, I’ve always found the characters being calmer in the films than in the books a lot better (no offense, just my personal opinion). I don’t know why. Maybe I feel it makes them stronger?

4: Speaking of controlling emotions, Hagrid and Sirius are calmer in the films than in the books

Well, maybe not Sirius in “Prisoner of Azkaban”, but definitely in “Order of the Phoenix”. I already say why in my other “Harry Potter” post that focused on a lot of the books. If I had thought of this then, I would’ve said that I like movie Hagrid better than book Hagrid. I understand book Ginny being better than movie Ginny if she’s better developed in the novels, but movie Hagrid is far more likable to me than book Hagrid. Why? Because he controls his anger and emotions a lot more in the film franchise. I saw the first four movies before I read the books. I noticed that Hagrid had explosive tempers a lot in the novels, and it didn’t please me. I was often glad when those extreme anger outbursts were cut out of the movies or changed to much calmer episodes. Yes, it’s a significant trait for giants and half-giants. But I’ve always preferred calmer, patient people more. Not just in fiction, but also in real life. Movie Hagrid was closer to my envision. Hagrid may be friendly in the novels, but it’s more emphasized in the movies.

5: Music classes at Hogwarts exist in the movies

Fans constantly point out the lack of core education classes at Hogwarts, such as math, English, science, and social studies. Even though the film franchise doesn’t include liberal arts courses, they do have music classes, such as choir, like that scene in “Prisoner of Azkaban” where the school chorus performs in the great hall, or in “Order of the Phoenix”, where Flitwick is having them rehearse their voices, and in “Half-Blood Prince”, where Flitwick mentions having to teach choir practice. There is also an orchestra in “Goblet of Fire” in the Yule Ball scene and a band playing at the third task in the same movie. I don’t remember any music courses in the novels. But I’m pretty sure there weren’t any.

6: The actors playing Lily and James Potter were much older than their characters

Yet, the crew did not bother to make the characters older in the movies. The actress who played Lily was in her 30’s when they filmed the first movie. The actor who played James was in his 40’s when they filmed the first installment. J.K. Rowling was actually offered the part of Lily, but I think she turned it down. That being said, she could’ve told them that they were only 21 when they died. Unless she wasn’t allowed to, or she forgot, and when she finally remembered, it was too late. Clearly, the casting person had a very different vision of Lily and James. They probably pictured them much older. Once the 7th book was released, readers discovered that Lily and James were much younger than how the films portrayed them. In fact, it’s apparently still a common misconception that they died in their 30’s. The filmmakers had every right to make those characters at least 10 years older than in the books, even if J.K. Rowling demanded that they didn’t. Authors usually don’t get to have any creative control over their book’s film adaptations. J.K. Rowling was one of the few exceptions and it was only because she was an incredibly big-name author.

Anyway, the filmmakers could’ve cast younger actors from the start or when they found out Lily and James’s real ages (which probably wouldn’t have been an option, though), or put youthful makeup on them to look younger, or—just simply made them older in the movies. Nothing would have been messed up as a lot of elements were already cut and changed. Plus, it is common for characters to be made older in the films than in their original sources. This happened with Disney’s “Pocahontas” (and many other adaptations of the same person), 2002’s “Tuck Everlasting”, “The Crucible”, “Percy Jackson” movies, and “The Giver”. The crewmembers probably thought the movies would succeed more and have wider appeals if the main characters were made older than in their original books. Oh well.

So, those are all the observations I had for the “Harry Potter” movies.

movie

Let’s Get Down to Business…to Analyze “Mulan” (1998)

Warning: contains spoilers***

I was 11 when I first saw “Mulan”. I also wrote an essay about the use of femininity in the film when attending college.

Speaking of which—I didn’t find the attitude toward females in the movie to be offensive when I was 11. In fact, I saw it as historically accurate. I was well-aware of how girls and women weren’t allowed the same rights as boys and men. So, it came up as no surprise to me that Mulan couldn’t go to war as a female.

When her dad is called to the battle against the Huns, Mulan disguises herself as a male by cutting her hair and then putting it up, faking a manly voice, and having to behave like a male. It only lasted so long.

Coincidentally, there was a true story of a lady who pretended to be a man to fight. That was Joan of Arc. Anyway, I think Mulan identified herself as not-very feminine. She fails the bridal test at the beginning. But she befriends the other soldiers, all of whom are male.

Also, she is considered an official Disney Princess, even though she’s not a princess at all. She wasn’t born into royalty, nor does she marry a royal (unless Shang, whom Mulan marries in the sequel, has some mysterious connection to royalty that nobody is aware of). I heard that she was only added to the Disney Princess line because Disney wanted an Asian character (I guess Jasmine doesn’t count, even though Arabia is in Asia).

Nevertheless, I consider Mulan to be a good role model for girls. She is one of the few Disney females to be a warrior. I’ve always wondered how the film, “Mulan” would’ve been handled if it’d come out in the 1930’s. Would it have been banned for improper female character portrayal? I don’t think 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” would be released today, as is.

While Mulan is a memorable and likable character, her dragon mentor, Mushu, appeals to me too. He is voiced by Eddie Murphy, who also voiced Donkey in the “Shrek” movies. And what’s funny is that Mushu’s characterization is very similar to Donkey in “Shrek”. However, “Mulan” was released three years before the first “Shrek” film. But I saw the first two “Shrek” movies before watching “Mulan”.

Like other Disney films before “Mulan” beginning with “The Little Mermaid”, I would rate “Mulan” 5 out of 5 stars.

movie

The Mystery of the Maturing Appeal of “Winnie the Pooh”

Many of us grew up with “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”. We enjoyed the characters, the morals, and much more.

However, in the 2000’s, according to my observation, “Winnie the Pooh” apparently became more suited for small children. From the products geared toward little kids, and most of the fans being in their early childhood, I had considered “Winnie the Pooh” kiddie.

But thanks to movies, like “Goodbye, Christopher Robin” and “Christopher Robin”, “Winnie the Pooh” might be appealing to older crowds again. While I didn’t see “Goodbye, Christopher Robin”, I did see “Christopher Robin”. It is anything, but kiddie, let alone the PG-rating (which is pretty much like G, and has been since the 90’s or early 2000’s).

I won’t spoil anything from “Christopher Robin”, but many of the content and elements used are more sophisticated and appealing to adults and bigger children. Perhaps Disney wanted to make “Winnie the Pooh” more interesting to older audiences—maybe they didn’t wish to give the general public the impression that “Winnie the Pooh” was only for small children.

Nevertheless, I am glad that “Winnie the Pooh” no longer seems to attract just little kids. The same seemed to happen with the Disney Princess line in the 2000’s. That also used to allure merely early childhood, but is now enticing older crowds (some people have had Disney Princess-themed weddings).

While some franchises, such as “Barney” and “Teletubbies” will probably always attract mostly small children, it’s great that Disney tries to engage all ages.

movie

You Ain’t Never Read a Critique Like This…For Disney’s “Aladdin” Live-Action Remake (2019)

This year is a huge year for Disney, especially with live-action remakes. I went with some friends to see the live-action remake of “Aladdin”. I liked it.

From the trailer, I could easily see that it was going to differ a lot from the cartoon. Unlike my other movie critiques, this will not have spoilers that occur toward the end of the film. However, there will be some minor revelations. So, if you don’t want to know, I’d suggest you see the movie first. But if you do, or you already saw the film, proceed.

Anyway, let me start off with the strengths.

1: Giving Princess Jasmine a girl BFF

Unlike other Disney princesses, Jasmine has no female companions in the animated version of “Aladdin” (as well as doesn’t have the lead role). I noticed that in recent years and thought about how it would’ve been nice if she had a female companion, like a girl BFF. Coincidentally, it happened. Not long after I realized that Jasmine only had males in her life did I come across an article that announced that she would have a female friend in the 2019 reboot. Yay! More female presence—not counting the extras.

2: The song “Speechless”

This was added in the live-action reboot. It was given to Jasmine and as a single solo. It added character development and more backstory to Jasmine.

3: Will Smith’s portrayal of the genie

While no one will truly beat Robin Williams’ portrayal of the “Aladdin” cartoon in 1992, Will Smith still did a good job. He still executed jokes and humor successfully. I especially admired a realistic approach of the genie’s look and why (I won’t say—see the movie to find out).

Now here are the aspects that could’ve been better.

1: The characterization of Iago and the sultan

Okay, I get it. The creators didn’t want it to be a copy of the cartoon. They also had to make changes for new characters, like Jasmine’s friend, Dahlia. However, I was quite bummed with the sultan and Iago’s developments.

The sultan was dull, conservative, and had little screen time, compared to the cartoon. He was also not nearly as enthusiastic and positive. And he didn’t play with toys. Bummer! I understand that the younger characters need to make their own choices, but cartoon sultan is far better.

And Iago. Oh my God—he was so one-dimensional. He flew around to check on things for Jafar, would repeat phrases, and would state when someone was doing something wrong, such as lying or hiding something. Where was his personality? His complexity? I comprehend how the crew couldn’t re-cast the original cast to reprise their roles. But I still wish Iago was more developed. Like cartoon sultan, animated Iago is far superior.

2: The romance between Aladdin and Jasmine was weaker

In the cartoon version, Aladdin and Jasmine fell in love and stayed that way. However, in the live-action remake, Aladdin has trouble getting Jasmine to love or even trust him. Remember when Jasmine tried to free Aladdin from the guards and revealed her true identity for it in the animated version? That didn’t happen in the live-action remake. Also, while some musical numbers were a bit stronger than in the cartoon, the scene with the song, “A Whole New World” did not convey nearly enough emotion for the audience as in the cartoon.

That being said, I would rate this film 4.5 out of 5 stars. While I liked certain versions of story adaptations equally as much (such as the cartoon and live-action “Beauty and the Beast” movies), this one was almost as good as the cartoon. My main issue was the characterization of Iago and the sultan. I know they aren’t major characters. But still—even if they were just a little different from the animated movie, I would have appreciated that.

Nevertheless, I would still recommend this movie.

movie

I’m Here to Review “The Rescuers” (1977)

Warning: Contains spoilers***

People are gathering at the UN. So are the mice. They received a message from a little girl named Penny that she needs help. Miss. Bianca and the janitor go to assist her at the orphanage she lived at. There is also a cat named Rufus who tells the mice about a woman named Madame Medusa, who’s kidnapped Penny before. Madame Medusa is desperate for a particular diamond.

The mice continue to guide Penny. But Madame Medusa won’t surrender with her plans. She even uses her pet alligators to hunt for Penny when she runs away. Her assistant, Mr. Snoops, tends to be nervous with her and more relaxed with his attitude toward Penny. But when things worsen, everything changes.

There are elements in this movie that make it differ from other Disney films. For example, the mice and cat can talk to Penny. While talking animals are super-common in Disney movies, it’s rare that they talk to humans. Usually, they make their natural animal noises around people. Another instance is when Penny prays that things will improve. With the exception of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, religion rarely plays roles in Disney. In fact, the characters are often not allowed to say the word, God. None of the characters get the classic musical numbers, except for the work anthem at the beginning and the twist of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” the kids sing at the end when Penny is finally adopted.

Speaking of which, while it’s satisfying that she got parents, it was a little disappointing that it took a while. But I understand in some ways. The adoption process can take a while—sometimes, several years.

This film was decent, but not one of my favorites. I did notice the “may day” moment similar to the balcony scene in “Aladdin”. It could have been recycled. Disney does reuse moments and movements a lot. Anyway, the reason it was just okay was mainly the engaging element. It didn’t keep my attention too much compared to other films. So I would rate this movie, 3.5 out of 5 stars.

movie

Imagine the Impossible… Review of “Mary Poppins Returns” (2018)

Warning: contains spoilers***

Many years have passed since Mary Poppins has left the Banks family. Michael and Jane are now adults. Michael is widowed and has three children: John, Annabel, and Georgie. Jane hangs out in the house too.

Michael is at risk of losing his house. While his kids are in the park, Mary Poppins flies down to them. She often denies anything magical, as usual. Nevertheless, she takes them on adventures, such as making the bath like an ocean, or going inside the children’s latest mother’s bowl to a musical hall performance.

Meanwhile, the bank is giving Michael a hard time about his home. His kids are just as worried. If not, more.

I saw this film in the theaters, and after seeing it a second time, I picked up some new elements. For instance, the format of this movie is very similar to that of the first “Mary Poppins” movie in 1964. The scenes are similar to those in the first installment, as well.

I was surprised how Jack was similar to Burt. Not just by his personality, but also having those other guys in the “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”, similar to the “Step in Time” number.

The music was amazing. It followed the same mood and tone, but more modernized. I still didn’t understand why the admiral had to fire the cannon every hour. What’s the purpose of that?

One scene that stood out to me was the balloon scene. Yes, it’s a movie, and it’s supposed to communicate a message about youth as well as be satisfying to audiences. But it was strange for me—the idea of holding a balloon in the sky and seeing it as a magical moment. In real life, if just one person held onto a balloon that took them up to the sky, he or she would scream, and so would everybody on the ground. It would be a scary, panicking disaster. The emergency departments would be there too.

Another moment that was silly, even if essential to the plot, was the scene where Jack and his buddies try to turn back time on the Big Ben. No one would fall for that in real life, not to mention that Jack and his pals would’ve been arrested too.

Nevertheless, this was a good movie. I would rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

movie

Satisfying vs. Unsatisfying Movie Endings

Warning: contains spoilers for the following films***

Avengers: Infinity War

Into the Woods

The Little Mermaid (both original tale and Disney movie)

Tarzan (both original tale and 1999 Disney movie)

When people watch a movie, they not only expect a good story, but also a lot of conflict. Because every fictional work, visual or written, needs problems and obstacles, many audiences expect satisfying endings, where the protagonists achieve their goals. If they don’t, then it’s either because they realized those goals weren’t what they wanted all along or they weren’t the right kinds.

Rarely these days are film endings unsatisfying. One example includes “Avengers: Infinity War”, where the characters dissolve into dust. But there is a part two now. I don’t know how it ends and I won’t look it up now. Anyway, the other example of a movie with an unsatisfactory ending is “Into the Woods”. The baker’s wife dies and so does the witch after her curse was undone. I understand that the point is that there is no such thing as “happily ever after”. But it was still unsatisfying, especially coming from Disney. Disney is known to sugarcoat their film endings.

Like in “The Little Mermaid”, where Ariel marries Prince Eric as a human. In the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen, she dies at the end and the prince gets another bride. I read that the creators of the Disney version found that sad. They felt that in order to make their adaptation more kid/family-friendly, the ending needed to be happier.

Another example, although probably not as sad (I could be wrong, though), is Disney’s “Tarzan”. While Jane and Professor Porter join Tarzan in the jungle, in the original novel, Tarzan is brought back to civilization.

Audience and genres also contribute to how the films should end. Horror films often end a certain way. The ones I saw didn’t have very satisfying endings. But there likely is a purpose for that. Horror movies are not intended for families or children. Kid-friendly films have different standards from mature movies, besides cleanliness. Also, many young people yearn for happy endings. So do older crowds.

Writing

Characters: When All of Their Flaws Are Too Hard to Apply

Image from Pixabay

Ah, characters: you’ve got to love or hate them—or have some opinion on them. They also shouldn’t be perfect. The hero should do wrong things and get disliked at times and the villain should get liked at times.

However, this is super-difficult—at least for me it is. I have a tendency to protect my main character in my novels. I like her a lot. I feel sorry for her. And because of those, I tend to make her hardly flawed. At most, she may do a few wrong things and at milder levels. The worst she has done in my book series was unauthorized filming and lying about not doing it. That’s actually a serious offense.

Anyway, I’m probably not the only writer who has trouble making certain characters flawed. Of course, there are characters who are unfriendly, but not evil. And obviously, there is conflict in my stories. But I think I know why I have difficulty getting my protagonist to misbehave.

One: it wasn’t until the plot of my first book’s first edition was nearly complete when I found out that protagonists should behave badly or do wrong things. When rewriting my first book after removing it from the market, I couldn’t make my main character more flawed as the major elements had already been established. Two: I have recently become very uncomfortable around conflict. Not just in real life, but also in fiction. Yes, I have stopped certain books and movies because I loathed how the characters were being treated. Now while writing my third book, I have no plans to make my MC do really bad things. Yes, she won’t be perfect. In fact, she will have trouble controlling her emotions. But I will stop there on that.

Writers fall in love with their heroes. They become attached to them. So they may have trouble making them behave badly. However, someone told me that the best books have characters who misbehave a lot.

Now if you’re creating children’s stories, there are limits to how badly the characters can act. Of course, it would be acceptable (and would probably engage readers) if the protagonists started food fights at school, got sent to the principals’ offices, and were punished by their parents. However, you could not have them do something that would be inappropriate. Not just drugs or drinking, but also activities that could lead to death or serious injuries. Otherwise, parents won’t want their kids reading your books.

Do you notice that lack of perfectly behaved characters in fiction? Most likely. And that’s because people want flawed characters. In fact, sometimes that’s essential to the storylines.

I’ll give a few examples from Disney movies. In The Lion King, when Simba talks to Scar about that shadowed area that his father forbade him to go, Scar says that only the bravest lions would enter. “Brave” is the big, main keyword. That was what encouraged Simba to check it out, and, of course, that led to conflict crucial for the plot. If Scar had said that only the dumbest lions would go there, Simba might not have gone because he wouldn’t have said, “Well, I’m dumb.” He was in too good of a mood to say such a thing. And then, there would have been a lot less conflict. And without enough conflict, the story would’ve been dull, and the film would’ve drastically failed—or maybe not have even been green-lit.

In Beauty and the Beast, after the beast releases Belle from the dungeon tower, he leads her up to her new room and says that she can go anywhere, except the forbidden west wing. Later Belle is curious about the west wing and enters it, discovering the enchanted rose and the portrait of the beast when he was a person. The beast catches her and forces her out.

Spoiler:

At the end, when the beast transforms back into a human, Belle recognizes him from the painting. Then they live happily ever after.

If Belle had listened to the beast, or the beast had not prohibited her from going to the west wing, then the ending might’ve resulted in the prince re-explaining how he’d become a beast. Or—he might not have changed into a better character. Therefore, Belle wouldn’t loved him, and he would’ve failed to break the spell he and the servants had gone under.

So there you have it. Notice the pattern in both examples? Let that help you.

movie

Disney Princess Types That Have Not Happened So Far

We all know the official Disney princesses as of now. Some of us may know about the forgotten Disney princesses. But that’s another post.

Anyway, have you noticed these details that have never happened to Disney princesses, both the official and forgotten ones? Read below:

1: A princess who wears glasses

Not one Disney princess wears glasses. In fact, not long after I noticed that, a little girl who wears glasses wrote to Disney and stated that it would be nice to have a Disney princess who wears glasses. Hey, glasses are NOT nerdy at all.

2: A princess with braces

Like glasses, braces are not geeky, either. Yes, many princess movies are set in historical time periods. But, hey, unchronological stuff happens in Disney movies all the time (like several times in “Aladdin”, especially with the genie). A princess with braces would be nice.

3: A transgender princess

In a time of people starting to accept sexual orientations and gender identities, it would be appropriate to have a transgender princess. There’s already been pressure toward Disney to give Elsa a girlfriend. While there haven’t been any hints to Elsa having a female lover on the “Frozen 2” trailer, it would be great if there were a lesbian or transgender princess.

4: A disabled princess

There was a petition for a Disney princess with Downs Syndrome. But not one princess has been blind, deaf, physically handicapped, or anything else. Well, Ariel becomes mute for a good chunk of “The Little Mermaid”. But her voice was physically removed.

5: A tomboyish princess passionate about science

Okay, I know. Science barely plays roles in Disney films. Probably because magic is more dominant. However, I think this would be hard to market to little girls. So if a tomboyish science-obsessive princess ever happens, she’d likely end up a forgotten Disney princess.

6: A princess too old to be official

I was surprised when I first discovered that Elsa is supposed to be 21 in the main events of “Frozen” (the first one in 2013). That makes her the oldest official Disney princess in age and the only one not a teenager. Some of the forgotten Disney princesses might be older than teens too (Wikipedia said that Megara from “Hercules” was 20) and some are definitely younger, like Vanellope from “Wreck-it-Ralph”. In fact, part of the reason Vanellope is not official is because she was considered too young. However, no princess has been deemed too old. Disney rarely made human protagonists older than teens before the turn of the century. But even now, a 30-year-old princess would likely be too old to appeal to young girls.

Well, that’s all. Have you noticed any missing details among the Disney princesses?

movie

The Journey Continues… Check out this Review of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (2013)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

I was never really a Lord of the Rings fan. I never read the books nor saw the movies before this one. However, I did do a little research on it after, despite finding this film just okay.

Basically, a bunch of men are continuing their journey from the previous movie, which I didn’t see. Never reading the book, I discovered that many female characters, such as Tariel the elf, and Bard’s daughters, were not in the novel. The film crew added them.

One thing I found surprising was that Bard had kids that were suddenly shown at the end. And they were older—old enough to look after themselves without a nanny. I’d came up with private nickname for Bard, “Guy who looks like he had kids at 17.” Then, after doing research, I discovered that Bard was supposed to be in his 40s. The actor, Luke Evans, was in his early 30s when the movie was shot—I think.

Another interesting aspect was that the elves were not short, like they traditionally are portrayed in other fantasies, excluding Christmas ones (except in “The Santa Claus” movies, where the elves looked like human children—but that’s another topic). They were even fierce.

Because I was never into the LOTR franchise that much nor was I very familiar with it, I was a little lost in the story, which is why I didn’t narrate it. It was also a little intense for me. Therefore, I would rate this film 3 out of 5 stars. It just didn’t hold my attention as much as “Harry Potter” or “Narnia”.