Saturday, May 29th, 2004
Do You Believe In Magic?
I’d never really had any interest in the Harry Potter phenomenon, not least of all because it seemed to me to be a not-too-subtle ripoff of Neil Gaiman’s Books Of Magic, which predated the Potter books by nearly a decade. For those unfamiliar with The Books Of Magic, it was a miniseries published in 1990 by DC Comics that introduced the character of Tim Hunter – a bespectacled English boy with an owl companion who was destined to become Earth’s greatest wizard. Sound familiar? Granted, that was about where the similarities ended – Hunter wasn’t orphaned, he still had a father (for a while at least) and instead of being enrolled in a school for magic, he was given a crash course in magic by almost all the occult characters in the DC universe and was nearly murdered on several occasions by evil-doers. So yeah, it was considerably darker than the Harry Potter books, and while it was sufficiently different from Potter in tone and content, the superficial similarities were enough to put me off of Harry Potter-mania.
After the initial mini-series, Hunter returned in an ongoing Vertigo (DC’s ‘mature readers’ imprint) series of the same name which started out strongly but tailed off towards the end of its fairly long run. After a cancellation, Tim Hunter got a fresh start in The Names Of Magic miniseries which set up a new ongoing series, Hunter: The Age Of Magic. The new title never quite found its feet and was again given the axe after a couple years. Still, the powers-that-be weren’t ready to give up on Hunter and after bringing Gaiman back as a co-plotter, a third ongoing series – The Books Of Magick: Life During Wartime – will kick off in July and apparently be even darker in tone than its predecessors.
So what’s this got to do with Harry Potter? Not a helluva lot. As I mentioned before, I hadn’t read any of the Potter books nor seen any of the movies and all I knew about it was what I read in newspapers or magazines reporting on the books or films. So after seeing trailers for the third film and being stymied yesterday afternoon in my attempts to rent Run Lola Run and Seven, I decided to give Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone a whirl. Verdict? An overwhelming ‘meh’. I realize that the movie is not the book but I’ve also heard that the film was quite faithful and thorough as adaptations go, so I think I can reasonably assume that perceived shortcomings on the part of the film would also apply to the book. My main complaint was that it was boring. It was charming, visually impressive and obviously a lot of work went into getting the look and feel of Hogwarts right but looking past the window dressing, the story itself was awfully simplistic, cliched and unoriginal. The story functions fine as a morality play, but not much beyond that.
The young actors are nothing to write home about, seemingly cast more for their ability to look the parts than act them – Daniel Radcliffe is mighty wooden in the title role and only Emma Watson shows she might have better things ahead for her. Of course, that might not be their fault – they’re not given terribly complex characters to begin with. Yeah, yeah, I know – they’re children’s books and I probably shouldn’t expect enormous depth, but from the number of adults I know who are devoted fans I’d hoped to be pleasantly surprised. I gather that there’s an overarching story to all the books (Potter vs Voldemort) that might be more interesting and I know that things get darker as the series goes on, so they might get more compelling as the films progress. I will likely eventually see them all but won’t be harrassing the video store clerk to any extent for a copy of the next one. And I really doubt I’ll be bothering with the books. Those things are huge.
Stolen Wine Social tonight at the IV Lounge, on Dundas in front of the AGO. Scruffy cardigans and taped-up glasses optional.
It’s absurd how much stuff is available on Sharing The Groove. Right now, I’m downloading Wilco’s second show at Otto’s from May 20 as well as a Tanya Donelly show from 2002, and that’s just barely the tip of the iceberg. I need to buy a new CD-R spindle.
Usually I accomplish, um, nothing before I get a post up in the morning. Not today! Gary persuaded me to go for a good long bike ride early (for me) this morning, ostensibly to train for the Ride For Heart next weekend (sponsor me! If you’re not against heart disease, you’re for heart diesease!). It took about two hours to cover 30 km (just over 18.5 miles) through downtown Toronto – first along Davenport to just past Lansdowne, into High Park, down onto the lakefront trail, west a ways past the Humber, then back into the core through Ontario Place and the Exhibition Grounds, finally back up through Queen W and the university. I’m feeling surprisingly good, which bodes well for not dying during next weekend’s 50km ride. Sure could use a shower, though.
np – Spiritualized / Amazing Grace