Books · Fantastic Beasts · Film · Harry Potter · JK Rowling · Movies · Uncategorized

Obliviate: Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts and Fan’s Selective Memory

harry_potter_and_fantastic_beasts_4dx_textless_by_mintmovi3-dajxg1p copyJ.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was released in the UK in 1997 and created a phenomenon that has lead to the sale of over 500 million books, in the 7 book series. Going back to the beginning, Rowling sells the rights to the series in 1999 for a mere £1 million. By the time that the first movie is released in 2001, there are 4 of the books in the series have already been released and in fact, every movie released will have the next book in the series already out. This means, for every Harry Potter film, there is never a time when people watching them, either don’t already know what happened, because they’d read the books or they could easily go and read online what they missed.

This gives the Harry Potter filmmakers a lot of freedom. If you’ve read the books and seen the movies,  you know how much of the story is left out. Especially as you get to  Prisoner of Azkaban and beyond, whole storylines are absent from the films and even what’s there is rushed for time since they didn’t seem to want  every movie be 3 hours long. Quick example, the end of Order of the Phoenix, and one of the most important chapters in the book is The Lost Prophecy. It’s arguably the most important chapter in the series as it’s finally the place where Harry truly understands his connection with Voldemort and what is to come, “…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…“. Yet the movie only gives about a minute to a minute and a half to this pivotal moment. The filmmakers rely heavily on the audience to fill in the gaps with their preexisting knowledge from the books or leave it open for them to look online for answers. The movies, for all their visual wonder are truncated versions of Rowling’s epic.

Why do I bring all of this up?

When the first Fantastic Beasts movie came out, I began to hear rumblings in the fandom that Rowling had lost her touch. It’s a criticism that has only gotten louder in some corners of the fandom with the release of Crimes Of Grindelwald. And one of the reasons why I think this is happening is because we’ve forgotten what it was like to be in Rowling’s world and not already have all the answers.

I started reading the books just as the fourth one was released, so I was part of that long wait for the fifth, sixth and seventh books. Like most fans, I was part of the midnight parties, waiting in line for the book, taking it home and devouring it as quickly as possible so I could then talk to my friends and those online about what I thought it all meant and speculate where it would all go next. It was half the fun of the series.

I can distinctly remember waiting for what would be called, Half-Blood Prince, talking with fans who were just sure it would be call, The Pillars of Storgé. Of course they were wrong, but the conversations had between fans then, was all about their favorite series and the speculation happened because we couldn’t wait to find out what Rowling had in store for Harry and his friends. Most importantly, we trusted Rowling as a writer. She’d already shown us her ability to weave a narrative, as well as truly surprise us.

13669129_10157190743835075_291675916011469870_nSo, what’s changed? Why are people so angry at Rowling and what she’s doing with Fantastic Beasts? Why have we forgotten the fun of eagerly waiting for the next installment of her work, all while having the time of our lives trying to figure out, from the breadcrumbs she’s laid, where the story goes next? We know she is a master at using the tiniest detail to create something completely unexpected and wonderful. I mean,  Deathly Hallows the is the proof. If you look at the structure of her screenplays, it’s very similar to how she wrote her books. You can feel the structure with the way she creates mystery, places people and things in the movies that might not be as important yet, but will play a larger role later. Then, she throws you for a loop by upending the mystery, explaining how what you thought was happening wasn’t quite right.

So what’s changed? I think the answer is that we’re spoiled. We’ve forgotten what it’s like to wait for things. We live in a binge culture. In fact, many people actually wait for a series to be over so they can start them and not have to wait. But this has hurt our ability to just enjoy what’s been given to us and wait for what comes next.

Secondly, the binge culture has also lead to the rise of militant fandoms who obsess about everything and begin to place themselves as gatekeepers over franchises and gods of the created universes they didn’t create. In fact it’s become common place to see people demean someone like Rowling or Lucas for “messing something up” in THEIR universes. Can you imagine Tolkien in the age of social media? He’d be crucified for retconning The Hobbit so that it fit better with Lord of the Rings. I mean the guy literally rewrote parts of his previous book to work with his larger mythology.

tumblr_nhm36njqle1rc13aso1_1280This sense of entitlement and peevishness is destroying our ability to enjoy things. As creators continue on in their creations, there may be things that change over time, but shouldn’t they be given the freedom to do that? It is their work after all. So what if Rowling has decided that McGonagall is older than we thought, does that really hurt anything? If she expands on what we know of boggarts, the Mirror of Erised or anything else, what’s wrong with that? Why do we think that just because we know something about a part of Rowling’s universe that we know everything? She’s continued to reveal things she knows about her creation that we do not and telling the creator they are wrong or have messed something up is the height of arrogance. In many ways, we’ve forgotten how to be okay with not knowing everything and having someone, other than ourselves be the arbiter of what’s “canon”.

The act of creating mythology, universes and stories is one that’s always evolving. As much as Rowling knows about her universe, and from all reports, in every interview with the other people involved in both film series I’ve seen or read, she knows almost everything, down to the smallest detail but she’s also still human. Like every author and creator, there will be things she’ll discover about her world as she expands it and she should be given the freedom to do so. Creation is a shear act of will, it’s been said, but it’s never been said to be perfect (unless you’re God), so maybe we can remember that as we wait for the next film in the Fantastic Beasts series. She has 3 more movies to answer our questions, therefore we cannot expect to have all the answers now, especially when we don’t have books to pull off our shelves to “spoil” the end.

Look for reviews of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald on The 602 Club and Cinema Stories podcasts.

Book Reviews · Books · ebooks · Justice · Timothy Keller · Uncategorized

The Casual Vacancy – A review

The Casual Vacancy is the new adult novel by famed Harry Potter author, J.K Rowling. This novel is a departure from her previous work in every way except for one and that is the subject of death. This is worth reading, it is a book for these times.

The book starts of with the death of a council member in a small English town and what unravels is a dark and twisted version of It’s A Wonderful Life; if that film had been written by Ian McEwan. This is the dark mirror of Harry’s world. There is no real good or evil; it is all selfishness and egocentricity. Barry’s death has left a black hole in this community.

They’re completely deluded, Tessa thought, looking that the other three, who were poring over some graph that Parminder had extracted from Kay’s notes. They think they’ll reverse sixty years of anger and resentment with a few sheets of statistics. None of them was Barry. He had been the living example of what they proposed in theory: the advancement, through education, from poverty to affluence, from powerlessness and dependency to valuable contributor to society. Did they not see what hopeless advocates they were, compared to the man who had died? (From The Casual Vacancy)

Rowling weaves a story of a town as interconnected as any Austen novel but with considerably more morose secrets below the surface of every character. There is a complete disconnectedness that each of the characters has for one another. They see the person not as real human being but as something to be consumed; they see only what they can get out of someone. People use people like a commodity to be manipulated for personal gain and then discarded when they are no longer needed. The bleak landscape of humanity on display is a testament to Rowling’s keen eye for the plight of 21st century, 1st world people; a world of epic Darwinian proportions. Gone are the days when people were seen as special and to be honored. The human race has been reduced to the state of a mere intelligent animal. And as such, we treat each other with the same disdain that the animal kingdom has for it’s members. We are driven by the instinct to look out for no one but ourselves and as such, society has begun to crumble under the immense weight of debilitating self-interest.

Inside this world, Rowling navigates the issues of class, gender and race. She may be accused of being heavy-handed in this, but whenever an author presses on the pressure points of society in the way she does, it is going to cause supreme discomfort in the reader. Humans dislike being told they are wrong and literature has always been at the forefront of fighting social injustice; To Kill a Mockingbird is a prime example of this. The challenge laid down in this book is how to overcome the problems set forth. The short answer; look not to ourselves but to the whole. The end of the book makes plainly clear it takes a community to foster true life. It takes each person putting the needs of others above themselves and having compassion. It is only in taking responsibility for the care of each other and seeing one anther with the value that is inherent in every person that society can flourish. This brings to mind a thought from one of The United States’ founding documents,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

Social justice is a subject that is immensely important and how we view each other is at the heart of this. Rowling has pointed out our weaknesses and truthfully there is only one answer that will fully satisfy. If we are created by a personal God and made in his image and not just random chance, then there is a duty we each have to honor and value each other. Tim Keller puts it this way,

….”So God created man in his own image.” What does being an “image” mean?  It conveys the idea of being a work of art or of great craftsmanship. Human beings are not accident, but creations.Without a belief in creation, we are force to face the implication that ultimately there is no good reason to treat human beings as having dignity….The Bible teaches that the sacredness of God has in some ways been imparted to humanity, so that every human life is sacred and every human being has dignity.  When God put his image upon us, we became beings of infinite, inestimable value….Regardless of their record or character, all human beings have an irreducible glory and significance to them, because God loves them, indeed, he “loves all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9, 17). He loves even those who turn away from him (Ezekiel 33:11; John 3:16). This bestows worth on them. (From Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just)

Book Reviews · Books · Christianity · Faith · Movies · Politics · Superheroes · The Election · The Gospel Coalition · Tim Challies

Owl Post 9-27-12

Links for Reviews and News for J.K. Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy:

J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy: We’ve Read It, Here’s What We Thought:

It’s not really possible to open The Casual Vacancy without a lot of expectations both high and low at the same time crashing around in your brain and distorting your vision. I don’t know if it’s possible or even desirable to avoid them. I know I had a lot of, let’s call them feelings when I opened the book (which happened on Saturday morning; don’t ask; I work for the military-industrial-entertainment complex, let’s just leave it at that). I have spent many, many hours reading Rowling’s work. I am a known Harry Potter fan.

J.K. Rowling’s debut novel for adults is a hard story that’s worth a read:

If you’re looking for what makes J.K. Rowling magical — emotion, heart — you will.

“The Casual Vacancy” is the first novel written for adults from Rowling, the successful-beyond-belief author behind the “Harry Potter” series about the young boy who discovers he’s a wizard.

Poverty Informs J.K. Rowling’s New Novel For Adults:

J.K. Rowling has a new novel. She’s moved away from Harry Potter, the boy wizard whose stories prompted millions of kids to obsess over books big enough to serve as doorstops. Having concluded that series, she’s written a novel for grown-ups called The Casual Vacancy, a story of troubled teenagers and their even more troubled parents.

Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama:

Tell certain liberals and progressives that you can’t bring yourself to vote for a candidate who opposes gay rights, or who doesn’t believe in Darwinian evolution, and they’ll nod along. Say that you’d never vote for a politician caught using the ‘n’-word, even if you agreed with him on more policy issues than his opponent, and the vast majority of left-leaning Americans would understand. But these same people cannot conceive of how anyone can discern Mitt Romney’s flaws, which I’ve chronicled in the course of the campaign, and still not vote for Obama.

The Days I Need the Gospel Least:

Preach the gospel to yourself! Preach the gospel to yourself every day! I think we are all growing accustomed to being told that Christians need to center their lives upon the gospel and that one of the keys to doing this is to be continually reminded of what is true by preaching the gospel to ourselves every day. I’ve been hearing this for years now and to varying degrees have been practicing it. However, just last week I had a bit of a breakthrough in my thinking about it. (Though this is a breakthrough for me, it is may well be one of those things you have understood for years.)

Former Saviors Now Stumble:

At first glance, you might think they’ve done a fine job… look at an illustration by John Buscema realized in the form of James Purefoy, or a vintage Frank Frazetta drawing fleshed out by Taylor Kitsch. On a surface level, it might look like Solomon Kane and John Carter have been translated from their literary origins to the wonder of 21st century movie-making, characters created a little over or under a century ago finding new life in cinema. Problem is, whether you enjoyed, abhorred, or found yourself indifferent to the cinematic versions, these icons have nevertheless been significantly, and intentionally, tarnished.

A Free People’s Suicide:

Os Guinness has performed an act of social ecology. With A Free People’s Suicide, he questions whether the American way of life is sustainable. But when we talk about sustainability in this sense, the question is not whether America will keep its air clean, its water pure, or its forests lush. Guinness is interested in a deeper and more urgent question: Will American freedom continue to thrive, or will it unravel as a result of its abuses?