Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Letter to Steve Kloves

Dear Mr. Kloves, and to others it may concern, including, but not limited to Mr. David Yates and of course, Ms. J.K. Rowling:

First, Mr. Kloves, I want to say thank you and tell you that you have taken on a remarkable task equal, and in some ways surpassing, those screenwriters who have taken on such behemoth projects like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. I can declare myself a fan of your literary adaptations leading all the way back to your writing, and directing, of "The Fabulous Baker Boys", one of my top 150 favorite films of all time.

The fact that you were given, and chose to accept, the task of adapting all seven of the Harry Potter novels for the screen is very much appreciated, and I for one do not take it for granted. I must, however, make a request of you in the upcoming and final two-part film project of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows".

First, let me say a few things about this note. To anyone who might find this letter lying around on the desk of Mr. Kloves or Mr. Yates and who has not seen the latest Harry Potter film, "Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince", please note that you continue to read at your own peril. I do give "spoilers", which is why I chose to wait a full 10 days after the movie's release, in order to give people who do want to see it enough time to do so. To anyone still awaiting a movie theater visit with a ticket that says "POTTER" as mine does, you may want to stop reading now, as the next several paragraphs get very, very specific.

Secondly, I am a fan who completely recognizes the difference in novel vs. film. I understand it is impossible to do certain things in movies that may be done, perhaps even crucial, in the book form. I think the book's scene set in the burrow over Christmas when Minister Scrimgeour confronts Harry concerning Dumbledore travels is a key piece of the story (not to mention the hilarity of the Weasley children all turning on Percy with mashed potatoes) but I understand why it was left out of the movie. Characters must be changed, certain lines must be altered, activities that are done by one character (say, Tonks finding Harry in a body bind curse on the train) are done by another character on film (where it was Luna Lovegood who found him). And despite the fact I might've liked the original text better, it worked just fine, accomplishing its goal. Though I would have liked to have seen Scrimgeour, the Dursleys, Fudge, the romance of Fleur and Bill (and the subsequent sour responses of the Weasley women and Hermione), and a few others, I know this is Hollywood.

I harken back to "Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire", where I watched the movie, realizing that by fifteen minutes into the movie, I felt as if we'd covered 200 pages. I do thank you, though, Mr. Kloves, for leaving out Hermione's efforts in SPEW, which is, in my opinion, by far the weakest subplot in all seven books.

Third, I am fully aware of the timeline of this film's production. The script was probably completed in 2007, before the final novel was even released. The film was finished for its November 2008 release, but was pushed back to July 2009, meaning that you had written a script with certain elements and scenes without knowledge of how those scenes and end-results might be affected in the final book, and to that end, the final movie. This was beyond your control, and I only mention it to let you know that yes, I am aware of this.

Finally, and I must stress this point... I enjoyed "Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince". For all of its faults, and I will give those in due course, I liked the movie. The casting of Jim Broadbent as Prof. Slughorn, even though he didn't fit the mold described in the book, was brilliant. Daniel Radcliffe's comedic side came out strongly in the Felix Felicis/Aragog funeral scene, and even Rupert Grint shone in the love potion scene.

I won't waste your time nitpicking the movie... for everything I loved about it, there are fifteen things people didnt, and for everything I didn't like about it, there are a 100 more things that people will say they did--this isn't a perfect film by no means, but it did the job.

Well, almost.

There are three points I want to bring up. These three points are mentioned because I feel as if they could have completely been done in the film, thereby not being under the "you can't do everything in the book!" rule that people claim.

Point #1... The Burrow Scene
I heard about this scene leading up to the movie, and that it was written in with Ms. Rowling's permission. This was a scene intended to show the ferocity of the Death Eaters, and that their reign of terror knows no bounds, even attacking what is a beloved structure and home in the series. The Burrow is loved and admired, and represents love, security and safety and perhaps even a home that many of us wanted to grow up in to millions of Harry Potter fans. And you burned it down.

I was expecting more with this scene. Four Death Eaters--Bellatrix, Greyback and the Carrows show up, and challenge Harry, who runs after them. Ginny, who has already been established as Harry's love interest from the very beginning of this film (we'll get to that), runs after him, leaping through the barrier of fire, a leap that apparently Lupin, Tonks and all the Weasleys cannot make. Ron is not even in this scene, which bewildered me. There is a little fear, the Death Eaters appear and disappear, and the Burrow burns. And then the scene is over. I don't get it. I don't understand the point of this scene at all. This actually could have been completely left out and I would have been fine with this. I just... well, I just didn't get its point.

Point #2. The (non) Battle at Hogwarts
Anyone who is somewhat of a Harry Potter fan knows the end of this book. Among even those who have only seen the movies, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't know about the death of Albus Dumbledore. The first problem with the way this was played out on screen is simply Harry's inaction when Malfoy has Dumbledore held at wandpoint. Malfoy disarms Dumbledore while Harry is hidden below, looking through a hole in the floor. While in the book, Dumbledore has thrown a silent bodybind curse on Harry to prevent him from acting, in the movie, Harry just stands there. You cannot get me to accept that with as much hatred of each other that Potter and Malfoy have, when Malfoy disarms Dumbledore at wandpoint, Harry wouldn't immediately have done the same to Malfoy. Its just not feasible.

In the book, while this is happening, the Death Eaters have stormed the castle. There are dozens of them in Hogwarts, and they are in battle with Ginny, Ron, Luna, Neville, the professors, and many of the other students, but for some reason, you chose to only have Snape, Malfoy, Dumbledore and Harry be mainly involved in this scene. The Carrow siblings are there, as is Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf, but only for a moment. My first reasoning was that perhaps budgetary concerns has kept this scene from being a full blown battle in the way that the ending of "Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix" was done (which, by the way, was excellently shot and written. Kudos to your part in that, Mr. Kloves). But really, this could have been done without much more cost than the movie already had incurred. Even if you did some background shots of wand sparks and spells, perhaps some extras portraying Dolohov and Yaxley and Rookwood (though you wouldn't have had to name them). Really, anything to give the feel of Hogwarts being under attack.

The final confrontation between Snape and Potter is disappointing. There was already a miss during the movie when its never acknowledged that Snape knows, or at least suspects, that Harry is using the old potions book, even in the most opportune time to reveal this information when Harry uses the sectumsempra spell on Malfoy. Then, when Snape defeats Harry, he simply says, "I am the half-blood prince." And...? At no point do we even see Snape learning of the "who is the half-blood prince" mystery. Personally, I'm sure I am in the very distinct minority that thinks that Alan Rickman is wrong for the part of Snape--Rickman is not... well, greasy enough. He worked fine for the first few movies, before readers/viewers knew what importance Severus Snape would play in the film. I think if producers could go back, they would probably cast someone else as Snape. For the record, I think Alan Rickman is a brilliant actor--just wrong for this part.

To that end, the death of Dumbledore was also a big disappointment. One of the most gut-wretching parts of the book's finale is how Harry tells Hagrid about the death, and Hagrid doesn't believe it. When McGonagall finds out, she nearly faints. When Lupin hears the news, he collapses into a chair with his head in his hands. Madam Pomfrey goes into near hysterics upon learning the dreadful news... its this type of effect that such a death has. No one wants to hear it, or believe it, and everyone is in total shock and dismay. The script just calls for a glossing-over of the entire ordeal. Dumbledore falls, Harry goes to him, Ginny pulls him away and McGonagall leads a "wand raising" in salute with the students. A fine scene, but only if you have no knowledge of how powerful it could have been.

Point #3... Harry and Ginny
Despite all of the aforementioned issues I have with the film adaptation of this wondeful book, I think they would have all been forgiven, perhaps even justified or overlooked if this one piece of the story had been right. But Mr. Kloves, I have to say, you were very wrong in the way this was handled.

The book itself has Harry's ever growing affection for Ginny throughout its pages, starting first a small stomach turn when she's around, eventually turning in a "roaring monster" in his stomach when she is with Dean Thomas. This would have been hard to visualize on the screen, so I am not bothered at all that the first time we see Ginny Weasley, its through a window that Harry is looking up into, gazing with adoration and affection. In fact, a few times Harry is caught gazing at Ginny by Hermione, and the subsequent dialogue that follows was always funny in the film, so this was done effectively.

In my mind, though, one of the best scenes in the entire series is when Harry finally kisses Ginny. You've been waiting for it, you've been hoping for it, everything about his affections toward her have led to it, and it happens. Harry is in detention, for performing the sectumsempra spell on Malfoy, and misses the Quidditch final, forcing Ginny to play Seeker. While in detention, he is left unknowing about the match's results, not able to hear anything from the Quidditch pitch outside. When detention is over, the match is long over, so he knows nothing until the common room door is opened, upon which he finds everyone celebrating and cheering his arrival. They won! And, one of the best lines in any of the books, he grabs her and kisses her. He looks around, the common room is deathly quiet, Dean is holding a broken glass, Hermione is beaming and Ron has this look that says, "Well... if you must..."

This is how it SHOULD have happened...

This entire glorious moment was completely forgotten in the film adaptation. In your script, Mr. Kloves, Harry is trying to hide the potions book, and he and Ginny go to the Room of Requirement. She tells him to close his eyes and thenhides it for him, so he won't be tempted to get it--and then SHE kisses HIM. And its not even a long kiss, its only a second or two. There is also the issue of the tiara that is briefly mentioned in the sixth book (and unseen in the movie) that becomes a huge issue in the seventh book--but I chalk that up to the sixth movie script being finished before seventh book was released.

And this is how it DID happen... it doesn't help that Bonnie Wright looks as if she's perpetually 13 years old

Mr. Kloves, this is terrible. This is an unacceptable film portrayal of what was an irresistable literary moment, and I don't understand why it couldn't have followed the novel. One argument is that one Quidditch match is enough, if only for budgetary reasons, but you wouldn't have even had to show the match itself. After Malfoy is hit with the curse in the bathroom, Snape yells, "Potter! Detention every Saturday from now until end of term." Cut to Harry in detention, protesting about the Quidditch match, then going up to the common room and boom--he kisses Ginny and the scene unfolds beautifully.

The end of the movie doesn't even address what will happen with Harry and Ginny, something that is very painful in the book. What I liken to a "Spiderman ending", when the hero breaks it off with his ladyfriend for fear that she will be in danger, was crucial to their relationship, which you have spent the entire movie crafting.

Oh, and really, only the reader knows how Hermione feels about Ron during "Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince" novel, a great insight that is lost in the film, and much of her character is spent pining and yearning for Ron's attention.

In closing, I would like to offer a solution to ensuring these type issues do not present themselves to what will be a long awaited finale to what has, overall, been a fine series of movies.

I am willing to submit myself to you as a consultant on the final scripts. I'm sure the script is finished, as filming for the two part movie has already begun, but there is nothing that says we cannot do re-writes. Send me the script, I will look it over and read it, then make my suggestions as to what can be done to best exemplify the text to the big screen. I won't need much credit, maybe just put my name in between Gaffer and Best Boy or something, just so I can prove to my friends that I helped. I will work for free, asking only for my part of the royalties, as my changes and assistance will more than guarantee a better film, resulting in what should be an additional $40 to $50 million at the box office. Perhaps even Oscar gold. And when you get that Academy Award, just mention my name. That will help my creditbility in the upcoming film adaptations of "Contend", starring Samuel L. Jackson, and "Strength in the Struggle", starring Amanda Bynes and Justin Long.

I will be awaiting your response and I thank you for your time,

PS... Dave Legano playing Fenrir Greybeck is fantastic. Already a brilliant bad guy in the books, he has the potential to be one of the great screen villians in the last several years if his part is written correctly. We'll go over this when I read what you've written.

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