Sex, Drugs, and…Wizardry? Why the New Harry Potter Will Leave You at Half-Mast
Oh, those boys and their wands. The sixth installment of the Harry Potter series, which broke records with the $22.2 million earned after the witching hour this Wednesday, has as much sexual tension as it does wizardry, which is almost as awkward as it sounds.
Despite the best efforts of the costumer, cameraman, director, and (most likely) the producers, the little wizards are unmistakably teenagers, and showing it, resulting in a very satisfying, very PG teen sex-romp that only occasionally strains against its limitations.
It’s a new year. The kids are back at Hogwarts. Dumbledore is still the wise old wizard. Voldermort is once again out to get Harry. Hermione likes Ron Weezly. Ron is oblivious. There’s a quiddich game to be won. Antics ensue.
What is surprising is how completely engaged not only I, but the diverse audience (which included families, couples young and old, Chelsea muscle boys, and several babies) remained throughout the film’s strained two-and-a-half hours. Director David Yates wins a prize, not for his artistic achievement, but for charming us through inconsistencies and shortcomings that would sink any other film.
While I know it’s a magical place, the rules of magic at Hogwarts have always confused me. Wizards can warp in and out of time and space – except when they can’t. Professors are all-knowing, except when they aren’t. A good luck potion turns all events in one’s favor, and yet it’s produced only in small enough quantities to move the story past a single plot point.
The behavior of Harry, Hermione, and their professors is even more baffling. Students discover secrets that threaten the world’s existence, but then keep them to themselves. The young Malfoy is evidently a murderous little snot with connections to the Dark Lord – why do they keep inviting him back to school?
There are no answers to these questions, which is why Rowling’s world, despite its popularity, will never have the respect of say, Tolkein’s, because all the magic in the universe cannot repair the holes in her story.
And this is the problem not very far from the surface of Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. How do you keep an audience tied to a story that is slowly imploding? The solution rests on the shoulders of its adolescent actors. Their maturity has limited our interest in the childish adventures, and it has demanded real characters from their performances. The success of The Half Blood Prince, as well as the following two films, requires a careful balancing act: they need to make us believe in those characters and yet still suspend all disbelief in their world.
It can be a lot to ask of an audience, no matter what their age.
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