Thursday, January 11, 2018

If "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" were given "The Last Jedi" Treatment






(I feel bad for you if you're reading this and you didn't understand there will be spoilers, but I have a low opinion of humanity so here this warning is anyway. Spoilers. Spoilers. Spoilers.)


I didn't like Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  I thought it was inappropriately funny. That was simply irksome.  What made me actively dislike the movie was that they may as well have called it "Millenial Star Wars: The But Actually."  My head hurt as I went back and read the stellar reviews I'd seen, but skipped reading, prior to seeing the movie. "Brave!" "Bold new directions!" "Subverts all conventions!"

No. What I saw was as obvious and lazy as what DC is doing with their disaster of a cinematic universe.  They started with a plan and when it got pushback, they simply addressed the pushback on whatever the next film was going to be regardless of what that did to story or logic. "People complained about collateral damage in the last one. Make someone say this city has no people in it!" "People thought it was too serious! Make the new one funny even though it doesn't fit and the jokes arent, you know, funny."


In Last Jedi, they subverted everything that had been done not just by The Force Awakens, but by the canon.  Why do I call it "Millenial Star Wars: The But Actually"?  Because I imagine writer/director Rian Johnson excitedly telling producers, "So, General Hux is set-up as the rival to Kylo Ren in Force Awakens. But, actually, he's just a bumbling fool who sputters his way through a severely out-of-place phone-on-hold joke. And he turns into a slapstick piece later." And the producers must have been like, "Well, the big complaint in the last one was that everything was a retread of the A New Hope, so that definitely doesn't make him look like the reincarnation of Grand Moff Tarkin any more."


And then Rian Johnson said, "Right! Right! And Poe Dameron!He's the quippy, hot-shot pilot! He's like Han and the flying parts of Luke! Right? But, actually, he's an incompetent hot-head glory-hound who gets a bunch of people killed and his big seize-the-moment save-the-day gambit just fails." And the producers weren't sure that's how they wanted to market the sexy guy in the movie, but, you know, sure. Why not? No one's going to say they saw that coming.


And then Rian Johnson said...

Look. I can do this for the entire damn movie. It's not brave or bold. It isn't a new direction, so much as an opposite. And subverting is asinine for this franchise.  Why?


Because Star Wars, famously, is about the archetypal hero's journey. It just is. You can tweak that. You don't subvert it. Otherwise it stops being Star Wars.  Strident fans of The Last Jedi will argue otherwise, but, as we know, people are idiots.


The Last Jedi sucked. It was someone on stage at an improv theater yelling "no" when everyone knows the rule is "yes and" and gunking up the works. That's not brave. That's being an asshat.


To subvert consistently every time means to destroy character and story-logic. To demonstrate, I will do the same to another beloved franchise that is built atop an archetypal structure. 


I give you Millenial Star Wars: The But Actually version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

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On the opening page, we find that Hermione's actually been sneaking a muggle device, a "kindle reader", under her robes, loaded with notes from an OCD prior valedictorian muggle-born graduate. You thought Hermione was plucky and smart. But, actually, she's a damn cheatery cheater-face.

And then we run into Harry and Ron and you think, those two are the sorta-daft-but-plucky-chosen-one and his definitely-daft-and-cowardly-sidekick. But, actually, Harry's not the chosen one. He's just some sorta-daft-but-plucky kid who was only plucky because Dumbledore told him he was the Chosen One. Luckily, Snape walks by Ron, Harry, and Hermione's car on the train to Hogwarts and says, "Potter, you're not the chosen one. Your parents didn't die protecting you from an evil wizard. Your actual parents are your terrible aunt and uncle and they carved that idiotic thing into your forehead because they hate you." And Harry's like "OhEmGEE! I knew it!" and immediately loses all his pluck and still is sorta-daft and Ron's like, "I wasted a year sucking up to you and you're a nobody" and he doesn't leave, because he *is* a coward, but he isn't Harry's sidekick anymore.


And so Cheatery Cheater-Face and Sorta Daft and Cowardly arrive and ooooooohhhh, a mystery comes up! So of course our heroes are going to solve it! But, actually, they're perfectly reasonable twelve-year-olds and they're like, "Kids are being frozen stiff or killed. I'm staying in my room until this blows over."


So you think that Cheatery Cheater-Face and Sorta Daft and Cowardly will eventually get off the schneid and start trying to figure out this mystery, but, no. Snape wasn't being a liar. Harry really isn't anyone in particular.  And without Harry having that as his drive, Hermione and Ron have no reason to get involved. So they just sit.


Luckily, we have a real go-getter in the form of Albus Dumbledore! And Albus is in his little tower thinking up how he's going to solve this Chamber of Secrets thing when the Basilisk punts him out the window and he falls to his brutal, grisly, splattery death in the courtyard below.


But! But! But!


After a moment of looking at his very dead corpse, one eye rolls back across the courtyard and jumps back into its socket and then the blood seeps its way back in and the organs arrange themselves back into functioning order and the bones knit perfectly and the skin unrends and he flies back up to the tower, through his window, down the stairs, into the infirmary, and he lies down to take a lengthy nap without explaining what the hell just happened to anyone.  Because it's magic, you plebeians. Don't get your panties in a wad just because you've never seen anyone do that before.


And everyone is perplexed as to what to do. Snape is in charge, but he says "we can't stay here in the castle, so we're going to wander the grounds." McGonagall tells Snape that walking kids through a dangerous set of fields, forests, and gardens filled with magic monsters and kung-fu trees is a supremely stupid plan, and in no way a real plan, but he tells her she's a hot-head who's always trying to be in charge and she doesn't know his plan and he isn't gonna tell her, so take that! So McGonagall gets Hagrid and, I don't know, the incompetent seer teacher and Dobby to go to Burton-on-Trent to find a Herpetologist to help them figure out how to stop this mean-ass Basilisk because while stupid, it's better than walking the grounds.


So, now we focus on defeating that Basilisk, right? Nope. We go to Burton-on-Trent with Hagrid and bad seer and Dobby they go on a brewery tour of Bass Brewery and they bitterly complain about the vagaries of alcoholism and tada! they see the Herpetologist, but they get arrested and thrown in brewery jail, but, luckily, there's an Irish man in Brewery jail too. And everyone knows that Irish guys are not to be trusted since they are alcoholics too, but everyone knows that they hate snakes, so Hagrid and bad seer and Dobby escape from jail with Irish guy and they get him to the Chamber of Secrets and he's like "hahahaha! You should never have trusted me. I don't like snakes, but I love beer. And these basilisky people paid me in beer so hahahaaha."


Meanwhile, McGonagall is freaking out because Snape's leading a bunch of idiotic wizard kids outdoors amongst killer spiders and whomping willows and who knows what else and she's like "Enough!" And she starts to pull out her wand when Dumbledore shows up and he's like "NOPE!" and Expelliarmuses her. And then Dumbledore says to Snape "Great to see you. Let's not talk about me being invincible without my wand." And Snape says back, "Of course. And you're going to be magically cool with my plan I didn't tell anyone about, which resulted in most of the slower kids being picked off by various apex predators, because, guess what! I led us to Hagrid's hut!"


And McGonagall's like, "Why didn't you just say that's what you wanted to do? I mean, I would have told you that an entire school couldn't fit in there and I'm not sure that it will keep out a basilisk, but at least it could have been a conversation."


And Dumbledore's like, "You need to learn you're not always the one with the answer."


And Snape says to Dumbledore about McGonagall, "I like the cut of her jib."


And so Dumbledore and Snape lead McGonagall and the thirty kids left to Hagrid's place.

But as they're doing that, the basilisk starts shooting random darts of poison out at them right in front of Hagrid, Bad Seer and Dobby and those damn kids just aren't going to make it. Hell, Basilisk takes out at least ten in ten seconds.


Meanwhile, in the Chamber of Secrets, as Basilisk is shooting poison at those twit wizardlings, we finally lay eyes on duh duh duh Tom Riddle/Voldemort! The villain!


But, actually, when he's all talking to the Basilisk about killing Hagrid, the Basilisk just bites Riddle's head off. So he's dead. For sure. And we don't know squat about Riddle: who he was, why he put this plan in motion, why he loosed a basilisk.


But, actually, that's not important.


But then Snape's all like, "Fret not colleagues and children! I am mighty!"


And Snape sets himself on fire and then wingardum leviosa's himself at the Chamber of Secrets so hard that he splits it in half and topples three of the towers, while, of course, he dies a very splattery death that he will not be recovering from because only Albus can do that. Maybe.


And McGonagall's like, "Whoa. That was badass. But couldn't he have just set the whomping willow alight and flung that at it? I mean, noble sacrifice and all, but if we can just launch flaming stuff at folks, that would have been the common sense move."


But whatever, because the ten kids left and McGonagall and Dumbledore and somehow Hagrid and Dobby and bad seer all make it in to Hagrid's hut, so problem solved.


But, like, actually just because Snape wrecked the castle, that didn't mean that he actually killed the basilisk or the, I dunno, basilisky people with it and they're outside and they're pissed. So Dumbledore's like, "Dude, we got some rusty garden shears. We gotta get ready to fight."


And Basilisk is a fan of overkill so it got a legitimate medieval battering ram on some sort of rolling frame and he's gonna use it to knock Hagrid's hut right the hell over, and it looks bad. But Dobby decides to sacrifice himself by cutting one of the legs of the battering ram off with the rusty garden shears he was given, which in no way was going to work, but whatever.


But actually, then bad seer snatches him away and kisses Dobby and the basilisk and basilisky people don't kill them, which is supposed to be their basilisky plan, and Dobby and Bad Seer go back in the hut and man everyone is screwed because there's no way out.


So then Dumbledore appears in front of the hut and says "Basilisk, quit being a punk!" Which makes Basilisk mad so Basilisk rushes forward and kills the hell out of Dumbledore, and I mean kill kills him.


But, actually, that was Dumbledore's brother Aberforth who is an inkeeper and looks like him and it's cheap, and I don't think Aberforth had been introduced into the series yet, but hey, it needed to happen. And while all that's going down Hagrid's like, "wait, Aberforth is dying on purpose because he knows there's a way out of this hut. Except he doesn't. At all. Like he legitimately has never been here. Ever. But fine. I have rats and I never figured out how they got in and out. Holy crap. Turns out I have a cellar!"


And so real Dumbledore and McGonagall and Hagrid and I guess bad seer and Dobby  and, it turns out, Cheater-face and Sorta-Daft and Cowardly and two other kids (we'll make one of them Draco who you think is bad, but actually has been working on his self esteem and is pretty cool it turns out) and they get to the back of the cellar and there's no way out but Harry's like "Well, my name's on this so it turns out that even though I'm sorta daft and I don't have training and my parents were nobody who weren't killed by a super-villain wizard, I'm the best boss ass wizard ever so um 'We gone' and he apparates everyone the hell out of there and they all cram into his possessed flying car and off they go to find a new school.


Boom! That's some dope stuff right there!

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The whole idea of a trilogy, which these new Star Wars movies are supposed to be, is that a common thread runs through and the characters progress in logical, somewhat linear fashion throughout so they can come to a conclusion at the end of the third one. Now everything's all willynilly and they have to cram way too much in the third movie to get it to where the good guys win, because, guess what? The good guys are going to win. That's what it is.  But it's not going to be cohesive nor, most likely, very good.

We're not going to get what could or should have been Star Wars' Prisoner of Azkaban or Goblet of Fire or Order of the Phoenix or Half Blood Prince or the Deathly Hallows because Rian Johnson screwed up the series' Chamber of Secrets so badly.

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