For the first time in seven years I went to a midnight showing of a film on opening night. I have not done this since the third Lord of the Rings movie in 2003, but last night Brooke and I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I. Doing something you do not normally do is a good way to gain new insights and several came out of last night's experience.
The second insight was that the movie itself was both good and bad. It was very much in line with the previous Harry Potter movies. The movie captured the essence of the Potter universe like the others, but also like the others, it carried little of the depth of the books. Many plot points were tweaked, twisted, or left out completely, leaving a lover of the books with some real disappointment.
A third insight was that, as Brooke and I were sitting in the theater with about an hour and a half until movie time, I noticed how many people were staring at their smart phones, surfing the internet, playing movies, texting, tweating, etc. I looked at myself, then over to Brooke, and saw that we were doing the same thing. We looked at each other, I pointed out how much things had changed in the last few years, and we both decided to put our phones away and play a game. We started by trying to name every character in the Harry Potter universe that we could think of, alternating turns, with the first person stumped to be the loser. Brooke of course won; not only is she better with names than I am, she has also read the books much more than I have. We then switched and played the same game with Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Alias, and our recent guilty pleasure, Friday Night Lights.
Playing this game with these TV shows as compared with Harry Potter, I noticed a fourth significant insight. We could play the Potter game for quite some time, but we quickly ran out of characters with the TV shows. That got me thinking about the different media for storytelling and what types of story TV and print media are good at telling.
The print version of the Harry Potter series is incredibly deep in terms of the universe it creates. Rowling populates this world with a myriad of characters that are memorable, memorable enough to be recalled by even me who has read the books only once. TV on the other hand yields far fewer memorable characters. Not that TV is bad at characters. Quite the contrary, I feel like I know and love many of the characters in TV land far better than some characters from the book world. I love how Lost, Battlestar, and Alias tell about their main characters. TV does this perhaps better than any other media. Especially if the TV show has multiple seasons. By the end of a viewing of Lost, one has had approximately 90 hours of screen time to get to know and love the characters. But, it is only the main characters. Print media I believe does side and fringe characters better.
So, what kind of media is best for telling stories? I am not sure, both types have their strengths and weaknesses. One thing I can say, TV does characters better than movies on the whole. And Books do better than movies. Movies are just too short. Have you experienced any thing similar? I would love to hear your take on this phenomenon.