The latest installment of the Harry Potter behemoth premiered at midnight and is projected to set new box office records. Or something. I have to admit that I never took to this franchise. Never mind that being the comics geek that I am (or was) I never got past the whole Books of Magic thing (read more on that here), but there's also something off-putting about the Hogwart's thing.
Maybe Pink Floyd's The Wall made too strong an impression on me, but there's also something a bit too Spartan about the whole Hogwart's scene. I'm talking the idea of separating kids from their families in order to essentially train them as warriors. It's especially striking in the first film when the very young actors are forced to engage in magical warfare and face real jeopardy.
I know a lot of people whom I respect who love the Potter books to pieces so maybe they are able to look past some of the more dissonant notes in the melody. Or maybe it's just that I don't really care for the basic concept either way. None of the films made much of an impression on me, and I could never make much headway with the books either.
Then there's this film, which seems a more plausible update on the Potter story. Meaning that in real life, you wouldn't have a bunch of charming eccentrics dealing with magically-gifted children, you'd have a bunch of modern Mengeles, doing their damnedest to weaponize any superhuman potential, much like the Academy in Firefly:
Set in the strange and oppressive emotional landscape of 1983, Beyond The Black Rainbow is a Reagan-era fever dream inspired by hazy childhood memories of midnight movies and Saturday morning cartoons.
Deep within the mysterious Arboria Institute, a disturbed and beautiful girl (Allan) is held captive by a doctor in search of inner peace. Her mind controlled by a sinister technology. Silently, she waits for her next session with deranged therapist Dr. Barry Nyle (Rogers). If she hopes to escape, she must journey through the darkest reaches of The Institute... but Nyle wonʼt easily part with his most gifted and dangerous creation.
And then there are the not-so-gifted children. Since we seem to be hellbent on creating a social Darwinist update on feudalism, the plot of this film seems particularly timely as well:
The Hunger Games takes place in the future, after the fall of North America. The book is set largely in the new nation known as Panem, which has 12 districts and one giant, ultra-rich Capitol. As punishment for a past rebellion against the glorious Capitol each district has to send a "tribute" to the Hunger Games every year. One boy and one girl (ages 12 to 18) are sent into an outdoor arena and forced to fight all the other tributes, Thunderdome rules apply. The main character is Katniss Everdeen, who has been chosen to represent District 12.
Childhood was one of the great innovations of the 20th Century, at least in the Western world. It's kind of sad to see it teetering on the brink. It's definitely something worth fighting to preserve.
A word to the wise.
UPDATE: How could have I forgotten this one? Very odd Gaga-type vibe here, but I can't quite put my finger on it. These girls look like they're in their 20s, so maybe that's why it wasn't quite connecting. Thanks to a helpful reader for the reminder.
UPDATE: There's also Tower Prep, which is running on the Cartoon Network. This has a pretty good pedigree in that Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series) and Glen Morgan (The X-Files, Space: Above and Beyond) are the showrunners, I just can't stomach more teen angst right now. Apparently there are elements of The Prisoner in it as well.
As per usual, there are a bunch of tips and links in the comments section. So if you haven't yet, dig in.