Harry Potter exhibition + screen shapeshifters: the good, the bad, and the just plain weird looking

I saw the Harry Potter exploitation exhibition recently. Like the Lord of the Rings exploitation exhibition (which I also saw, and also loved), this had film props and costumes, plus a few interactive parts where you could pull a mandrake and hear it squeal or toss a quaffle through the hoops.

The amount of work that goes into films like these is extraordinary: the handwritten notes on Snape’s potions book; the wonderfully funny photos of Gilderoy Lockhart posing on book covers and fan pics; the horcruxes; the stickers around Ron’s mirror and Seekers Weekly in their room at Hogwarts.

The staff did a great job. The girl running the Sorting Hat ceremony at the time I visited looked uncannily like Emma Watson, and the queue-controller tried his best to stump the fans with questions: name the 12 (13?) fields of study at Hogwarts, name the dragons involved in the Twi-Wizard tournament, what was the creature that stopped Fleur in the tournament, how do you say “open” in parseltongue, and so on.

Less exciting was the bit at the end where you can buy $60 wands and $90 books and $50 marauders maps (huh? Fifty dollars for a piece of paper?), plus cheaper things like Bertie Bott’s every flavour beans, which really were every flavour. But the shop was incredibly crowded and kind of great to escape. Sadly, I did not escape unscathed (financially speaking).

What has this got to do with shapeshifting? Well … Lupin’s robes were on display, and Gilderoy “defeated” a werewolf from Wagga Wagga … But looking at some of the creatures on display – thestrals, centaurs – I thought how difficult it is to get some book things right on screen.

Shapeshifting comes in the too-hard basket, which is no doubt why most paranormal TV shows these days stick to those pale vamps more than anything. Ever since vampires stopped transforming, they’ve been easy to portray: couple of teeth prostheses, pale makeup, pouts, snooty look and hey presto, it’s a Cullen family get together.

Zombies are dead easy, too, and yes that dreadful pun was intentional: bloodshot eyes + jerky walk + waving your arms in front of you = zombie. So easy even Shaun of the Dead could get it right, and he wasn’t even particularly bright.

But shapeshifters rely on CGI on screen, and we’ve all seen enough dodgy CGI to know it doesn’t always work.

So let’s look at a few examples, starting with two that made me laugh out loud (not the intention of the director, I assume).

1. Teen Wolf (TV series) – S1 Big Bad. This werewolf alpha villain was pretty creepy until we actually saw him. Then it just looked like a gorilla suit.

2. Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt 1 – the wolf pack. The pack’s shifting never looked too good or bad until now, but the scene where the pack run around in circles at the lumber yard was just silly.* To be fair, it wasn’t the CGI but the voiceovers that didn’t work for me, and I did enjoy most of the movie, surprisingly.

As the current crop of TV and film directors have learned, it is much easier to whip the shirts off the wolf pack boys if you want them to compete with today’s favourite monsters, vampires.**

* Sorry to all those Twilight fans in the cinema while I was laughing at the scene.

** If you hoped to see this point illustrated, you’re at the wrong blog, since we’re kind of not into objectification here. Try this one, where you can even vote for the SEXIEST werewolf!

And a random collection of other onscreen shapeshifters:

3. Olga in Night Watch makes shifting look pretty uncomfortable. One of the few female shifters on screen.

4. Robert Patrick as the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, with what I thought was pretty decent CGI.

5. Lupin in Harry Potter. Everybody’s favourite lupine shifter.

6. Scott in the Teen Wolf movie. Just as well this was meant to be a comedy.

7. The original Wolf Man, who looks like he’s just popped his head over the fence to say howdy ho, good neighbour.

8. Seth Green as Oz in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Let’s just say lycanthropy didn’t win him any sexiest werewolf awards either.

9. Mason in The Vampire Diaries, showing lycanthropy’s not so fun outside Quileute territory, no matter how many awards you could win.

10. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Enough said.

So, who else saw the Harry Potter exhibition? What did you think?

And what are some of the other weird and wonderful onscreen transformations?

The Harry Potter Exhibition is at the Powerhouse Museum until April 9.

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5 responses to “Harry Potter exhibition + screen shapeshifters: the good, the bad, and the just plain weird looking

  • kmcmahoncoleman

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, I loved the exhibition, too. 🙂

    I was delighted to see some of the finer details in the exhibition, notably things like Minerva McGonagall’s Yuletide Ball robes, Harry’s invitation to Hogwarts which was signed by her, and Lupin’s shabby suit. That’s my bias towards shapeshifters, I guess (remember, McGonagall was an animagus and a Transfiguration teacher). I’d actually count Lupin’s filmic shift as one of the just plain weird manifestations, unfortunately; it works much more effectively in my mind when I’m reading!

    The exhibition was also a fabulous thing to do with kids. Mine loved the interactive stations (Quaffle, Mandrakes, and Hagrid’s chair). Of all the films and shows mentioned in this post, Harry Potter is the only one they’ve been allowed to view, so it’s been a way to share a little bit of what I do with them.

    And now I’m off to that other site to cast my vote. Surely I can be shallow occasionally? 😉

  • roslynw

    That’s what the link is for! 🙂

    I agree about Lupin’s shift in the HP films, it doesn’t rate as one of the better ones in my opinion.

    I went on a Saturday to the exhibition with one of my friends, and I was surprise there weren’t more kids there – there were a lot, but I’d guess most of the crowd were late teens, early 20s. When a few people were chosen to do the Sorting Hat ceremony, only the last was a child.

    And as an adult, I have to say I loved the interactive stations too!

  • Dawn Louise

    Hey Ladies,
    Probably the main one that stands out to me would have to be from Underworld, towards the beginning of the movie where in in train tunnel. The lycan Raze? I (think that was his name) transfigures. I thought it was quite a good shot particularly as it was mainly his upper body and head that was focussed on.

    I wish we had the HP exhibition over here in the west. Alas, maybe another time.

  • roslynw

    You’re right about Underworld, the shifts were pretty memorable and looked reasonably realistic (well, as realistic as a fictional creature can be!). As the Underworld films go on they seem to be getting more interested in the possibilities of shapeshifting, especially with the hybrids.

    They haven’t announced the next location for the exhibition, to my knowledge, so you never know … 🙂

  • kmcmahoncoleman

    I loved the shifts back — they were so quick. And all were apparently painless–definitely a contrast to the Mason/Tyler (The Vampire Diaries) and George (UK Being Human) model I’ve seen more recently.

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