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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

two New Harry Potter trailers, one for us, one for them

The Internet has erased borders for us serious cinephiles who get our movie info online — American fans buy DVDs from Hong Kong of movies that won’t open in the States for a year, or never; European fans get the scoop on movies open in the States that they won’t have a chance to see for months; that kind of thing. So we’re the ones who might wonder, perhaps, why a Hollywood studio would feel the need to create two different versions of a trailer for an upcoming film… like the just-released domestic and international trailers for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, opening July 13. Aren’t we all just one big happy geeky family, us movie lovers?
Online, sure. But movies don’t get to be the kind of blockbusters the Harry Potter films have been — and this one is sure to be the biggest yet, if the trailers are a fair peek at it — without drawing in everyone and their grandmother, including the vast majority of moviegoers for think the IMDB is some obscure government agency that monitors the calcium content of cheese, perhaps. So taking a look at the differences between the international Phoenix trailer and the one intended for American audiences is an interesting exercise in seeing what Warner Bros. thinks will attract folks to this flick, and it’s not quite the same thing outside the United States as it is within.

The trailers aren’t all that dissimilar — and certainly if you’re a big Harry fan and are as psyched as I am for the film, you’ll want to watch both about five times each. There’s a lot of focus on Dolores Umbridge — boo, hiss — is the new “high inquisitor” of Hogwarts; the wonderful Imelda Staunton looks like she’s having a blast, so to speak, as the villanous new headmaster. Ralph Fiennes as the wraithlike, noseless Voldemort is even creepier in the few glimpses we get of him in the trailers than he was in Goblet of Fire… and he was absolutely horrifying there. (Funny how the lack of a nose is so damn disturbing.)

There’s a war a-comin’ between the good wizards and the bad — that is the selling point of both trailers, and both are an intense and gripping few minutes of teasing. But the domestic trailer is far more Harry-centric; it’s all about him rallying the kids when it becomes clear the grownups either can’t do anything or, like Umbridge, are on the wrong side. “Every great wizard in history has started out as nothing more than what we are now,” says Harry to his friends and peers. “If they can do it” — “it” meaning “rise up on our own to greatness” — “why not us?” That’s the heart of the domestic trailer, the idea that Harry will save the world, or at least try, but that line is truncated down to almost nothing in the international trailer, becomes just so much background noise. The international trailer is far less centered on Harry, far more about everyone banding together to save the world… and it’s far more explicitly political, too. “Tyranny will rise,” the ominous voice of the announcer intones. That line is nowhere in the domestic trailer.

What does it mean? I’ll leave that as an exercise to the globally aware geek to determine for him- or herself.

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