Movie review: Garrison Stuart and the Master Magician
Runtime: 162 mins
Review by: Morgan Sessler
Every once in a while, a work of literature comes along that revolutionizes its genre, breathes new life into the spirit of reading, and enriches all those who come across it. The 'Garrison Stuart' series by Schwarz Koch is one of them, and is fun to read too- and I'm not just saying that because I'm a fan.
Okay, maybe I am.
Just like countless millions across the globe. Just like countless millions who'd be severely disappointed if their hero's transition to the big screen isn't done with the dignity and polish it deserves. Many of us were relieved when we heard about who'd be directing the movie: Comega Smithee, director of award-winning films like 'Battlefield Earth', 'Transmorphers', 'The Postman' and 'Sharktopus'- and dismayed when we heard he'd be writing it as well (who could forget his adaptation of 'Sinbad and the Seven Seas'? None of us, no matter how much we want to). Does he do Garrison Stuart's saga any good? Well...
First off, for the three of you who don't know, the Garrison Stuart series focuses on the eponymous character, a young wizard enrolled at the Academagia, a floating island where those with magical talent are taught to use their powers responsibly. He's just your normal, everyday kid- but he's got an extremely prestigious family name to live up to, a line filled with the names of the greatest kings and wizards of the land. As you can tell, all this has left him a somewhat nervous wreck. Young actor Tom Felton, known for meaty roles such as Hamlet and Romeo, really shows off his acting chops by playing Garrison, carrying off both Garrison's highs and lows with equal skill.
The movie itself covers the first book, and mostly concerns Garrison's dealings with the rogue wizard Ilaro and the mysterious Watcher. In between all these heroic feats of dering-do, Garrison has to deal with all the little things that makes school life special- all the bullies, studying, crushes and zealous teachers we remember from our own lives. In this respect, the movie is surprisingly faithful; though some parts are cut or merged for time, Comega has taken pains to include just about every little detail he can. Fluke? Or has he learned his lesson from Sinbad? Regardless, the movie's cinematography, combined with cutting edge CGI, make the movie a visual treat. The magical fight scenes are especially worth pointing out as works of digitized art.
It's not all eye candy, though. The movie's flow is quite smooth, despite some rough spots (see below), with no scene wasted, and a good pace kept up. The movie also milks its PG-13 rating for all its worth, so parents be warned! This is definitely not a movie you'd want to bring very young children to, as the fights and concepts may be too much for those who are too young.
Another one of the movie's strong points is its casting: newcomer Scarlett Byrne might have been subjected to scathing remarks by disappointed fangirls when the movie's casting was announced, but I think she'll have a lot more fans after seeing her cheerful performance as Silke Niederstatter. Genevieve Gaunt and Lauren Shotton also turn in strong performances as the resident eggheads Cordelia Troublepot and Vuillaume Eparvier respectively. That said, I can safely say that the film's strongest performances come from Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who play the boisterous Prudence Cossins and competitive Vincent Eins respectively; Emma's sense of comic timing and Radcliffe's talent for playing the straight man help make their scenes among the funniest in the movie. If anything, watch the movie just for those two.
That said, the movie isn't perfect. I recall an interview where Comega said that he was 'a fan of the books' to keep the fans from worrying. Good news is, he is a fan. Bad news? He's a fanboy. While I had no trouble following the movie, some parts went by too fast for someone unfamiliar with the books to follow. Furthermore, some parts of this movie seem to be taken straight from general fandom desires- the relationship between Silke and Garrison is nothing more than a deep friendship (at least in the first book), but Comega seems to imply a straight-up romance. Even more disturbing is how he seems imply that same relationship between Cordelia and Vuillaume. I can't be the only person who finds that disturbing, right? That said, the movie never outright states or shows the relationships going any deeper, and I suspect that Comega's just trying to cash in with the books' predominantly teenage readership.
All in all though, 'Garrison Stuart and the Master Magician' is a great movie, though not perfect. Even so, fans of the book will undoubtedly enjoy it, and it's easy enough to follow that non-readers would be able to fill in the holes themselves (or maybe just buy the book). I give this movie a 5... out of 5.