Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Review by Diana, MaceVindaloo, Diasala, Gringa, ErkelSteve, Andyn
Director: David Yates
Screenplay: Michael Goldenberg
Creator: J.K. Rowling
Rating: Super Star Destroyer
*** LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD! ***
The Wizard world is getting darker with the return and advent of the Dark Lord, and wizards prove themselves to be as much in denial as muggles can be. The Minister of Magic the Wizard World's equivalent of impotate refuses to believe that You-Know-Who is back, and finds it preferable to defy Albus Dumbledore and to smear Harry's and brand him a publicity-seeking liar.
Harry being Harry, he's not only incensed and willing to run pell-mell into detention and other forms of trouble, but suffers from the angst of adolescence in full force. You remember when you were a teen: it was always about you, especially if things were going badly. If people were acting weird, it was because they didn't like you. If you didn't get what you wanted, it was because the world was against you. If you had spots, no one else did. Ad nauseum, being a teen is tough, especially when information is deliberately being held against you, someone actually IS trying to kill you, and your best friends don't write all summer and you're stuck at your detested relatives' house in Little Whinging, Surrey.
Like in The Goblet of Fire, the things that were not included between the book and the movie are rather telling. For instance, a lot of resources are placed into the few seconds of demonstrating the only metamorphmagus mentioned in the wizard world, and much is made of her name, too: "don't-call-me-Nymphadora" Tonks. (Since such an ability is only born and not acquired, perhaps she received it through her father, a muggle-born wizard, technically making her a half-blood.) But there was no mention of Marietta Edgecombe or the spell Hermione cast which disfigured her; but really, we know that Hermione is good at anything she puts her mind to. No need to labor that ... and you'd better have watched the past movies or read all the books, because though Remus Lupin, Rubeus Hagrid, the Weasleys (including a couple of appearances by the estranged Percy), et al. all show up, there is no explanation of who they are or why they are there. Nor many other characters from the past, either. So if things are not mentioned in the movies which were mentioned in the books, is that a significant hint?
That's not a bad thing, since quite frankly, this was not everyone's favorite book. It was ponderous and some things which required a bit of explanation ended up taking whole and multiple chapters. Some of us even felt that the movie was way better than the book! It moved faster, story lines were not so convoluted, and stuff just meshed together better. Thank goodness!
Another difference which is likely due to Hollywood people and things were way cleaner and tider than we thought in the book. For instance, in our minds Luna Lovegood is skinny, clumsy, disheveled, grimy ... though the filmmakers might have been a bit self-conscious about that because she did have one rather grubby scene. Luna played here was more like a tidy young Stevie Nicks, maybe. And Dolores Umbridge was not ugly or toadfaced; but that made her all the more horrible, we think. She was repulsive simply because she looked like one of those prim librarians who want you to wash your hands before handling the books, you know? Obsessive, but not necessarily evil ... yet she really, really is. So overall, excellent casting on the new arrivals, once again.
Some things that had alienated Harry further were not presented at all; Ron and Hermione being prefects was not addressed in the least. The battle at the Ministry of Magic was not as interesting as written; no statues came to life, and the wand waving was kind of not-so-exciting. Neville's involvement in the prophecy, nor the nature of the prophesy, are ever discussed either. The Quibbler had no mention (other than it being a magazine owned and operated by Luna's father), but then again, Hermione's capture of Rita Skeeter in The Goblet of Fire likewise did not rate a mention. Nor did Firenze appear again.
Dobby did not make a return appearance, but SPEW had not either in the previous picture, and thus no drunken Winky, too. Kreacher did appear (note: he was originally cut from the script but was instated when Rowling explained that he would be important in the future ... see what we mean?), dragging a box of stuff, but the family tree room in the Black home at Grimmauld Place did not feature the portrait of Sirius's screeching mother or the many artifacts that Kreacher kept filching and hiding. The only Black seen on the wall was Bellatrix, but it did not elucidate her relationship to Sirius. Or to Tonks, for that matter. Or to Draco.
So, much of what was in the book really did seem to be irrelevant, if you take the omissions as "blessed" by Rowling. At the very least, you really do need to read the books after all, and these movies are simply illustrations and visual aids. There is a difference between the 3D and 2D projections, in that a portion of the movie was executed in 3D. Why not the whole movie, for those seeing the difference? Not sure, but those of us who waited to see it in 3D claim that it was awsome. The scene as the heroes approached the room of prophesies with its straight perspective lines of sight were particularly suited to being shot in 3D.
A bunch of us sat at work discussing the movie while others around us threatened to separate us. That would have only resulted in us hollering our opinions across the room. That's worse, right? There was a lot to discuss and analyse, and we'd patiently waited for each other to see the film before we got into it. Like the parallel between Dudley and his friend's harassment of Harry versus James Potter and his posse doing something similar to Severus Snape. (Kind of Star Wars-y, some of us thought!)
The occlumency session where Harry probes Snape's memory was more powerful as shown in the film, versus how it was depicted in the book. Harry was much more active and showed more of his abilities this way, instead of simply falling into a pensieve. (Though the memory revealed seemed to omit an important point.) Likewise the depiction of him fighting Voldemort within his own body was depicted more powerfully in the movie, too.
Some of us went for the first midnight showing (thus our general crankiness for the rest of the week) on Tuesday night. Why do that to ourselves? So that other dorks (like us) wouldn't spoil the movie for us. Mostly though, it was to be with people who love the movie and the franchise. It's so much better to watch movies with devoted fans and those who are interested.
There was cheering, groans, shrieks, applause as things happened to the characters. I mean, we all knew the story, obviously. But we wanted to know how it'd all play out in the movie version, and its frankly awesome to be with others of our ilk. (Plus, it's dark and no one could identify us as the dorks we are ...)
The movie did drag a bit at the middle, but that's not a bad thing either; it gave a much-needed bathroom break! It's a long film at 2 hours and 18 minutes, but it's actually the shortest of the HP films so far. Ironic that it came from the longest book; again, was most of the book just filler, then?
Aside from the story, the cinematography was excellent and most of the effects were of high quality. The only exception was the largely stop-motion scene involving Grawp (Hagrid's half-brother), Umbridge and a bunch of really really pissed off centaurs. The stop motion dolls looked like dolls; perhaps the producers let it go thinking that the scene was very dark and no one would likely be bothered by it. But it really was so clunky that it did bother us.
Details like the motorbike-like handles on a broom, or the scenes reminiscent of podracing, or how Grimmauld Place is revealed were solved in wondrous ways. Like the Knightbus in Goblet of Fire, it gave us a glimpse into the wonder that is the wizard world, though less was shown than before. Though we missed many details, we did enjoy the Weasley candies, and Crookshanks's naughtiness in manipulating the sneakoscope! (Remember, he's a kneazle, not a cat ...) Little details like Luna's radish earrings were funny.
As immersed as we are in the Harry Potter world, the movie was enjoyable and it was a relief to see it done as well as it was. We were also relieved to hear that Emma Watson (who plays Hermione Granger) finally signed the contract that promised she'd be in the last two films, too. Though her part seemed to be the person who tells facts in this film depiction, her relationship to Ron and Harry will undoubtedly be important throughout the series. She could be replaced of course, but it's nice that she won't be.
The movie posters and teasers this time seem to show off the growing cast, though some of us found them rather boring, with everyone posed the same way, with the same glowering stares. A notable exception was Luna, who looks downright sexy in her publicity stills (and the Charlie's Angels style poster of the girls are they kidding??) The tension between Luna and Neville shows more obviously in the movie than in the book, just as the tension between Ron and Hermione started in movie #2, in contrast to book #4.
Sorry if this review points out the many omissions vis-à-vis the books, because it really was a fun movie, though it could not stand alone without previous films or the book. It was a bit startling to have to explain things to those among us who had not read the books though, for it showed how many holes were left in the film. (Not that it dampened our enthusiasm for the final book, coming out very very soon!)
There are two more films to go, and the final book will be out by the time you read this ...
Photos from harrypotter.com
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