Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Potter lovers everywhere, prick up your ears and raise your wands, because a pivotal moment in Harry’s story is here. Book 5 is probably the most important section of the story, with the exception of Book 7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the filmed version of that book, does not lose even a hint of that import or urgency. What could have been a dreadful but required affair turns instead into an action-packed and tension-filled movie, and one that gets many things right and very few wrong.

Once again, I am amazed by the screenwriter’s ability to take a book that’s absolutely jam-packed (not to mention huge), and make it seem like nothing was cut out. Granted, with my book-knowledgeable eyes, I could see that there was a lot cut out, and even that many of the things that were left in were hurried over. But looking at the movie from a strictly formalist perspective, not even thinking that there was a book connected to it, one wouldn’t even know that what was in the movie didn’t constitute the whole story.

Book 5 is probably my least favorite of the seven books, mostly because in it, Harry is a complete and total prig. I don’t like him, I don’t like his attitude, and all that time spent in the previous four books building sympathy and endearment for him went away pretty quickly. Daniel Radcliffe deserves a standing ovation, because by pulling way back and directing his performance inward, he took a character that could have been a complete crapbag and made him sympathetic once again. In the book, I took his audible discontent for his circumstances as mere whining; in the movie, I saw it for what it really was.

My biggest disappointment with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was that it went over everything so fast. As a movie-watcher, I barely had time to catch my breath. As with the Quidditch Cup in Goblet of Fire, the first part of the movie was given only the barest of consideration. Tonks wasn’t given her due screen time; the Order of the Phoenix wasn’t completely explained; Umbridge isn’t quite evil enough; it completely skipped Snape goading Sirius into taking a more active role, to his peril; the fact that Dumbledore didn’t look at Harry and largely ignored him, and the reason behind that, was given too subtle a treatment. Of course, I already know the book, so I was able to fill in the gaps, most of the time without even knowing I was doing it. But for someone without that advantage, I can see how it would be quite confusing. It’s not until Harry gets to the Ministry of Magic that things start to coalesce.

This movie wins a ton of points because it did something no Harry Potter movie has been able to do since the first one: it put the wonder back into it. The wonder and magic of the Harry Potter experience was different this time, though, as it should be. With the first movie, there was a child-like newness to everything that engendered a fascination. With this one, there is a darkness to the wonder, an element of danger that makes it fascinating in a different but equally splendid way. It also wins points because it is the most faithful adaptation of its book of the five movies, even surpassing the first. Never did I feel like the movie was going in a different direction than the book, only a few things that were in the book weren’t in the movie (yeah, not crying over the lack of Quidditch), and only once or twice were things in the movie that weren’t in the book, and they were totally understandable.

The performances from the literal bevy of British talent (by this I mean the Gambon-Rickman-Smith-Thompson-Oldman camp) were not as highlighted, but the movie tried to compensate by giving the young blood lots of screen time. They do alright, especially Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. She is splendidly off-kilter, and pitch-perfect for her role, though a little prettier than I pictured. The sets are gorgeous, as well as the cinematography, which goes for a richer and more medieval feel that recent Harry Potter films, to great effect.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is cause for adulation among Harry fans, and is a bright spot among a pretty dismal summer of three-quals and big-dumb-action flicks. Leave it to the movie incarnation of the biggest book craze of the new century to show the other summer movies how it’s done. A word to the wise, though: parents of six year old children, for the love of GOD, don’t take your kid to see this. It’s rated PG-13 for a reason.

Iconic Lines:
“You will lose everything.”
“Don’t worry… I’ll go easy on you.”
“My Mum always said things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”

22 Rating: 13

Particle Man

13 comments:

Your Racist Friend said...

Though I agree with you on some things PM, I disagree with you on a lot about HPATOOTP. I agree that the wonder of magic was put back in there, and that Daniel Radcliffe's performance is much better. But, I feel that too much is left out of the book. Important stuff, which will bite the filmmakers in the ass in later films (Rowling had to actually warn the producers that by leaving Kreacher out of the film, as they almost did, would create a huge, huge problem for them, as those who have finished Book 7 would know). Plus, filmmakers not introducing things in previous films are taking root here. When Arabella Figg appears at the beginning of the film, instead of recognizing the Dursley's slightly batty neighbor, you're like "Who the hell is that?" Neville Longbottom's extremely important (and more importantly, dramatically interesting)subplot is all but completely excised. Where was Saint Mungo's? The Order of The Phoenix has virtually no screentime whatsoever. This irks me in particular since Book 5 is my favorite. But that's enought typing now, I cna elaborate after the first round of posts. What did the other TMBCers think?

Wicked Little Critta said...

I think that I don't have much of a place commenting here, because most of the review and comment are focused around the book.

But as someone who has only seen the movies, I liked it a lot. :)

Your Racist Friend said...

My position is that while it wasn't a bad film, it was a terrible adaptation compared to what it should have been. The film version turns an epic into something.....not so epic.

Particle Man said...

ah, debate. it makes the blood stir, dunnit? :-) i agree with most of what you said, YRF, but just most. as to the near-lack of Kreacher, it's enough that we just saw his face, understood who he was, and that he didn't like Harry. everything else is gravy. as to Arabella Figg not being recognized, who the frick cares? she's such a minor and incidental part of the plot that i'm surprised anybody would quibble over it. yes, i'm sad that Neville's subplot was largely gone, but they got enough stuff in there concerning him to satisfy me. and St. Mungo's absence is also saod, but in oder for this movie to not be 5 frickin' hours long, they needed to excise a lot of things. seriously, did you want a HPatOotP that took a whole day to watch?

and WLC, as a person who hasn't read the books, you actually have a ton to contribute. what's the movie look like with bookless eyes? is everything clear? what didn't you understand? was there anything that struck you as weird, or anything that they glossed over that you felt you needed more of?

Wicked Little Critta said...

Well, it's surprisingly simple: the nice thing about not having read the books is that I didn't feel as though anything was missing. It just is what it is. I didn't find anything confusing, and hearing you guys talk about all these other characters actually makes me glad that they cut down on it all. I mean, there were 3 new characters that I remember, and so much was going on with Harry and Voldemort and Sirius (sp?) etc, that anything else would have pushed it for me. I mean, when you stop and think about the subplots in just this one movie, there was a lot going on! I was even wishing they'd spent more time on some things like Harry's relationship with his godfather, stuff going on with Dumbeldore(sp!?), and maybe Snape's story. but a movie can only be so long.

Particle Man said...

exactly. the screenwriter had a mammoth and incomprehensibly hard job, and all things considered, he really did a fantastic job. there were a lot of subplots going on, WLC, and the book goes into much greater detail about all of them. that's why the book was so massive. don't worry, though; you should get a lot more about Snape's backstory in the 6th and 7th movies.

and btw, you had both of the spellings right. :-)

Your Racist Friend said...

But I'm saying that these dumbing-downs hurt the dramatic impact of certain moments. Arabella Figg's arrival in movie versus book is so anti-climatic that they might have well left it out for all it "did" for the scene. Sirius's frustration with his fugitive status and the trouble it causes makes his death all the more tragic at the end, but again, opportunity wasted. I just don't think that it was adapted right......plus I think that some screenwriters are emboldened by the successful adaptation of LA Confidential.....not all 900 page books can fit into two and a half hour movies without having a lot stripped out.

Dr. Worm said...

First of all, a spelling correction: WLC got Sirius' name right, but "Dumbeldore" should have been "Dumbledore." I'm more disappointed with PM than with WLC about this.

I disagree with PM's assertion that this was the most faithful adaptation. I was probably most impressed with the Goblet of Fire adaptation, and I agree with YRF that there are issues that may become more problematic in the future.

One that hasn't been mentioned yet that struck me as way off was Umbridge exploding her way into the Room of Requirement. It completely undercuts the magicness of the room and creates Book Seven problems, as those who have read it will know.

And while I agree that this movie was wonder-filled, I didn't get any lack of wonder from Goblet.

I'm not trying to harp on OotP, because I did think it was pretty splendid. But I'd probably put it just behind Goblet.

And just so you don't think I'm picking on you, PM, I agree with you that:

1. Radcliffe rocked the house. He made the cockwad Harry from the book relatable again.
2. Tonks & the whole Order weren't given enough explanation. (Come on, the name of the book/movie is "Order of the Phoenix.")
3. Umbridge is one degree short of evil enough.
4. Luna was excellent, but--you're right--a tad too pretty.

Particle Man said...

now that you mention it, the fact the Umbridge got into the R of R by simply blowing up the wall is very problematic for future movies; i just didn't notice it before. good eyes, DW. HPatGoF, i'll admit, did better on the wonder thing than movies 2 and 3, but with HPatOotP, i was engaged from the first scene, with that dark wonder i mentioned in my review. the wonder took a while to build in GoF. i will say that it was the most British of the 5 films, which is probably why you liked it so much, DW. and i guess that the adaption of book 4 was about on level with that of book 5, though i've seen GoF only 1 and a half times.

Dr. Worm said...

I've only seen GoF one and a half times as well, but I remember sitting in the theater and getting goosebumps from the very first scene. I think that's why I qualify it as the most wonder-full.

Your Racist Friend said...

The ROR thing is just bad writing that goes against the strict rules needed in Fantasy/Horror/Sci-Fi stories. I'm honestly surprised that Rowling let them do that, especially since the way they get caught in the book is cheaper, special-effects wise.

Your Racist Friend said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CmdLuke said...

I agree with PM about this being the best so far. I didn't really miss much from the 5th book other than the lack of screen time for the order of the phoenix, especially tonks. I was a bit surprised when they smashed into the RoR but I did find myself and the rest of the theater cheering wildly when fred and george burst in on Umbridge during the test so i didn't find a lack of evil in her. My biggest problem with the film was the fact that they seemed to gloss over the fate of Serius. He has always been my favorite character and I almost cried when he died in the book. I didn't really feel like it was that big of a loss in the movie. harry was upset when it happened but they didn't really mention it again.
My personal feelings aside, I do believe that the film was a very good adaptation to the book. Something you always have to keep in mind is that many people who will see the film have not read the books. Some of the things cut out of the film are cut out for the sake of pacing for the film. if you cram too much into the book, you either don't know what your seeing cause its going by too fast or you get a bit bored because there is so much in there that it slows the pace of the film way down.