Wednesday, July 11

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Movie - A Conservamuggle's Review

I'm an HP nerd, so naturally I had to see the 5th movie at first chance, shortly after 12:00 this morning. I walked around like an inferi most of the day at work, but it was worth it. (Though being a good capitalist, I still managed to have a highly productive day, despite the lack of sleep and longing to write this review all the while...)

It was a good movie. That said, I was disappointed. You can't help it if you love the books because the movies cannot do them justice. Yet I went in with an open mind, trying not to expect it to be anywhere near as good as the book, but still thinking it would be the best of the movies... it wasn't.

The highlights:

Imelda Stauton as Umbridge was awesome - she carried the movie. Could not have done a better job capturing the essence of the character - total evil with a sickly, sweet smile.

Evanna Lynch was a superb Luna and I liked everything they did with her character - not too much Looney Lovegood, but just enough.

Liked the new Tonks and H.B. Carter as Bellatrix (though we didn't see enough of her), and as always, Alan Rickman's Snape and Jason Issac's Lucius were fabulously evil.

The cuts - they did a good job with what they cut out in this movie, with four major exceptions. Overall, everything that happened at Hogwarts was well done.

If you were looking for a good, old, lighthearted Potter flick, you were disappointed. But OofP is not a light-hearted chapter in Harry's life. It's very dark, filled with angst - the growing pains of young teenagers mixed with an increasingly oppressive Ministry, a minister that would have made Neville Chamberlain proud, and the lingering knowledge that all hell's about to break loose in the wizard world. The movie captured the essence of the book well.

The flaws:

They took the longest book and made the shortest movie of it. There were four crucial scenes they did not do justice:

1. Petunia. Just once I would have liked to have seen the Dursleys in some other role than stupid, slapstick, childish attempt at humor. There was no mention of the howler to Petunia reminding her of past correspondence. More importantly, they cut out the part where Petunia acknowledges she knows what dementors are - because she heard "that awful boy telling her" about them. This was a poignant moment in the book, the only time Harry ever feels a connection to his aunt, in that she's the only one in muggleland Little Whinging who knows how awful Voldemort's return is. In light of what JK has told us about Lily being central to the grand finale, I found it egregious to have left this out.

2. Snape's worst memory. We didn't see Lily. Why was that Snape's "worst" memory, after everything he's been through? Another tormenting by his arch-rival James? That was his worst memory? Or was Lily (supposedly very significant in book 7) what made it the worst for him?

3. The duel. In the entire series, this is the one and only time that we get to see the most powerful wizard (Dumbledore) fight the most powerful dark wizard (Voldemort). First we have to start with Bellatrix - she's a prominent character and this would have been a perfect opportunity to have her in the movie a bit more. I would have liked to hear her say to Harry "You have to mean them" after he had attempted the cruciatis curse on her, heard more of their exchange. Enter Dumbledore... which was really the worst part of the movie.

Michael Gambon needs to reread the books a few times, for he abysmally fails to do Dumbledore justice. Granted, the writing and directing had a lot to do with that, as well. . .

Dumbledore is majestic, awe-inspiring, smooth, and powerful. While Voldemort "sends" spells at Dumbledore, Dumbledore merely "flicks" his wand to cast a spell, advancing on Tom confidently, and speaking to him "as lightly as though they were discussing the matter over drinks." It is Voldemort who is frightened of Dumbledore, not the other way around. I would have liked to have heard "your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness."

In the movie, Gambon looked weary, afraid, and weak. In the book, the only time Dumbledore looks alarmed is when Voldemort is possessing Harry, asking him to kill him and end it all. Prior to that, Dumbledore had clearly bested him in the duel. (Consequently, I can't help but wonder if the way Harry repelled Voldemort's possession in the movie is in some way foreshadowing book 7. . .)

4. Dumbledore's confession. Though it irked me not to see Harry furious and hurt and wreaking havoc in Dumbledore's office after the duel, I could have lived with what they did in the movie if they had not omitted so many crucial elements from this scene. The "because I cared about you" line in the movie was shabby, at best. At the very least, we should have had the explanation that Dumbledore heard the prophecy, that there was an eaves-dropper (Snape!) who heard only the first part and that reported it to Voldemort. That the prophecy was why Voldemort killed Harry's parents and tried to kill him. Considering how important the prophecy was, and in light of Snape's subsequent actions, that should have been acknowledged in the movie.

To sum it up- A decent movie that could have been a GREAT movie. Regardless, I still can't wait to see it again - once is not enough for final judgement...

More importantly, we are 9 days and some odd hours away from the illustrious Book Seven...

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