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Thursday, July 12, 2007


I haven't struggled this hard with thoughts about a movie since writing my review of Peter Jackson's King Kong.

It was good, but too much of the book was missing for me to be completely satisfied.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is my favorite book of them all in the series (so far). It's also the one that I happen to be in the middle of reading as part of my quest to read all of the Harry Potter books before the release of the final one next Saturday. So maybe those things factored into how much I liked it. I've no doubt that if I had never read the Harry Potter books, I would have a whole different feeling about it's movie adaptation.

Tonally, they got this movie right so far as how it captures the spirit of the book. Especially with how corrupt the Ministry of Magic has become and how the realms of the magical and the Muggle (non-magic for those with no knowledge of the Potter lexicon) are beginning to overlap as Lord Voldemort's power increases. I thought Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge - my all-time most hated literary character ever - and Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood were great. And the special effects were terrific!

The thing is, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the most dense book of the series, and to cram the essence of the novel into a two-some hour movie required sacrifice. A lot of sacrifice. I understand that the producers didn't want to include Kreacher the house elf until J.K. Rowling herself made them put him in the movie (she said it would make things much harder later when they made the movie of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final chapter of the Potter saga). There is nothing about Ron and Hermione becoming prefects and the side-story about how Percy has completely abandoned his family and is now siding fully with the Ministry is completely absent.

The scene where Fred and George flee Hogwarts: a lot of people consider this the single most thrilling moment in all the Harry Potter books. Well, Fred and George's mayhem is in this movie ... but it's changed significantly from how it is in the book. I think the book's scene is much better (the movies erred bigtime by not including Peeves the Poltergeist at all, and when the twins tell Peeves to "Give her hell from us", that would have been a great line to hear in the movie!).

But my biggest disappointment with the movie of Order of the Phoenix has to do with a scene toward the end of the book. In the next-to-last chapter of the novel, after the battle in the Department of Mysteries, Professor Dumbledore sends Harry to wait in his office at Hogwarts. When Dumbledore gets there, Harry ... loses it. He starts ranting at Dumbledore and proceeds to tear the office apart with his bare hands. "I WANT OUT!" Harry screams at Dumbledore, overwhelmed with grief at what just happened in the Department of Mysteries. Harry's tantrum, and then the dialogue between him and Professor Dumbledore ... that's probably the most heartbreaking scene of the Harry Potter books to date. It's definitely the most human, with its raw emotion.

That scene isn't in the movie. Oh sure, we see Harry and Dumbledore talking in Dumbledore's office, but there is no "wrathful Harry" and it's quite subdued. I was sure that this scene would have been in the movie. It would have been one that elevated the Harry Potter movies into a whole higher level of seriousness. And they didn't choose to use it. I'm really let-down that we didn't get to see this.

On the other hand, there were some nice touches that showed considerable thought: like the huge portrait of Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, that glowers down on everyone from the ceiling at the Ministry of Magic: that spoke volumes about what the Minister has now become. And the use of the zoom-ins on the Daily Prophet to convey the sense of what was going on in the magic world outside of Hogwarts) was an awesome idea!

I guess I have to say that I did enjoy the movie, but I thought that it didn't quite live up to what I was expecting and hoping for. There really needs to be a 3-4 hour long film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to do the story the justice it deserves. Or better: someday there should be a complete re-doing of the Harry Potter movies, after the book series has been complete and there's a full understanding of the scope of the story and all its necessary details. I've noticed for the past few movies now that with each new film, there are problems because of details from the books that were ignored completely in the movie version. With Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the movie, those small cuts are now threatening to become vile open wounds.

I'll say that I liked this movie. And maybe it will grow on me more as the last two movies did (it took me awhile to really like Prisoner of Azkaban's movie: didn't enjoy it too well at first but now I think it's the best of the series) with subsequent viewings. As it stands right now though, my favorite movie of this summer is still Transformers, which I want to see at least once more while it's in theaters.

For what some others thought about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, my wife Lisa reviews it from an educator's perspective, Jenna Olwin talks about her experience watching the film in an IMAX theater, and Darth Larry can't say enough good things about the movie (actually his entire blog has gone a little Harry Potter crazy lately :-)


Jenna St.Hilaire said...

Your review is better than mine :-) The thing that made me like the movie as much as I did, I guess, was that I went in expecting to hate it. I really did NOT like any of the other movies, and book 5 is my favorite so far as well. With such low expectations, I could not but be pleasantly surprised by the good things that were there.

But they had to leave far too much out. I don't think the movies will ever match the books, for this reason alone: there just isn't time to cover everything important. There were enough poignant scenes in the movie to make it enjoyable for me, but the scene in Dumbledore's office is my favorite serious scene in all the books and you're right, it wasn't in there.

I also miss Dobby, who plays such a key role throughout the series, and Peeves has never yet shown up in a film that I can recall.

I could go on, but good grief--I'm starting to rave :-D Ah well, what's the fun of being a nerd if one can't voice it now and again?