Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix–After You See It

                                                                                                                                          9:46 p.m.   7/21/07

So.  On the day the final Harry Potter book is released, I am dodging any mention of it because I want to not know any spoilers before reading it.  Too late as one article in the Strib online puts a spoiler in the teaser.  People, please.  Do me (and others like me) a favor and put all spoilers in the link so someone has to click on the link in order to read the spoilers.  Is that too much to ask? 

That’s not why I’m here, though.  Another fairly big event happened in the world of Harry Potter last week—the fifth movie opened.  As a good friend of mine and I have a standing tradition of seeing the movies in a theatre together (she also buys the books and lends them to me so I don’t have to buy them myself), we are off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Hogwarts.  The movie is Harry Potter:  Fast and Furious, no, wait, it’s not, but it might as well be.  Harry is in his fifth year at Hogwarts, and not so coincidentally, he hits his sullen years.  The book, Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix, is the longest by far (800+ pages), and the movie is a slim two and a half hours long.  Obviously, something has to go.

I haven’t read the book since it came out, so I only remember the bare bones.  Though I can normally remember books in great details, my mind is a sieve when it comes to the Potter books.  My friend is the same way, but she re-read the book a few weeks before the movie opened, so she knew more than I did.  I was hyped beforehand because Snape (Alan Rickman), Lucius (Jason Isaacs), and Lupin (David Thewlis) are all in the book.  As I joked to my friends, “It’s porn for Minna.”  I told my friend to nudge me in the ribs if I drool too loudly, but she said she was going to switch seats and pretend not to know me.  As Snape had maybe three lines in the last movie, I was anticipating more in this installation.  Hell, he was teaching Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) how to close his mind against intrusive invaders, wasn’t he?  That had to be good for something.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  In the beginning, Potter is on a playground swing, looking all broody.  A gang of boys comes over to taunt him, and it takes me several seconds to recognize his cousin, Dudley (Harry Melling) as he’s grown up quite a bit.  Then, there’s a shot of my beloved dementors looking less cuddly without their hoods, and Harry is up on charges!  He’s expelled from Hogwarts, but there will be a trial.  Oh, but first, we see, sigh, Lupin as Harry embraces Sirius (Gary Oldman).  Lupin is looking worn and haggard, but beautifully so.  We also hear Snape’s voice, but we do not see him.  There is a hilarious scene involving an ear and a cat, but the less said the better.

As Mr. Weasley (Mark Williams) takes Harry to the trial, we see a glimpse of, sigh, Lucius chatting with the thick-headed Minister of Defense, Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) who wants to put his head in the sand and pretend that nothing is happening.  Voldemort (creepy Ralph Fiennes) back?  Nope, nope, I can’t hear you!  Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge (like umbrage?) is outstanding in her determinedly pink upbeat cruelty.  Did you know that a dumbledore is a bumblebee?  That is neither here nor there, but interesting nonetheless.  Anyway, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon, sigh, not Richard Harris) comes to defend Harry, but then ignores him after Harry is cleared.  This was a weak point of the book—that Dumbledore would really think Voldemort would leave Harry alone if Dumbledore weren’t so close to Harry—but it plays out wonderfully on screen.  Harry, the poor, angry orphan who has gone through hell and back, being ignored by his mentor.  It’s enough to make anyone snap!  And he does, especially since half the school thinks he’s making up Voldemort being back.  Fudge is waging an all-out onslaught on the credibility of Dumbledore and Potter through the papers, and it’s not helping matters any.

Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are trying to help Harry, but he is having none of that.  He is determined to go his own way, no matter what the cost.  By the way, it is a relief to see that the trio haven’t aged much since the last movie.  I guess it’s because they were filmed pretty close together, and I approve.  They better film the next two in a hurry, though. 

Anyway, Dolores does her pinkly best to clamp down on the school, including not teaching spells in the Dark Arts.  I do like the pictures of cats (moving, of course) in her office, but she gives crazy cats ladies a bad name.  She goes around grilling the teachers, including the hapless Sybil Trewlaney (Emma Thompson).  No matter how you feel about the almost-charlatan, you can’t help but feel a twinge of pity as Dolores demands she produces one prophesy.  One of the best lines is when she is grilling Snape in the classroom in front of the students, saying, “You applied for professor of the Dark Arts first, but were turned down.”  That’s not the great line.  It’s the following line when Snape forces out, “Ob-viously,” between clenched teeth.  It got the biggest laugh in the theatre.  My favorite theatre, by the way.  The Heights.  Old-timey with organ playing on Friday, and you’re allowed to bring DQ into the theatre since the same guy owns both.

There is more character development in this movie than in the last, which is welcomed.  It is unfortunate that there isn’t more about the actual Order since I find them to be the most fascinating aspect of the book.  However, as I told myself in the middle of the movie (because I was disappointed in the shortage of screen time for the three hot Brits), “This is not a movie about the adults.  You can’t be mad that they aren’t in it more.”  I only hope that when the DVD comes out, they will be in some deleted scenes.

The movie cracks along at a brisk pace, barely stopping to catch its breath.  Helena Bonham Carter is deliciously insane as the evil Bellatrix Lestrange (cousin to Sirius), and it’s amusing to see how many famous Brit actors are in the movie.  As one reviewer commented, Judy Dench seems to be the only Brit in the pantheon who hasn’t been in a movie.  Well, her and Helen Mirren.  And David Suchet.  I think Suchet in anything other than a Poirot movie would be jarring, though.  He IS Poirot.

The movie cuts out all fat and whole sections of the book.  My friend and I differ on the ending.  She found it anticlimactic while I thought the pyrotechnics satisfying.  She brought up the “It’s better in the book” argument which I concede.  It’s hard to match on screen the imagination of the page, even with all the special effects they are able to accomplish these days.

All in all, it’s just another brick in the—oh, sorry.  I am listening to The Wall right now.  All in all, it’s a worthy addition to the Potter movie series.  It’s much better than the last one, but not as good as the best one—the third one.  It develops the characters a bit more and it sets up the next movie quite well.  It’s worth seeing, even if you wait to watch it at home on DVD.  Definitely worth a spot on your Netflix Queue.

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