Saturday, July 14, 2007

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Movie

When I was walking to the movie theatre we were talking about what they would include and one of my friend's said 'don't spoil me' (and then claimed he was too busy to read the books, but apparently has plenty of time for the movies). Just to be clear that this post has spoilers for the movie, and every book that has been published.

The movie theatre had big stickers on the back of every fourth seat saying "1 in 4 women and children are the victims of domestic violence." Apart from my dislike of running together 'women and children' I thought that was an awesome way of representing the effect of violence within families. This week is refuge appeal week so give money if you can (last year the government gave more money to Clint Rickards than Wellington Women's Refuge, so it'd be good if other people could pitch in).

That wasn't the only good thing to happen before Harry Potter started, because they showed a Northern Lights preview (well they're calling it a Golden Compass preview, but whatever). I'm terribly excited.

I think the Harry Potter books are getting worse, and the movies are getting better, as the series progresses. I think this might be related. In the later books J K Rowling has no page limit, and doesn't have to listen to an editor so they just sprawl. She's particularly prone too over-foreshadowing, and overlengthy explanations by Dumbledore at the end of each book. I think all the unnecessary bits in the books make it easier to make a movie (even as the books are getting longer), as the movie can tailor itself to the essential story (which I think J K Rowling has been two drafts away from in every book after the third).

I'm not suggesting that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the greatest movie playing, but it is very engaging. David Yates was previously a TV director, and I think in some ways this services . In TV you are servicing characters and a story first and foremost. Previously directors (particularly Chris Columbus who directed the first two) were far too interested in set pieces to do either of those. Alfonso Curon, is a brilliant director, but in Prisoner of Azkaban he was more interested in creating mood and atmosphere than characters and story.

The casting directors did very good jobs and were very lucky, because the actors' physicality continues to work for the parts. Ginny was a walk-on part in the first movie, and would have been 9 when she was cast and that the actress has grown up in roughly the way the character in the book did.

Imelda Staunton was brilliant as Dolores Umbridge, and everything about her costumes, and design of her room emphasised her character, and made the movie. To underscore the banality of evil isn't a particularly new point, but it was incredibly well done. The movie is worth seeing just for Dolores Umbridge's room alone (you'll know what I mean when you see it).

While I have an affection for J K Rowling, it's next too impossible to put a radical reading on the Harry Potter books.* But I feel this book, in particular, has a good heart. The students getting together to fight authority is a theme that works for me, and the movie really emphasised this angle. The simple scene of Fred and George sympathising with the first year who had had the (creepy and totally sadistic) crazy cutting lines thing underscored that nicely (and their departure was spectacular. And the ending is a reiteration of 'we're stronger together than we are alone', which always makes me happy.

And just to go on the record with my (rather boring) predictions for the final book: Snape isn't evil, Dumbledore was telling him to kill him, Snape was in love with Lily and the reason Dumbledore trusts him will be something to do with that love. More than one Weasley will die in the final book. The love stories will annoy me.

Feel free to add your own thoughts about Harry Potter in general and predictions (but no spoilers, although I don't suppose there are any).

*And don't even get me started on the gender politics - which are made worse in the movies by upping the ways Mrs Weasley conforms to a stereotype (which is quite an accomplisment in itself).


  1. Anonymous9:25 am

    Was it just me or did it appear in this movie that Luna Lovegood and Harry had a chemistry going on that was not played up in book five, or six for that matter? I was a bit disappointed with the movie. I know that a two hour movie cannot depict everything in a 600 page book but it seemed to me that some essentials were left out such as showing more examples of Sirius' and Harry's relationship; how they had grown even closer while staying at his home. Also, I feel seeing Nevil interact with his parents as portrayed in the book would let the viewer understand why he's felt so inadequate over the years and his true desire for revenge. It was still a good movie, but as a lover of the books (which I personally feel are getting better), I would have liked to see the movie follow what is stated in the book as the other four movies did.

  2. I'm really looking forward to the Northern Lights movie - I assume they'll do the whole series, which'll be wicked. The Subtle Knife was definately my favourite :)

    Fingers crossed they don't butcher it...

  3. Anonymous1:26 pm

    I didn't mind the movie, although I thought the plot changes at the MoM were disapointing and Hermione was as bad as ever.

    Predictions for the next book: Harry('s scar) is a Horcrux, but Wormtail will repay his lifedebt by showing Harry how to get rid of it. Snape is/was obviously loyal to Dumbledore and Hogwarts will reopen, at least for a little while. Draco will flee the Death Eaters and probably be killed for it. One of the Weasley twins will die.

    But you know they're going to butcher Northern Lights already! The trailer looks terrible... and Ms Coulter is blonde. Urgk.

  4. I just watched the Potter movie, wasn't that impressed but it wasn't the worst in the series (I thought the previous one was worse).

    Just saw an ad for it on tv though - "rise up and join the revolution"...*sigh*

  5. Northern Lights! I am embarrassingly excited. And conflicted. Will I be able to watch it and still watch the upcoming Narnia movies???

  6. Asher - it's annoying, but it's a little more relevant than Nike Revolution! This is my favourite book in terms of themes because they are rising up against authority, rather than being part of it (as they are when they're Dumbledore's favourites).

    Your taste in movies is strange, I thought the first two were by far the worst, and the trilogy looked up the moment that Chris Columbus was no longer directing.

    Terence - I'm planning to both. I wouldn't be entirely surprised if they advertised Prince Caspian at Northern Lights - which would be hilarious, but predictable.

  7. Fair call on Nike!

    Re: The first two movies - I was able to watch them without engaging my brain in the slightest, as a totally mindless bit of fun. It was only once they started trying to take themselves seriously that I actually tried to engage with them, and then they fell far short of the mark.

    Hope that makes sense.