Saturday, January 23, 2016

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Director: David Yates
Writers: J.K. Rowling (novel), Michael Goldenberg (screenplay)
Composer: Nicholas Hooper

[returning cast]
Harry Potter- Daniel Radcliffe
Ron Weasley- Rupert Grint
Hermione Granger- Emma Watson
Professor Dumbledore- Michael Gambon
Neville Longbottom- Matthew Lewis
Draco Malfoy- Tom Felton
Professor McGonagall- Maggie Smith
Professor Snape- Alan Rickman (RIP 2016)

Professor Trelawney- Emma Thompson
Hagrid- Robbie Coltrane

Fred and George Weasley- James and Oliver Phelps

Sirius Black- Gary Oldman
Cho Chang- Katie Leung
Minster of Magic Cornelius Fudge- Robert Hardy
Lucius Malfoy- Jason Isaacs

Voldemort- Ralph Fiennes
Ex-Auror Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody- Brendan Gleeson
Lupin- David Thewlis
Mrs. Weasley- Julie Walters
Mr. Weasley- Mark Williams

Mrs. Figg- Kathryn Hunter
Dolores Umbridge- Imelda Staunton
Nymphadora Tonks- Natalia Tena
Kingsley Shacklebolt- George Harris
Luna Lovegood- Evanna Lynch
Bellatrix Lestrange- Helena Bonham Carter


First things first...

RIP Alan Rickman :(
When the news first broke, I was really hoping it'd be one of those Internet hoaxes because it just seemed too soon. Also, we just lost David Bowie a couple days before that. 2016 is not getting off to a good start.
He doesn't quite as significant a role in this film (compared to the 1st, 3rd and 8th films in the series).
Someone on YouTube posted a compilation of his greatest highlights as Snape through the films- a couple of times, I got a little choked up.

I'd also seen/enjoyed him in "Love Actually" and "Die Hard."

However little screentime he has, he does impact the plot and lead to a couple laughs. We also get a little more of his back story, which makes things in Harry's story arc kinda interesting. At least in the books where they went further into it...

The Main Story

When we last left Harry, he saw Cedric Diggory get killed and the return of Voldemort. Unbeknownst to him, the wizarding world hadn't responded the way he would have hoped.
The Minister of Magic is in complete denial, insisting "all is well" and has used his influence over the press to smear Dumbledore and brand Harry a liar.

To make matters worse, the new DADA (Defense Against the Dark Arts) professor is from the Ministry of Magic... and she's been endowed with executive power that eventually turns Hogwarts into Harry's personal version of Hell- so to speak.
Meanwhile, Voldemort is after something and the titular secret group "The Order of the Phoneix" [originally created 14 years ago by Dumbledore] is trying to figure out what. And through a series of dreams and nightmares, Harry is likely to reach that conclusion before they do.

Book-to-movie Adaptation- A Box Full of Nitpicks

Tread Lightly: MANY Spoilers are Lurking Ahead

Just as fair warning, this post could go on for a while. The book is roughly 870 pages long and the movie is 2 hours and 19 minutes of footage. There's a lot to discuss...

Even though the subject matter hits a LOT of unpleasant patches, it's my favorite book in the series. Harry's going through a very interesting chapter in his life, what with puberty, his first girlfriend, but without sugarcoating, probably the suckiest part of his life up to this point aside from his parents being murdered when he was a baby. I found the OWLS preparations and examinations enjoyable. Some great Quidditch matches. And even when things seem their bleakest, it was inspiring to hear so many people rallying around him.
We also get to meet some cool new characters and learn a lot about the ones who already know and love/hate/love-to-hate.

I'd mentioned on a couple other entries how I can appreciate some books being streamlined for their film adaptations. And sometimes certain cuts need to be made because certain themes don't need to be beat repeatedly into our skulls...
Some parts of the adaption process I can respect and even accept... but with the wealth of material in this particular book, that can't be the case here.

It's been nearly 10 years since this movie came out... and I am STILL pissed about the fact the longest book got compressed and smooshed into what would be the shortest movie in the series. "The Deathly Hallows" had MUCH less happening and it got split into two movies. It being the final book in the series, I don't know if even that is a good enough reason for me. Sorry :(

I could literally go through this movie with my own commentary, saying what could/have been said. Even going through the deleted scenes on the DVD, none of the scenes from the book I was looking most forward to were ever shot. And other scenes that were never fully realized. They were just left hanging and only people who read the books know all the details that followed.
I'll just go through a list of bullet points... and for the record, I've read the book maybe 5 times since it came out. The last time was in 2012. But Harry Potter is one of my favorite book series, so therefore I absorbed an insane amount of detail. Many Potterheads would second that.

  • [okay, not related to the main topic] They changed the look of the dementors between this movie and their first appearance in the 3rd movie... and I do not like the change
  • [another small nit-pick] there were too many montages to show passage of time... this time could have been used given to the chapters that were cut from the movie
  • [another change] They cast a Borzoi as Sirius's Animagus dog. In the 3rd movie, he was a mutt that, most likely, was a CGI rendering. However brief the scene was, the lack of continuity threw me.
  • There's a scene where Harry dreams/hallucinates seeing Voldemort dressed in a suit on Platform 9 3/4- I realize the nightmares are a thematic element of the movie, but I consider it time wasted. Especially cuz it makes no sense. Almost like a Big-Lipped Alligator moment (google it!)
  • Percy Weasley is seen, but not heard in the three scenes he has in this movie. Not that he was particularly missed. But his occupation under the Minister of Magic drove a wedge between him and his family. There was a scene where he wrote a letter to Ron, calling their parents traitors, telling him to sever ties with Harry and it's "not too late" to come to the "right" side. While there were plenty of scenes of Ron supporting Harry in this movie already, that was an interesting scene to watch.
  • No Qudditch! Gryffindor won two Quidditch cups (in Harry's 3rd and 5th years) and we never got to see them in any of the movies. Considering this is the biggest sporting event at Hogwarts, that's kinda depressing :/
    Plus, there was a big to-do about the Gryffindor team. Umbridge disbands all student clubs in a decree and all the Quidditch captains had to reapply to reform. Slytherin got reinstated first out of favoritism. Fred, George and Harry later got banned for getting into a fight with Slytherin and their brooms were confiscated. [Fred & George took them back in their grand exit]
  • No mention of Harry doing a tell-all article with underground paper The Quibbler... I don't particularly miss that part of the story, but it would have been funny to see students hiding them behind their textbooks (like they do in other genres with comic books and playboys) after Umbridge banned them
  • [sequencing issue] Harry has a nightmare where he witnesses Mr. Weasley being attacked. Dumbledore deduces that Voldemort has been trying to penetrate Harry's mind to control him so he asks Snape to teach Occlumency... but did they have to schedule the first lesson immediately after Harry has this nightmare? The book depicting him having night sweats and violently vomiting before Ron and McGonagall took him to Dumbledore. With that in mind, I felt like it asked too much of Harry at that immediate second.
  • The trivia explains this in saying the production department didn't want to spend extra time building a new set... but I miss the scene where Harry, Hermonine and the Weasleys visit Arthur Weasley at St. Mungo's hospital. It gave us a Gilderoy Lockhart cameo as well as members of Neville's family. The movie may be rated PG13, but it might have been too much for the younger Harry Potter fans to see Neville's parents- who were driven insane by an Unforgiveable Curse.
    We do get to hear about Neville's parents from Neville in a later scene, so that element wasn't completely lost.
  • My favorite chapter of the book was "Career Advice"- where all the 5th years have a meeting with the head of their house and discuss their futures. Harry expresses his desire to McGonagall to become an Auror. Of course, with Umbridge having her sticky fingers in all the pies, she had to be present for this scene. This eventually explodes into a HUGE fight between Umbridge and McGonagall that ends with McGonagall saying she'll do everything in her power to help Harry get the grades he needs to achieve his desire.
    There is one fight between the two wills in the movie... but it isn't nearly as satisfying- it's just a launching point for our first montage :roll: on the plus side, they didn't tack on Harry's fight with Hermonine on top of this (she went to McGonagall about Umbridge's punishment for Harry against his wishes- it also led to him getting a week's worth of punishments)
  • The worst transgression this movie made-- how it treated Harry and Cho's relationship. There was all this build-up and anticipation to Harry's first kiss. But they had maybe 10 seconds of screen time as an official couple. There's a scene where Harry takes her to a date in Hogsmeade for Valentine's Day and he kept saying how he had to meet Hermione about some Dumbledore's Army business. They have a huge fight because Cho thinks he and Hermione are more than friends and Cedric also comes up a couple times.
    In the movie, they break up because Cho outed Dumbledore's Army to Umbridge. And we hear nothing from her after that. In the book, the tattletale was a friend of hers. I can understand the decision to have Neville fulfill plot points Dobbie carried out in the books. But was it really that much trouble to cast another student just for this one role? Every time I see that scene, it just annoys me to no end that the new screenwriter ruined any chance Harry and Cho could have had any good screen time as a couple
  • In Harry's 2nd Occlumency lesson, he sees into Snape's head and finds out that his dad bullied him when they were students. This scene comes and goes and nothing is said about it afterwards. It just leads to Harry having another run-in with Umbridge where she says naughty children deserve to be punished... for such a skinny sandwich of a movie, it is WAY too overstuffed with Umbridge scenes.
    Meanwhile, we could gotten a bonus scene with Lupin & Sirius reassuring Harry via Floo Powder conference that they were all stupid kids and Snape didn't deserve to be treated the way Harry's dad James did.
    Lupin was seen a number of times with barely any dialogue and Sirius only got one scene in the previous movie... he could use all the extra screentime he can get, especially with this being his last movie
  • There's one scene of OWL examinations and it's pre-empted by Fred & George's great escape... there were some great scenes in the book and we didn't get to see any of them. The "escape" scene immediately segued into the next part of the plot-- the Sirius non-rescue mission. Great for pacing of the plot, but it would have been cool to see a montage of Dumbledore's Army fly through their DADA OWL exams.
  • They never reveal in the movie who sent the dementors after Harry... it was Umbridge! She even admits it to him when she realizes Harry and Hermione trick her into following them into the dark forest... I know she does eventually get manhandled by Hagrid's half-brother Gwarp and carried away by irritable centaurs, but revealing that particular truth would have made for a HUGE moment. Instead, that's just a thread left hanging and never addressed again
    seriously, JK Rowling didn't commit that writers' taboo for nothing... Harry has a couple of moments of fury in the movie, but they're in small spurts. They're never in the scenes that have any significant impact on the plot. Like where Umbridge says he's a liar in her class-- a lot of yelling. But the scene where I felt like it was really needed... when Dumbledore calls Harry into his office after the Department of Mysteries escapade and explains why he kept his distance from Harry that whole year. Harry flipped out on him so hard and Dumbledore just took all the criticism and the onslaught without saying a word.
    It might have been too much drama after the entirety of the scene before it, but it was a release that Harry desperately needed-- especially after Sirius died.

Other Lowlights plus some Highlights

If you're still with me at this point, I applaud you.

My mom groaned that the actress playing Umbridge didn't look like she did in the books. There was a description that she had a "frog-face" and she thought they'd CGI a frog-face over her.
If you ask me, Imelda Staunton is annoying and creepy enough without the CGI. (I didn't like her much in "Freedom Writers" either- where she played a very similar character, but with a lot less authority.
One of my aunts called her the scariest character in the entire series, even scarier than Voldemort himself. At least he was a "merciful lord." Umbridge had this insane God-complex where she felt like she had to change everything at Hogwarts. It was borderline-1984 territory.

And actually, given the state of the world and our country right now, I found some of the pretenses of the movie terrifying this time around. The idea of an important leader discrediting a threat to national security and pretending nothing is wrong. Then with all everything at Hogwarts, it was like she sucked all the fun out of it.
Even worse, in the books, she had all the owls inspected before they could deliver mail. Hedwig got injured in one of these interceptions. She was also watching all the Floo networks. I'm not sure if it was particularly geared towards Harry or not, but the students weren't allowed any contact with the outside world.

But enough about Umbridge and her fetish for kitty plates and pink everything... it's not a perfect adaptation, but there was plenty about it that was done well.

Starting with the casting.

Admittedly, I thought Luna was a little bit of a weirdo when I was reading the book the first time. But when she had her first line of dialogue on the big screen, I was immediately won over. She'd since become one of my favorite characters in the series. She always speaks her mind and is never afraid of that. She's also a great introduction at this point with Harry feeling like even more of an outcast thanks to the Daily Prophet slandering him & Dumbledore.

I must have missed the description in the book where JK Rowling noted how young Tonks was because when I saw her on screen, I was in complete disbelief.
But what I did remember very clearly was her unique talent where she can change her appearance at will. "Metamorphmagus" is what it's called. In the movie, she changes her hair color from purple to orange when she got angry (word to the wise: don't call her by her first name) in one scene and in another, she was changing the appearance of her nose and mouth for show.
She deserved a little more screentime just because she was such a fun character. Although she wasn't quite as fun to be around after this particular book/movie.

And of course Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange... her character is basically a psychopath armed with a wand. I found her extremely intimidating in the books. Then to see her on screen, I think it was my first time seeing Helena Bonham Carter act... she is scary good at her job.

Kingsley Shacklebolt was also a good strong character. And he had a good line in the movie that made the theater audience laugh- "You may not like him, Minister, but you can't deny... Dumbledore's got style."I think it was a line that was originally said by someone else in the book, but George Harris's delivery of said line made all the difference ;)

On another note, I didn't know what to think of the Thestrals when I first read the book. I think the mere idea of them spooked me, but it was cool hearing how they are actually gentle despite their appearance. And seeing them in the flesh in the movie... well done, CGI department!

Final comment

When the book came out, there was word on the street that they were going to kill off a major character. The first major character killed off in the series.
Before that, we just had a DADA professor gone bad, Scabbers (who didn't die, but returned to his human life serving Voldemort) and Cedric Diggory (who we didn't get to know all THAT well. We just knew him as the Hufflepuff seeker and Hogwart's first-announced Triwizard Champion- also the golden boy who did everything right and stole the heart of Harry's first crush).

I didn't really fall in love with Sirius Black as a character until the movies... and I didn't really know who Gary Oldman was before these movies. Heck, I got the third movie and was dumbfounded to find out he wasn't even the bad guy... clearly I must have read the Prisoner of Azkaban WRONG or I didn't read it in full previous to the movie.
But after getting to spend more time with him (and being pretty much ripped off in the 4th movie when all we got was a disfigured face coming out of a fireplace-- good of them to improve that animation in this movie in the one scene we saw it in film)... him getting killed REALLY sucked.
The worst of it was that Harry finally had someone he'd be able to live with instead of his terrible aunt and uncle... and he got completely screwed out of that... I mean, I know life isn't fair, but C'MON!!
The only thing that made the grief easier was the fact Bellatrix Lestrange used the Avada Kedavra curse on him in the movie... in the book, she just wrote he got hit by a spell and got sucked into this veiled archway in the middle of the Department of Mysteries.
There's no way to survive that Unforgivable Curse, but I'm still incensed at that bloody archway. What was the point of its existence? Why did it have to be RIGHT THERE? Even on Pottermore, JK Rowling still hasn't explained WTF it even is and where the souls go that get sucked into it. Ultimately, it felt like a very cheap way to forever mark Harry as an orphan. Bellatrix killing Sirius with simply the Killing Curse would have been enough.

...if you're still with me, congratulations.
I sincerely hope I didn't forget to mention anything...

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