Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Deconstructing Harry

For a film called "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," very little screen time is given to the members of the Order, or to anyone who is not, well, Harry Potter. New director David Yates and new screenwriter Michael Goldenberg chose to take the almost 900 pages of the book and focus mainly on Harry's inner battle. For fans of Daniel Radcliffe, this might not be a problem, but when there are so many interesting characters (who are not whiny and annoying as Potter is throughout the fifth book) played by so many talented British actors, some of the subplots are missed.

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" opened in theatres across America at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, July 11. Fans waiting to be first to catch the film wore their best wizard robes or favorite Hot Topic outfits and will most likely repeat this process in a week and a half when the final book is released.

Most fans already know the story going into the movie. The Ministry of Magic turns against Harry Potter and refuses to acknowledge that Voldemort is back. The papers make it look as though Potter is an attention-seeking problem child (which isn't far off, although he is telling the truth about Voldemort). Dumbledore and several others who believe Potter form the Order of the Phoenix to prepare to fight the Death Eaters. Potter and his friends follow suit by forming Dumbledore's Army in secret at school.

Somehow the longest book in the series, at almost 900 pages, became the shortest film so far, at two hours and 18 minutes. David Yates could have slowed down the film a tiny bit by taking out those montages. There are many entertaining and brilliantly acted scenes, but the film as a whole feels disjointed because so much is left underdeveloped. Percy Weasley shows up with the the Minister of Magic in one scene, but without reading the book, the audience wouldn't know that he turned against his family. The famous kiss with Cho Chang is in the film, but the relationship is dropped at some point in the film and never dealt with again. Gone from Hogwarts are quidditch (and with it some of the best subplots), the ghosts roaming the hallways, even most of the moving pictures. There is very little "magic" in this film except for the spells that Harry teaches the other students.

The acting, as always, is the strongest aspect of the film. Flashbacks show how much Daniel Radcliffe has grown since the first film. He certainly seems more confident as an actor. Rupert Grint always seems to fall most naturally into his role as Ron, but even Emma Watson, who continues to look less and less like the bushy Hermione, has matured as an actress and is able to play more emotions than just angry. Newcomer Evanna Lynch is sweetly eccentric as Luna Lovegood. But of the teenagers, Matthew Lewis stands out as the loveable Neville Longbottom, whose past is perhaps even more troubled than Harry's.

Imelda Staunton steps in as the new headmaster of Hogwarts. She is deceptively pink, but scarier than a Death Eater. Sirius Black is a favorite character among many Harry Potter fans, and Gary Oldman captures his childlike impulsive nature to perfection. Alan Rickman is brilliant as usual as the much debated Severus Snape and has some of the best one-liners this go around.

The biggest problem with the film is that there is not enough--not enough of the story and not enough of some of these brilliant actors. But if what is there leaves you wanting more, then it must be pretty good. Yates will have another go at pleasing Harry Potter maniacs with movie number six.


Raquel Laneri said...

Yes, I definitely wanted more of the order... esp. Black and Lupin who are my favorite characters. (I am a little in love with David Thewlis.) I thought some scenes needed to be longer... I felt sometimes that scenes had no room to breathe and that their shortness prevented the nuance these scenes needed. I thought some of the ways they condensed the action in the book was, however, brilliant, like the secret-dark-arts-class montage, and I liked some of the changes... for example, I liked how the film had Harry penetrate Snape's mind to find out about the past rather than looking into that contraption whose name eludes me now. Anyway, it wasn't wholly successful, but... interesting. I think I am going to blog about it later...

Linda said...

You can have David Thewlis (although he's a great Lupin). I'll take Gary Oldman. =) I'm going to miss him in the next two films.

Pam said...

Flashbacks, Linda, flashbacks!