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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

01/27/2011
american book cover

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the first film in the series that fails to live up to the book…or so my thinking was when the film came out.

Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the Harry Potter series, something that JK Rowling has mentioned as regretting in interviews, saying that she wishes she had spent more time editing. As such, it’s nearly unfilmable, although the movie does an adequate job of hitting most of the major plot points. Once again many of the subplots are removed utterly or else severely truncated, such as in the case of the house elves, although they did manage to sneak a quick scene in that will pay in The Deathly Hallows.

One of the more important ideas in the book, that Harry’s aunt’s blood is a magical protection against Voldemort for Harry, is entirely skipped over in the film, but remains an important character moment in the books for the Dursleys. In fact, the beginning of the book is almost entirely missing in the film, which was important for setting up Harry’s emotional teenage angst throughout the book, and providing the rational behind Harry’s anger at Dumbledore near the end of the story. In fact, all of Harry’s emotions are largely missing from the film, simply because it’s incredibly difficult to convey these feelings across in film; this is the same type of problem that George Lucas ran across with Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith, where on paper Anakin’s feelings can be expressed thoroughly and on film they just come across as constipation.

The character of Sirius Black in the film version of Order of the Phoenix was the source of most of my frustration with the film. By this point in the storyline we have had nearly two whole books and a section from a third book to develop the “brother father” relationship between Harry and Sirius. But the emotional impact of Sirius dying in Order of the Phoenix is largely lost. This is no fault of Gary Oldman, who is awesome and did great things with what he had to work with (and one day I hope to see this 3 hour long first cut version of Order of the Phoenix that the director David Yates has mentioned); simply put, the character was largely ignored in the film version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and we as an audience are just told to accept Sirius Black as Harry Potter’s best closest “brother father” godfather. Filmmakers – don’t tell us; show us. Give us time to fall in love with Sirius with Harry. And ground the name “Padfoot” into the audience’s mind just a little bit more.

theatrical poster

theatrical poster for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

My other problem with the death of Sirius Black was the almost total ignoring of the archway, something that I thought was really cool and interesting in the book, but that largely was just a fancy set piece in the film. When I first read Order of the Phoenix, I thought for sure what killed Sirius was him falling backwards into the archway, but in the film, it was a very clear “Avada Kedavra” from Bellatrix.

And as a fan of Brendan Gleeson, I really wish Mad Eye Moody would have had more scenes, especially with giving the photograph of the original Order of the Phoenix to Harry, like in the book. The scene with the photograph works in the film, though, because it’s one of the few moments Harry and Sirius have to bond. Still, I love me some Moody.

And another complaint! If you are going to bring back a broken piece of glass in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, then for God’s sake establish in an earlier film what the piece of glass is or was from! Seriously! I was totally lost watching Deathly Hallows Part 1, wondering just what the heck this magical piece of glass was, until I read it again here in Order of the Phoenix. This is once again another example of a lack of oversight with the Harry Potter franchise, meaning as far as I can tell there was no keeper of the canon and Executive Executive Executive Producer. JK Rowling was too busy writing for most of the films, new directors were being hired, and whatever producers were on each film didn’t have throne room access to JK Rowling as she was writing the books. These elements conspired against the films to prevent them from having a cohesion that is sorely needed.

…and Ron and Hermione aren’t prefects in the film, or at least they don’t draw attention to it…

i fucking hate her

Dolores Umbridge

Of course, I can’t review Order of the Phoenix without bearing mention to the most evil of villains in the Harry Potter universe…Dolores Umbridge. She makes Voldemort look like a saint. Growing up in extremist legalistic Christian fundamentalism, I have known more than one Dolores Umbridge personally. People like her truly do exist, and I honestly despise them. There is a form of self-righteousness that comes across as petty, vindicative, manipulative, and “godly”. What makes these people even more intolerable is that they are often totally right; they are the letter of the law, without a single bit of spirit or grace.

She is the character to hate in this series, and I don’t mean the reader loves to hate her; no, she exists for nothing more than pure raw hatred and rage. Imelda Staunton does a superb job playing a person the audience will loathe; I imagine there were many times during filming that cast members would be engulfed in a blind rage just acting with her, or maybe that would have just been me. And she does an admirable job of reinforcing my dislike for short women (most of them, at least); I’ve rarely run into tall women who act like this.

What is most aggravating is knowing that Harry is right in everything he says, and he still gets punished and told “we mustn’t tell lies.” She is evil, wicked, demonic, and still syrupy sweet. She is the type of woman who would burn her own daughter at the stake if she thought her daughter was a true witch; because, out of love, her “god” demands it. (Previous sentence is to a similar character in another work of fiction. This type of character shows up often and irks me every time.) Umbridge’s comeuppance is that sense of justice that we all feel is missing from the world. Shall the wicked go on and continue being wicked while the righteous are punished? For the length of this book, that is certainly the case.

Gah. Grr…

gorgeous

Tonks

Finally, I must praise Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for bringing me one of my favorite characters in the film series! We are talking of course about…Tonks! Yeah, I find her attractive. Not entirely sure why. The character of Tonks is also well done, but one that I barely remembered when I first read throught the books. She becomes a much more well-rounded and tragic figure in the scope of the entire series, and especially considering the relationship between her and her husband Lupin.

Anyways, despite my loathing of Dolores Umbridge and my criticisms of the film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is still one of my favorite books in the series, and the film has a few of my favorite moments as well. Beautiful cinematography, and I especially love the fight between Voldemort and Dumbledore at the end of the film. This was a beautiful if flawed film, and it makes me look forward to the epic fights in the second half of The Deathly Hallows that are sure to come!

And Alan Rickman as Snape was brilliant as ever. Watching him hit Ron over the head is always a delight…

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