*points to title* I made a funny. And I punned. I’m awesome. 😀
And so is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth installment in the Harry Potter series. Now, as an avid fan of the books (that number seems to be dwindling drastically – I know of many, many people who watched HP5 without ever having read the books), I’m usually very nit-picky about everything they do in the movies. I hate it when they change the dialogues, and I hate it even more when they change entire scenes to fit their “movie needs”. Not to mention the outrageous deleting of potentially important scenes, just to fit in random stuff that need not even be there, but is there because it “looks cool”. Grr.
Now, 700 odd pages is a lot of material to cover. So going in, I was already prepared for massive cuts and changed scenes. I was also completely prepared to seethe and fume through every single minute of the movie, so you can imagine my surprise when I spent the entire 2+ hours thoroughly enjoying it and not finding much to harp on about. Granted, if I started off, I could find something wrong with every scene, but four HP movies have taught me to take what I can and forgive the rest.
The acting, I must admit, has improved tremendously over the five movies. Both sets of actors (old and young) must be given credit here. I’ve never had problems with the older cast (except the guy playing Dumbledore, of course, but I’ll get to that later) – they never fail to deliver. Most of them fit their parts just right (I had my problems with Gary Oldman as Sirius, and even David Thewlis as Lupin, in the third movie, but I’ve made my peace with that), and I can’t imagine anyone else playing them. The Weasley family is picture perfect with Julie Walters and Mark Williams at the head (but what’s the deal with not showing me my handsome Bill, yo?) and the Hogwarts staff couldn’t be better cast. Emma Thompson makes an adorably scatter-brained Trelawney, Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith are spot-on as McGonagall and Snape and much, much praise goes to Imelda Staunton for an amazing (and incredibly accurate) performance as Dolores Umbridge. While I spent my entire time reading the book loathing the woman, I couldn’t bring myself to hate her in the movie because she was just so…right. Not in her actions, of course, but in that she was exactly the way Rowling had portrayed her in the book. Never before has someone so perfectly matched my expectations of a character. Mad props to Ms. Staunton for getting Umbridge so right. Very well played, indeed. Oh, and Helena Bonham Carter looks just mad enough to play someone like Bellatrix Lestrange, so that worked out alright as well.
Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood is another example of the perfect casting that helps make this movie so much more enjoyable than the others. She’s just the right combination of ditzy, vague, slightly mad and a gentle spirit at the same time, and has just the right voice and float-y personality to make her a perfect match for her book counterpart. Take a bow, casting people. You did well.
Almost everyone in the younger cast gives an even performance this movie. I haven’t exactly been subtle in expressing my opinions about the acting talents of one Mr. Radcliffe (I’m sure everyone remembers the incredibly fake scar-clutching stuff from Movie 1), but I’ll also be the first to admit there’s a world of difference between then and now – he truly has grown through the movies. I find it so much easier now to believe he’s Harry Potter, rather than some kid reciting lines. He displays some really good acting chops this movie – good for you, Dan. Also, *small voice* as someone who criticized his look (read: wailed “What the hell has he done to his hair?!”) every time I saw a trailer for the movie, I eat my words. He looks fantastic throughout, and I would even go so far as to say that this is the best he’s looked after Prisoner of Azkaban. Boy’s growing up well.
Rupert Grint and Emma Watson support well, as expected. Watson, as usual, looks too pretty to make a believable Hermione, whereas Grint could just stand there and not say a word and I’d still think of him as Ron – the guy was made for the part. Sadly, they don’t have too much of a part to play this time around, which is weird, considering the book deals a lot with the three friendships. It’s one of the minor quibbles I have about the movie, but I guess it must’ve been hard to fit the friendship stuff in between all the action. Sigh. They should’ve just gone for a lengthier movie – I don’t think anyone would’ve minded.
The rest of the kids comprising Dumbledore’s Army are great as well – all the Room of Requirement scenes are a pleasure to watch. I’m a big fan of ensemble casts and seeing all of them in one room in one scene together, and the Room of Requirement scenes pretty much handed that to me in a platter, so I’m happy. But my, how the kids have grown! I bet the casting people didn’t expect that the chubby, round fellow they cast for Neville in the first movie would grow up to be the tall, lanky kid he is now – he towers over everyone except the Weasley twins (who are also wonderful, as per the norm)! Speaking of the Weasleys, I wish they’d given Ginny more to do, though. This is the book she comes out of her shell, and becomes the outspoken, tough and confident chick Harry notices in the next book. Movie!Ginny, while present in all the important scenes, didn’t really seem to do anything unique – she sort of blended into the surrounding cast. Seeing as how she plays a huge role in the next book, I expected the movie to pay a bit more attention to her this time around, so as to prepare her for the next movie. Oh, well.
Coming to performances I didn’t like – Dumbledore. It’s a real shame that one of the most interesting characters in the books translates to such an annoying/boring character on screen. I don’t know what it is about Michael Gambon, but he just doesn’t portray the charm, wit and humour that book!Dumbledore encapsulates. Plus, on the superficial side, he’s not as tall. *grumbles* I’m already dreading the next movie, because if book!Dumbledore can get whiny and annoying, movie!Dumbledore will be 10 times worse. Eek.
Moving on, I was pleasantly surprised to note that unlike most of the previous movies, this one managed to include everything that I wanted to see on screen (plus extra – I was pretty sure Emmeline Vance and Amelia Bones would get the shove, but I was proved wrong). Of course, given my way, I would just have the movie be 5 hours long and include every single thing from the book, but since that’s not possible, I’ll settle for having the important stuff make it into the final cut. I don’t know if it’s because the screenplay writer for this movie was a new guy, but things seemed to flow a lot better, and most of the really important stuff was copied word-to-word from the book (something I, a sentimental overprotective fool, was very pleased about).
Nevertheless, there were some things I felt should’ve taken up more priority – like the entire sequence at the Ministry of Magic. The special effects were great (the Death Eater masks were just creepy enough to create unease), but it felt far too rushed for such an important scene. Also, the whole suspense in the book was created by having the prophecy destroyed before anyone could hear it, so having the entire gang hear the prophecy before any of the Death Eaters arrived took all the suspense away. Futhermore, the Neville/Harry connection was never touched upon – a big loss, in my opinion, because the tragic irony of Harry Potter is that it could just as easily have been “Neville Longbottom and ….” (who’d read that?! :P).
Other important things missed out, off the top of my head – Mrs. Black, the Grimmauld Place clean-up, Kreacher’s betrayal (interesting bit of trivia about that here), the extended Pensieve scene including young Sirius, Lily, Peter and Lupin, Marietta (damn, was I surprised when they made Cho the betrayer instead – talk about hitting two mangoes with a single stone!), “Weasley is our King” and the two Weasleys’ addition to the Quidditch team, Harry’s interview with Rita Skeeter and the subsequent Quibbler madness, Mr. Weasley and Lockhart at the hospital after the snake attack, the Snape/Sirius hostility, Firenze…the list just goes on and on.
Which is why I keep imploring the few people who’ve been crazy enough to stay away from the books to just drop the act and start reading as soon as they can. Because as good as the movies are, they can never come close to being as good as the books. There’s such a wealth of information, humour and character development in there that just can’t be shoe-horned into a 2 hour movie made to excite and thrill.
Anyway, all things said and done, I still enjoyed this movie far more than I have enjoyed the previous 4. And that’s another step in the right direction.
In related news, in a double-treat for Potter fans, book 7 releases in a week’s time. I officially can’t wait.