Friday, July 13, 2007

Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, the movie

I went to see Harry Potter #5 a couple nights ago, and boy was it fun. Spectacularly filmed and directed, the movie was wonderful to watch and was beautifully produced.

Let me reiterate before we begin, I loved the movie, and thought it was great, but overall I felt something was lacking, your average movie watcher won’t notice, but uber-Potter-fans out there will. Let me start by telling what I did like about the movie.

I arrived at the AMC Lincoln Square Cinemas 45 minutes early, theater #1 was already packed. For those of you non-locals, theater #1, aka Lowes Up, is an 876-seat theater with cushy burgundy seats, a HUGE screen, a balcony, and Thai inspired d├ęcor--complete with golden elephants in relief about the room.

The demographic for the evening: a lot of adults from mid-twenties to early forties, and many, many older teens. I was quite happy to note that there was not a stroller in sight.

The lights dimmed, everyone clapped, and when the previews were over, we clapped again. Excitement buzzed from one corner of the theater to the other, and it took a moment for everyone to settle down.

The WB flashed across a mist filled screen moving ever closer, yet the music didn’t start, turning into one of those delayed gratification things. After we passed through the giant WB, the music finally started and an excited chatter made the rounds again, accompanied by applause.

I noticed immediately that the music was different, that it didn’t evolve into the well-used themes from before, and now as I think back, the distinct musical tropes that John Williams uses in his compositional arsenal were missing.

Instead we got a whole other kettle of fish, which I was quite pleased with. Having only seen the movie once and not having listened intently to the score, I can’t describe the new musical themes except to say they were perfect. For me the new composer was a welcome change. During one part of the credits-- I’m a credits watcher-- the music became so sad, yet hopeful. For several moments while the music played, I felt anything was possible that I could rise up out of sadness and conquer the world. All because of the music, which demonstrated a masterful use of color, theme, and scoring.

Watching The Order of the Pheonix was fun with this particular audience. All the way through the movie as particular scenes began, people in the audience cheered, bubbling with anticipation for what was about to happen.

Near the beginning, I loved it when Harry produced a patronus charm and flung it around. I loved the way the kestrals were portrayed; they looked quite real and were fabulously executed. I absolutely loved (yet again) the fight scene at the end, you’ll know what I mean when you see it.

And, if you can believe it, there was even a spot in the middle when everyone gasped in surprise and shock. This is quite hard to do with an audience that already knows the story. All in all, the movie was well executed, and if I hadn’t read the books and had only been a fan of the movies, it would have been just great.

Unfortunately, I’m an avid fan of the books, and have read them each many times. So for me, I came away from the movie with a vague sense of disappointment.

The movie felt quite a bit short. I suppose that having watched Pirates of the Caribbean, At World’s End so many times in a row didn’t help, but never-the-less, it felt a little rushed.

Speaking of Pirates, I suppose my level of expectation has risen to an obscenely high level and needs to be readjusted. Yet I hoped anyway. How could the director of Harry Potter ever hope to match the ease in which Pirates left bread crumbs for the careful watcher?

So with my Pirates, At World’s End bias admitted and pushed aside, let’s move forward.

I think that when you get right down to it, the reason why I am so disappointed with Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, (the movie) is that there were too many missed opportunities to delight and surprise us, the loyal readers and fans of the series.

Yes, I know that the movie would be ten hours long if the screenplay matched the book scene for scene. And I understand why it is necessary to cut things from the story, (keep the plot moving forward and keep pacing strong). But there were many instances when things could have been tucked into the movie that readers would recognize, know, and appreciate; but that the average watcher couldn’t care about. And more importantly, there are times when the audience trilled with excitement at the beginning of a scene only to have the buzz fall flat as a gutted scene left us wanting.

And this is what my disappointment boils down to; I think the director aimed to please just the surfacey fans of the series. The ones who wouldn’t miss the details, and wouldn’t recognize the strangulated scenes that left us to deal with weakened characters.

I’ll soften my opinion by saying, perhaps the choices in what to show and what not to show was a case of do it all and end up with something mediocre, or choose a few things and succeed beyond their wildest dreams. If this is the case and they chose the latter, then they succeeded. The movie was brilliant. But frankly I’m one of the ones that wanted it all.

It was a mistake to leave so many of the little details out. In the end, it will just succeed in alienating the loyal readers of the series, the ones who made the movies possible in the first place. (For example look at the poorly made movie, Eragon. Except Eragon was so badly gutted and rewritten, it doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned on the same page as Pirates and Potter.)

It wouldn’t have taken much to keep us going. Just a little bit here and there. As we noticed the trail of crumbs left us, we’d have felt like we were part of the inside crowd and ‘in the know’. Instead what we see are the missing things and are left puzzled, saying, “But Why?”

Yes, I’ll go see it again. It was a great movie, and very well done. I just wish it hadn’t left me wanting.

-Bitter

Spoiler specifics behind the cut, (the things I wish they'd done differently) and just a few of them since I’ve um, written enough already!

Update, . . . so blogger doesn't allow me to selectively put part of my posts behind a cut, it's either all or nothing. I'm going for the nothing route. If you don't want to read any potential spoilers, don't read past the line of *'s.
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It wasn’t until most of the movie was over that I began to notice the missing parts.

I wish…

-that we’d have seen the screeching portrait at the Order’s head quarters. We saw the troll’s leg, but not the portrait screeching. Just catching a glimpse of her screaming in rage would be enough.

-that both times Harry entered the Ministry of Magic, that he would have been given his visitor’s badge. They didn’t have to talk about it, or show a close up. Just the simple act of him emerging from the telephone booth with it on, would have been enough.

-that the script writers hadn’t written in Cho Chang as the betrayer of the ‘Dumbldore’s Army’ and since they did, the least they could have done was tattooed the word “Snitch” across Cho’s forehead in purple boils. As it stands, Cho gets alienated, the hex that Hermoine so cleverly worked into the sign-up sheet gets left out, and the whole group ends up in detention writing who knows what with those ‘special’ quills that Harry used when writing, “I will not tell lies.”

-that they would have shown the swamp in the hallway that Delores Umbridge couldn’t clear up.

-that the scene where the twins wreck havoc on the school wouldn’t have been as weak as it was.

-that in the final fight scene at the Ministry, we would have seen the jelly-legs curse, or the brains that get attached to Ron.

And lastly, I’d like to tell you about one particular scene that left me feeling iffy. It’s the one where Delores Umbridge is throwing Sybil Trelawney out of the school. It was beautifully set-up, Emma Thompson, as usual, did a fabulous job setting the tone and scene. All the students were there, anticipation was building, and low and behold, Dumbledore stormed out into the courtyard to save the day, only he didn’t. People cheered when the doors to the school flung open and he appeared, but what followed next was a pale imitation of the original. As Firenze failed to appear and Dumbledore strode about not doing much of anything, the excitement in the theatre ebbed and eventually fell flat.

These are just a few more things I wish we’d have seen. In all, the acting, directing, CGI, and music was fantastic. It’s just the little things that let us down, it wouldn’t have taken much to delight us, just a crumb here or there.

It appears the director needs to be reminded that it’s the little things that endeared us to Harry in the first place, and if you leave them out, well notice and wonder, “Why?”

3 comments:

  1. I never got into the Harry Potter thing, though a friend of mine used to wait for the UPS guy to drop each new book off.

    anyhoo, I'm tagging you with a meme, whatever that means. Hope you don't mind!
    :-)
    -k

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  2. Hmmm....

    Before we discuss HP5, I have to take exception to your characterization of PC3. I didn't care for it. It seemed that every 12 minutes, a new mythology was introduced, leaving the audience to assimilate that into an already over-burdened narrative. PC1 was, in no small part, driven by entertaining, real characters (and terrific visual gags). These were missing from 3.

    As for HP5, I'm not sure any Potter neophytes (anti-print Potter cinemaphiles?) would really appreciate it. I echo your kudos for the CGI, and the acting is certainly improved, particularly by Miss Watson. But the holes aren't just in the little details, they're in the big ones as well. Imagine the thoughtful viewer who has only seen the earlier movies, not read the books: "Why is the prophecy so important to V-V-V-Voldemort? Why is that guy from the good guys' club house working for the minister of magic? Isn't he a bad guy? What's the deal with the dementors again? Did we decide the ministry sent them or not? How does Helena Bonham Carter manage to look so good wearing crazy make-up?"

    Rowling's book-ending chats between Dumbledore and Harry shape the meaning each book (save 6, obviously, and presumably 7). By doing away with it, the HP5 movie team left it a bit of a mess.

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  3. To The Professor, I'll argue with you about Pirates tonight when I talk to you on the phone. :)

    But as for HP5, you raise some very good points. Perhaps the director was catering to the readers after all. Relying on the hope that we'd already know the story so he wouldn't have to tell us.

    Either way, the screenplay was poorly written. Confusing to some, and disappointing to others.

    ReplyDelete