A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 515 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – July 28th, 2011

This movie is where I stopped watching. I made it through the fourth movie and I enjoyed it, but when this movie came out I couldn’t help but think of the book this one is based on. And it is my least favorite of the entire series. The idea of watching all the things I detested so much made live on screen just didn’t appeal. So I avoided it. And therefore I avoided the rest of the movies because I hadn’t seen this one yet. Now I will have seen it and I won’t have any excuse not to watch the others. But oh, oh it is not pleasant for me.

It’s unfortunate really, because this movie does a truly excellent job with a few things I was really looking forward to seeing. It just also does a truly excellent job with the things I wanted to skip over. But since we can’t skip scenes I had to watch every single excruciating moment that made me cringe while reading the book. It’s a frustrating situation and while I can’t really lay it at the movie’s feet, and I don’t deny that much of it is necessary at least to a degree, there is a part of me that wishes it was a little more toned down. Call me a wimp. Go ahead. But I have some issues with the maturity level of this story and I’m not talking about Harry and Cho smooching.

I realize this is more an issue with the book than with the movie, but it’s relevant to the movie as well: This whole series suffers from its conceit. Oh, I enjoy the whole seven books for seven years of Harry’s life concept. The problem is that this and a few other children’s/young adult series I can think of raise the maturity level of their content along with the maturity of their main characters. And for anyone who started reading the books or started watching the movies at the beginning and stuck with them all the way through, then that is a wonderful journey. But I can attest to the fact that these stories – books and movies – are marketed to young children. And for the first couple of stories, that’s totally cool. But a child in, say, third grade, who picks up the first book in June when school gets out might be asking me for the seventh book before school starts up again in September of the same year. And the movies are the same way, only even more so.

One of the most common searches we get on this blog is for people looking for the differences between the book and the movie version of a particular story. And I knew that was going to happen. When people don’t want to read the books, for whatever reason, they watch the movie when they can find it. That’s just the way it goes. And a child who isn’t really up to working their way through the epic tomes of books four, five, six and seven in the Potter series might well find it a lot easier to simply grab the movie. Often times parents don’t bat an eye at grabbing this movie or the next one for their fairly young children. They’re for kids, after all! They make Lego sets for them! And oh, oh do they get very dark, very fast. I’m not just talking about killing off characters. I’m talking about discussion of torture. I’m talking about torture on screen. And you don’t even have to make it to the end and meet Bellatrix Lestrange for that, though knowing that she tortured Neville’s parents until they were no longer mentally functional people is pretty dark. But no, all you have to do is meet Dolores Umbridge.

Things I hate about this story: Dolores Umbridge. Dolores Umbridge. Dolores Umbridge. Dolores Umbridge’s vile quills. Her decrees and rules and inquisitions are pretty hateful too, but it’s the quill that gets me. Umbridge is the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in this story. Of course there’s a new one. What, you thought they’d keep Barty Crouch Jr. and his polyjuice flask around? In this chapter of Harry’s life we basically get to see him stripped of every support he thought he had. Dementors come after him at home, he’s almost expelled from Hogwarts for casting the Patronus charm to get rid of them and for some reason Dumbledore spends most of the story totally avoiding him. The Daily Prophet is reporting that he and Dumbledore are both either liars or lunatics or both and people at school are starting to believe it. And Harry has Angst. It’s a lot more prominent in the book, and I’ve got to say I was pleased to see it handled fairly well in the movie. But still, Harry’s fifth year is all about how much he can be beaten down by the world around him. It is vicious. There’s no quidditch, all the adults he trusts are being secretive, he’s having horrifying dreams from Voldemort’s perspective and then there’s Umbridge, who seems bent on destroying everything wonderful about Hogwarts.

It’s pretty clear in the book that Umbridge is the sort of evil that smothers you softly, with a perfumed pillow, but the movie does her so excellently that she makes me shudder. This is something I struggled with, watching it. After all, I despise Umbridge and every moment she has in the story. You’re supposed to. She’s never a sympathetic character. She even makes you feel a little sympathy towards Snape, of all people (though this story does have the beginnings of Snape’s redemption arc, so that fits) because she’s just so unreasonably odious. This is her purpose in the story. This is her point. She exists to take away the refuge Harry and his friends had, so while Voldemort is threatening them from the outside, they have nowhere to turn to on the inside. And like I said, the movie does her well. I just hate her with every fiber of my being. Perhaps it’s because I’ve met people like her in real life. Whatever the reason, it’s a testament to how well this movie portrays her that watching her made me uncomfortable. This is especially the case when she punishes Harry by making him write lines with a special quill that uses the blood of the writer to write with, while magically carving the lines they write on their hands.

And there is no recourse and there is no fixing it and she rules the school for a large chunk of the movie. It’s hideous. Harry and his friends do have some wonderful scenes where they’re training other kids, and I do enjoy the Dumbledore’s Army scenes quite a lot, but there’s something so desperate and horribly necessary about it all. So it’s not that I think the movie did it poorly, it’s that I think the movie did it extremely well and I wish it hadn’t. On the other hand, I actually like the climax in the Ministry of Magic. I think the battle scene, where Harry and his friends have left the school to go and find Sirius, thanks to Harry’s odd dreams from Voldemort, was gorgeously done. The smoky trails of the Death Eaters, the spells and wand work and the sets. All beautiful. I loved Tonks and I loved Kingsley and I loved it all. And when it came to the character death that I knew and dreaded, I honestly felt like it was well handled. It felt almost cheap in the book (a theme I will return to eventually, though perhaps not until the second of the Deathly Hallows movies comes out on DVD) but in the movie the actions involved felt like they made sense.

Really, it’s a case of the movie doing everything fairly well. One of my favorite scenes got truncated quite a bit, which was a shame. Really, Fred and George’s rebellion against Umbridge is far more satisfying when they face off with her when things look utterly dire for them, but for the full effect they would have needed Peeves, whom I don’t really miss at all in any of the stories but this one. But everything else feels right. It feels like it should. It’s just that it is so very dark. And it is so very grim. And it is so very hopeless through so much of the story. And that’s maintained from the book. It’s one of the few times when I really wish an adaptation wasn’t as spot on as it is.


July 28, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

July 28, 2011

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I had seen this movie once before (although Amanda had not) but I had somewhat glossed over just how unbelievably DARK this film is. I remember being upset with the book because it was so full of painful teenaged angst as Harry becomes isolated from everybody else even his friends and even Dumbledore, who has supported him throughout the series (although he does have a tendency to disappear just when things get tough.) Somehow, though, my recollections were that the movie was less bleak and painful. To some extent this is true. Even so, it is really tough going to get through this movie.

Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts is a time when pretty much nothing goes right for him from the start to the end. In part this is because of the dark forces at work in the world, the Crabbes and Goyles and Malfoys who are hurrying to gather under the dark lord’s banner now that he is returned. That would be danger enough certainly. For the majority of the movie though the real trouble comes not from the danger created by Voldemort, but from the willful ignorance of most of the people who are in power in the wizarding world.

It’s clear from the very start how dire things are for Harry. He is attacked by dementors while he’s with his unbearable cousin Dudley (who is an annoying chain-wearing chav in this film.) He defends himself using his patronus charm, but this action gets him into trouble with the ministry of magic. It is ruled that this goes against the prohibition on the underaged use of magic and Harry is expelled from Hogwarts. It is only through the intervention of Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix that Harry is even allowed to attend Hogwarts at all.

The Order of the Phoenix is a tight knit group who are dedicated to defeating Voldemort this time around as they were the last. They include Sirius, Lupin, Arthur Weasley, Moody and Tonks. It is explained that Harry’s parents Lilly and James were once members of the Order (explaining why Voldemort sought them out to kill them) as were Neville Longbottom’s parents. Even as we see these conspirators coming together to defend Harry they insist that he must stay on the side-lines.

Meanwhile, Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic and big head honcho, is refusing to believe that Voldemort has returned at all. Instead he is convinced that Voldemort is rabble-rousing in an attempt to gather political power of his own and that Harry is a pawn and a liar. He has a lot of people willing to believe him in this matter as well. They’d rather believe that Harry is lying than that Voldemort has returned.

Fudge uses his political muscle to put one of his sycophants into Hogwarts as the new defense against the dark arts teacher, and she, Dolores Umbridge, proceeds to take all the fun out of Hogwarts. She insists that as he-who-must-not-be-named has NOT returned there is no real danger for which these children must be prepared, and refuses to teach them any practical magic to help them in the event of a death eater attack.

There are a couple things I do really enjoy in this movie. One is a new cast member – Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. She’s so absolutely perfect in the role – exactly as I imagined her in the book. She effortlessly steals every scene she’s in with her vapid not-altogether-there but also somehow in-the-know air. The other thing I enjoy about this movie is seeing Harry as a leader. In response to Umbridge’s repressive regime Harry and his friends form Dumbledore’s Army – which is a gathering of students interested in learning practical magic to better defend themselves. The scenes of Harry training his friends are by far the best parts of the movie. In large part because the rest of the movie is so unremittingly depressing that these small victories are all the more thrilling.

This is a brutal, dark and upsetting movie. Things start out bad for Harry and they get worse. He is tortured, ostracized, denigrated and vilified. Hogwarts is transformed from a refuge to a prison and everything he enjoys is denied to him. And in the end, although he does vindicate himself in the eyes of the ministry and prove that Voldemort has indeed returned it is at a dear price. It’s a difficult movie to watch.

July 28, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment