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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

July 14th, 2007 (01:36 am)
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current music: miscellaneous Tori Amos

Spent this evening, first at Almaza at Gloucester Green, where the 'Shef's Special' was fine if not greatly varied in its vegetable selection; and then on, with emily_shore, shanith, elleblue, e_pepys and louisekdyson to the Odeon George Street, where we were joined by colinbj for the 9.30pm screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

I don't remember that much about the book, only that I thought we saw more of Harry and co. interacting with the adult wizarding world. I hadn't seen Goblet of Fire until I rented it last weekend, so it was fairly fresh in my memory as an overstylised sequence of set pieces with little plot. I've always found the Harry Potter books to be more chronicles of events than structured novels (though there is a wider structure to the sequence of books which becomes more apparent as the series progresses), particularly once J.K. Rowling was freed from restraint as to word count, but this film tightened the story further, bringing out lots of details I hadn't recalled from the book. There are odd hints of Cornelius Fudge's personality cult, such as the banner in the halls of the ministry and there are levels of interpretation to be extracted from Robert Hardy, who has played both Stanley Baldwin and Winston Churchill, playing this appeaser turned petty Mussolini. As for the ministry, I can believe that such caverns exist under Whitehall - or at least that they did, before Gordon Brown set up a PFI with Gringotts, gutted them, moved the Ministry of Magic into half the space and sold off the other half to a private equity firm.

The acting of the three leads has come in for criticism from the press, but I thought all three acquitted themselves well, and the editing did its best to make the most of any youthful awkwardness and inexperience. Imelda Staunton was a condescendingly sinister Dolores Umbridge; her costume was splendidly subtle, with all the hatchings in the pink and the silver check on the red skirt giving her the impression of a spider in a web made of candyfloss. The worst deceivers are those who also deceive themselves, and I felt that Umbridge was one of those.

Favourite moments: possibly when Harry uncovers Snape's memories of being bullied by James Potter and his gang, leading to a shaking of his faith in his father - if this isn't carried through as thoroughly as it could be, it still provides some of the backdrop to Harry's mid-teen anger (thankfully here less obtrusive than in the book); and the broomstick ride along the Thames early in the film. The tone of the film, altogether, is steadier than its predecessors; it's closest to striking the balance between contemporaneity and the quaintness which permeates the magical world, with pop music playing in the background of the common room, and London being introduced with Canary Wharf before the more established tourist landmarks are brought in.

I felt that the exclusion of Harry and his friends from the deliberations of the Order of the Phoenix (who are even more in the background in the film than they are in the book, despite the title) was if Frodo had been excluded from the Council of Elrond. For this viewer it seems just and natural that they should be involved; yet their youth and inexperience, and impetuosity, mean that they are not.

Comments

Posted by: viala_qilarre (viala_qilarre)
Posted at: July 14th, 2007 10:12 am (UTC)

We saw it last night, fresh from having read all six books in preparation for the seventh. We thought (Mr Viala and I being a gesalt consciousness, of course) that it captured the tone and content of the book more successfully than the Goblet of Fire film did. Grimmauld Place was very well realised, I thought. Umbridge was perfect. Sirius was just a bit dodgy, as he should be. (The book makes it clear that his affection for Harry is probably more about trying to recapture his relationship with his father, rather than the boy himself.) Snape was under-used, as usual in the films, though I was glad to see that they didn't miss out the bit where Harry sees his father bullying him. A lot of Harry Potter fandom (which I've glimpsed occasionally, rather than been involved in at all) and certainly a lot of fan fiction seems to be about Snape, and it's interesting to revisit the books and realise that he's not in it as much as you might think!

They missed out the essential plot-point of Snape being the one who overheard the prophecy and relayed it to Voldemort. I'm assuming that'll be covered in the next film, because it is kind of important.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 14th, 2007 10:42 am (UTC)
Argue mainly

I'd forgotten that last plot point! I thought that Sirius was well-drawn, and while we saw him from Harry's point of view, as it were (something from which Rowling might have drawn back a little in the last two or three books) there were these ticks which suggested that Sirius was forgetting how young Harry was - that final 'James' was very eloquent.

Posted by: ms_rebecca_riot (ms_rebecca_riot)
Posted at: July 14th, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
Bee

yes- the World War Two build up thing- I got that.
Wasn't Imelda Staunton great? Like a cross between Margaret Thatcher, and Hyacinth Bucket dressed by Barbara Cartland. I did wish she died an orrible death though.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 15th, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)

Absolutely right about Imelda Staunton - definitely Thatcher-inspired, particularly the early faux-housewifeish Thatcher.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: July 16th, 2007 05:32 pm (UTC)

days later...

I just went to see it yesterday, and was quite impressed how efficienttly they managed to get that *very* long book into one film of reasonable length.

I agree that Imalda Staunto did a very good job portraying Umbridge, though the oplitical connotationswere not only historical for me, either int he book ot the film.
I also noticed (and liked) the fact that London was intoduced by Canary Wharf tower.

I was not too convinced by Bellatrix - I think she is much more sane, unfortunately for her contemporaries.

My favourite moments are very small ones: the mistletoe providing itself for the kiss - a detail I had completely missed in the book (although in hindsight, it is implied), and Luna's patronus.

KT