The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

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Movie Commentary: On Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, or "Harry Plodder and the Torture of the Fanbase" as Mad Magazine called this installment (I don't agree, I just thought the title was general I thought the whole parody was funny, but particularly the frames reproduced below). Here are a bunch of pleased notes, predictions concerning book seven and unpopular sentiments. I'm going to assume for purposes of analysis that Rowling had screenplay approval -- I've read that she's the reason Kreacher stayed in the film despite his very marginalized role, so he must serve some significant purpose in Book Seven. With that said:

1) This is the fourth out of five times that I liked the movie better than the book. Yes, I have listened to people wax rhapsodic about the glories of the printed word and the imagination and yadda yadda. All I can say is that I'd probably appreciate the glories of the printed word and the imagination better if I didn't at times feel (particularly in the last few books) that the damn things were so long mostly because of unnecessary details being included as stage directions for filmmakers, rather than integral plot elements or character development. To quote the aforementioned Mad Magazine...oh, just see scans below.

2) Sirius calling Harry "James" squicked me so much that I could not mourn his death. I have no idea why I reacted so strongly; I mean, I despise fan fiction where Sirius has the hots for Harry because he had the hots for James, and I don't much like it even in canon when he goes on about how Harry is so much like his handsome loyal father, but during that battle, for Sirius not to be able to tell the difference made me both revolted and pissed off. Sirius should realize by now that Harry is exceptional and wonderful as Harry, dammit! And to say "Good one, James!" just as he said in the flashback when James was torturing Severus...urgh, it tells me a lot about Sirius and none of it good.

The good news is, I don't think there is any way in hell Sirius is coming back, in any way, shape or form, which pleases me. He dies not falling through the Veil but from the Killing Curse, which serves the double purpose of establishing Bellatrix as a really vicious villain (even though we are denied any glimpse of the Longbottoms at St. Mungo's) and making it clear that Sirius was going to end up dead even had the Veil not been there. That makes me happy, because while I am ready for Inferius!James, Inferius!Lily and Inferius!Dumbledore, I really don't want to see Inferius!Sirius.

Actually, now that I wrote that, I do want to see a zombie Gary Oldman just so I can make an Inferius!Sirius icon. But that is neither here nor there. And I should mention too that I really loved Gary Oldman's performance, all the little winks at Harry and the kind of ragged edge to Sirius, though I am sorry we didn't get to see any of the snarking at Snape from the book.

3) The major Book Seven issue I think this film establishes -- because I cannot believe Rowling would not have fought harder for screenplay revision otherwise -- is that Neville is not going to die in Harry's stead as the Chosen One. We never even hear the full prophecy nor how Voldemort had to choose one of the boys born at the end of the seventh month (and I can't think of a spot in the film of HBP where it would be appropriate to insert that information -- I suppose they could toss it in as a last-minute revelation in a film of DH, but it would feel cheap to me). Neville comes into his own in OOTP and Harry's supposed to come to an understanding that he's not as alone as he thinks, so if the plot point about the two babies were being kept as relevant, then it should be here.

That said, I have higher hopes of Neville surviving DH now. But I'm a little puzzled: if Voldemort didn't need to know the full prophecy because the weapon is understanding that he chose Harry and gave him special powers when it could have been Neville, then how did he expect the prophecy to be a weapon, exactly?

4) I'd put even more money on Harry being a horcrux than I would have before the film, though that's based a good deal on the filmmakers' interpretation of how Voldemort talks in him and through him. Rowling might not have seen that mapped out in so much detail since a lot of it was probably designed in post-production in tandem with special effects people.

5) I was so ready to hate Tonks, and I did hate Tonks in the preview special (raising her voice at Moody for calling her Nymphadora at a moment when she had SO MANY BIGGER THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT) and whenever the actress starts talking in interviews about how smart Tonks is I just start scoffing and snorting, because, you know, running off her Auror post to make sure Reeeeeeemus is okaaaaaaay.

Soooooo...I really liked Tonks. Liked her joking with Ginny, liked her winking at Harry while flying over the Thames in what is one of my favorite movie scenes of all time -- next time I do the London-Greenwich commute, I am skipping the boat and doing it that way -- and since so far as I could tell she did not exchange a single word or glance with Lupin, who was not present for the flying scene, there was absolutely no reason for me not to like Tonks. Please please let her have been under Imperius or a love potion in HBP so I can like her again in DH.

6) Lucius Malfoy, the hottest thing ever to hide behind a Death Eater mask, is surprisingly all talk and no action. He likes to march around saying people will die but he does a piss-poor job of making that happen, and he's about to wet his pants when the prophecy is destroyed (whereas Bellatrix isn't at all afraid of being punished by Voldemort in the film version, which I like).

Since we know Voldemort leaves Lucius to languish in Azkaban while Narcissa is off breaking the Dark Lord's rules to get Snape to protect Draco (who also screws up and I won't be surprised at all if he switches sides), I think there's a decent possibility that Lucius will throw in his lot with the Order of the Phoenix or else survive the war behind bars and come back to the Ministry, like he did last time, batting his pretty eyelashes and pleading the Imperius curse. Or maybe this is all wishful thinking on my part, but for a man who supposedly likes to torture Muggles, he sure hates to get his hands or his pretty robes dirty, and family seems a much bigger priority to him than pureblood welfare in general.

7) I like Cho vastly better in both movies than the books. In fact, I like all the girls better, except the most important ones: Hermione, who invariably gets her subplots reduced to nothing or when they're present, like with Grawp, played for laughs, and Tabula Rasa Ginny Weasley who basically doesn't talk in this film at all, just throws jealous looks in Cho's direction and gloats about being able to produce a Patronus more quickly than half the students.

With Ginny I always feel like we are being told rather than shown how terrific she is, which is perhaps inevitable since the books are from Harry's POV, but fuck, does he have to end up with the girl in the tight sweater who's had a crush on him since she was too young to go to Hogwarts? Who played damsel in distress to him the next year? Who isn't the smart one -- in movieverse I would be positive that Harry was going to end up with Hermione, given how many times she hugged him in memory during Occlumency lessons -- I'm less down on Ron/Hermione at the moment because I rather like the way Rupert plays Ron this time out, defensive of Hermione while acknowledging her strengths, but why oh why can't Harry marry Luna?

8) It's like they WANT us to write Remus/Sirius ("Could you please sit a little closer to me? You sure? You're not completely in my lap yet") and Harry/Snape ("No, really, Professor, you don't have to hold my hand, I know where the dungeons are...oh, but if you want to, that's a different thing"). Snape is absurdly generous and level-headed in the movies compared to the books, but ask me if I care -- I only became a fan of this series (as opposed to a mom reading the books half-attentively aloud to her kids) because of Alan Rickman in SS!

I'm sorry they translated "pants" as "trousers" in the "James Potter Was A Complete Arsehole" scene (which I really need to see again, in slow motion), and also that Harry scarcely had a moment to dwell on the implications of his father being a complete arsehole, but hopefully the point is clear. James Potter and his posse are just like Dudley Dursley and his posse...and Snape doesn't even smash jars of beetles. Again, trying to make predictions from script for books: Rowling has let them write Snape consistently less angry and more heroic in the movies than I'd have suspected. He is going to do something insanely heroic in DH.

9) There was nothing I felt was really sorely missing from this film the way I did with POA (which ironically remains my favorite of the movies even though it's the one instance where I like the book better, because to this day I cannot believe they didn't film the Marauders Map explanation). There are lots of things I missed -- Hermione's defense of Kreacher, the Malfoys' blood ties to Grimmauld Place, Sirius and Remus giving Harry Defense books for Christmas, Sirius explaining to Harry what gits he and James were when they were young, everything involving Firenze and the centaurs -- but if none of those end up having significance for Book Seven then I can forgive their absence.

The only scene in all of HP that has consistently moved me nearly to tears is Lupin's "people like me" speech and OOTP doesn't really have a moment like that for me -- I am not one of those who sobbed over Sirius when I read the book, I thought that his death was fitting and appropriate like Boromir's in LOTR. But I am a bit vexed that, given the inclusion of the Black family tree, we never even hear Regulus' name. I'm still sure he's RAB and maybe they didn't want to draw attention to him so close to the next book if that could even be considered a spoiler if it's true, given the dearth of other likely candidates!

10) I do not share the sudden Neville squee -- he's cute enough, and he was cute enough in GOF too, but he's still ridiculously young for me to see as anything other than, well, ridiculously young (same for Daniel Radcliffe whom I like well enough and giggle to see in leather but would not want to fool around with, and Rupert Grint and Tom Felton and the rest, forget it). But Fred and George Weasley? Almost look too old for the parts they're playing, as they are clearly grownups and need a nice middle aged woman like me to teach them a thing or two, when she's not busy converting Lucius and his sister-in-law away from the dark side. (Remus, Sirius, Snape? STILL COMPLETELY GAY! Wouldn't want to interfere!)

11) There has been a lot of absolutely perfect, on-the-nose casting in the HP films, but Imelda Staunton is in a class by herself. She is brilliant beyond brilliant, and in a movie with so many other actors distracting me, that is really saying something. Also, I love how much of this film is set in London as opposed to Neverland, Scotland, which looks pretty enough but seems remote from all worldly concerns. Which is odd, because I despise the chapters in the books where Rowling tries to mix real politics and wizarding politics -- Hitler was pure evil without Grindelwald or any Dark wizard encouraging him, and wicked leaders are quite capable of wreaking horrible damage without magic just by using people's fear, paranoia and prejudice.

12) It's a throw-away moment with the cat batting the Extendable Ears, but everyone in our packed theater was laughing in delight at Crookshanks. Also, at the very end when Fudge totters forward and cries, "He's back!"? There was a massive "DUUUUUHHHHHH!" from people of all ages. I love moments like that ("No, Buzz, I am your father!") when a packed theater spontaneously bursts into laughter or applause.

I need to go write up some stupid Star Trek news but I reserve the right to come back and edit this post later as people remind me of things. *g* Ranking the films in terms of my personal enjoyment: 1) POA, 2) OOTP, 3) GOF, 4) SS, 5) COS. This isn't about quality, because I think poor Chris Columbus gets a bum rap and established a lot of things in SS that have served the entire franchise well, not least of which is the casting.

ETA: fuschia described superbly the effect of Snape invading Harry's memory of the Mirror of Erised scene -- like Harry, we are shocked to see him there and it is a violation of our memories of that scene from the first movie. I also loved the fact that that was the scene Harry considered too private to share with Snape, and not kissing Cho as it was in the book.

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