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Capt. Sage's Review of
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Movie

This movie sticks very closely to the book, usually to its enhancement, but also often to its detriment. There's so much story to cover, and so many things to set up for succeeding movies, that everything tends to feel packed in. Still, the fact that many important plot details were covered and many good scenes from the book were included generally makes the movie very good.

The technical aspects of the movie keep to the high standards established by the other movies. The music is appropriate and engaging. The special effects are awesome. The lighting and camera movements, costumes, and scenery, are excellent.

The cast also turns in excellent performances, especially two of the new main characters. Dolores Jane Umbridge, played by Imelda Staunton, and Luna Lovegood, played by Evanna Lynch, are cast perfectly. Umbridge's trademark line, "Hem hem," is delivered perfectly, and she conveys the insincerity and ruthlessness of her character through excellent voice acting and gestures. Lovegood portrays a young girl who appears spacey, but not dumb or stupidly cheerful, and actually observant and sensitive. Both portrayals of complex characters were some of the best parts of the movie.

The plot is very exciting, and most of it develops well. There are some parts, however, which do not do very well. Two story arcs ended up being a bit confusing, although fortunately they still had the proper emotional impact. (See the spoiler section below.1) There are also some story elements from the book which get some screen time, but never actually have a resolution, making their inclusion frustrating for people like me, and possibly confusing for people who did not read the book. (See the spoiler section below.2) The movie's climax was almost perfect, but the second half of the climax simply fell flat for me. (See the spoiler section below.3)

With all that said, I think this movie is one of the better Harry Potter movies. It has excellent characters, excellent action scenes, and a plot that can generally be enjoyed. I'm glad the movie turned out so well.

SPOILERS

Both in this movie and in Spiderman 3 I didn't really enjoy it when the heroes brooded. In this case I was fine with the brooding hero in the book, but not in the movie. I think it's practically impossible for a movie to make a hero brood successfully. Books are able to show greater lengths of time passing, which helps because even brooding heroes don't stay brooding all the time. Books allow us to accept that. In movies, there's only so much time, and so they tend to focus on the brooding, making us feel that the hero is unrealistically brooding all the time. Ironically enough, this movie tried to show us, as did the book, that Harry was happy when he was training Dumbledore's Army, but soon after he tells Black that he feels "angry all the time." Of course he's referring to his usual, persistent state of anger, but movies aren't as good as books at showing the difference between a general mood and an emotion triggered by circumstance.

The preview relied too much on the facile stereotype of Umbridge as the strict teacher. In reality she's more of a party commandant, a political appointment. I'm glad that the whole movie kept more to that reality than the stereotype.

The story arc of the Room of Requirement was confusing to me. The movie changed it so that Filch managed to discover the location of the door and camped out there, but was continually outfoxed by the students. Those scenes were very funny. However, the movie then continues with the book's plot of the group being betrayed-- almost. Now, before we go any further, we need to ask, why did the movie need them to be betrayed? Really, all Filch needed was a bit more luck. I suppose so the book could be somewhat followed. But it didn't make sense.

I think that since the scenes with Filch and the Inquisitorial Squad were going so well, the movie should've simply continued its deviation more logically, and caused a more forceful deviation to estrange Cho and Harry. The movie already had a slight deviation from the book's Cho-Harry arc in how it portrayed the betrayal, but it ended up making nonsense of the Room of Requirement arc. If the makers of the movie were dead set on including the Filch scenes, they should've made a stronger deviation from the book in the Cho-Harry arc as well so that both arcs would make sense. Yes, it would've meant deviating two story arcs to get funny scenes into one arc, but since they were going to deviate the Room of Requirement arc anyway to include the funny scenes, they should've deviated the Cho-Harry arc further so the movie would make more sense.

The Cho-Harry arc changes made were understandable. In the book, Cho's friend willingly betrayed Dumbledore's Army. Cho didn't agree with what her friend had done, but tended to side with her over Harry. I can understand that the movie didn't want to introduce the character of Cho's friend who has only one function. Still, since there were going to be deviations from the book in both arcs anyway, they should've deviated them more so they would make more sense.

Kreacher, Snape, and Neville, were three of the biggest unfulfilled story arcs. Kreacher's betrayal of his master in the book was part of the reason why Black died. Having him in the movie properly set the movie up for the remaining two books, I'll admit, but since the movie did not include the betrayal, Kreacher's inclusion was otherwise pointless.

I loved the scene where we see Snape's past in the book. It gave us a glimpse into the past, and also helped us to see that Harry's father, Sirius Black, and even Remus Lupin weren't perfect. It also helps establish Snape's character more clearly. The movie, however, did nothing with the information. The book forced Harry to come to terms with the reality of imperfections in those he loved and in he himself. In the movie, there evidently wasn't time for that, and so the scene didn't really accomplish anything.

I was glad that some of Neville's backstory was included in this movie, but it was underdeveloped in two ways. First, the problems with the Ministry of Magic sequence meant that we almost totally missed his growth into a man who followed in his parent's footsteps and took a courageous stand against evil despite great pain. Second, the movie did not include Dumbledore's revelation that the prophecy could just as easily have been about Neville instead of Harry, but that Voldemort's actions made it apply to Harry. This unexpected information is interesting to think about, and also strengthens the story's theme about choices, so though it's not essential in some senses, losing that information did weaken the choices theme.

I'm very glad that the movie mentioned the minor theme of both the Order and the Death Eaters trying to recruit various magical creatures. I think it would've helped the movie if more had been said about the dementors' shifting loyalties, but it was a bit complex and nonessential.

The Ministry of Magic sequence was perfect in some ways, very wrong in others. The scenery and music was perfect. The action started out well. Dumbledore's Army, pretty much as in the book, was holding its own against the Death Eaters. For some reason, however, the Death Eaters were flowing all over the place as black shadows, which should be impossible inside the Ministry, and also made it rather hard to figure out just what was going on. Otherwise, I was enjoying the sequence as it progressed, seeing Harry and his friends effectively fighting the Death Eaters.

Unfortunately, the movie suddenly diverges from the book to do a traditional Hollywood scene. All the friends of the protagonist get captured and he has to decide whether or not to hand over the prophecy, or the gun, or the money, or the whatever on earth it is that the bad guy wants for some inscrutable reason. Then the protagonist either hands it over, or only pretends to hand it over, or throws it away, or does something with it. My point is that we've seen this scene about a bajillion times, and I for one am starting to get a little sick of it.

Not only am I sick of that cliché Hollywood standby, but also by including it, the movie totally eliminated one of the book's story arcs. The book is about the rise of the next generation of wizards to fight for and defend their land. The movie, despite Neville's line about "Dumbledore's Army [being] about doing something real", patronizes Harry and his friends and makes them out to be just children who can't really handle the tough assignments. The book version is telling us that they were meddling kids before, but they've now grown up into something more. The movie version implies that Dumbledore's Army wasn't real and that Harry's training sessions and everyone's hard work in them was rather pointless after all. It tries not to by giving them a good start, but I think a lot of viewers who haven't read the book will draw their conclusions from the cliché scene. The Ministry of Magic sequence robs the main characters of dignity.

I think that the movie ought to have stuck closer to the book for this sequence; not necessarily in each literal action, but in the overall spirit. In the book, Dumbledore's Army is doing quite well against the Death Eaters, far better than one could've hoped, though it certainly isn't without danger and injury. It was rather more exciting for me to follow in the book the characters' battles of body, spell, and wit against the Death Eaters than to watch the movie's cliché hostage scene. When the movie did have scenes where Dumbledore's Army was fighting effectively, they were good, as I've mentioned before. (In fact, someone I know, and I myself, would go so far as to say they were more exciting than the excellent dragon fighting sequences of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)

I therefore contend that the movie would've been more exciting, had a much stronger narrative, and had more cohesion, if the Ministry of Magic sequence had replaced the hostage scene with further fight scenes.

I was a bit mystified as to why the killing spell was used on one character. I suppose to make it obvious that he died. It didn't make too much of a difference to me, except that I'm fairly sure that it wasn't in the book.

As we draw near to the end of the Ministry of Magic sequence, we encounter one of my greatest disappointments with the movie. They went to great lengths to include the huge statues in the lobby, so I was sure that at the end of the movie, as in the book, Dumbledore would make them come to life as part of his duel with Voldemort. It never happened!

Instead, the movie dwelt for some time on Harry fighting off Voldemort's mental attacks. That was all right, but I didn't like Harry's line about feeling sorry for Voldemort because he has no love and no friendship. Considering Voldemort's minions have just killed Harry's godfather, it seems very unrealistic. There's not many other reasons why Harry should feel sorry for Voldemort- he doesn't know of any sympathetic circumstances from his childhood, for instance. It just doesn't make sense that Harry would, at that moment (or indeed almost any other moment,) feel sorry for Voldemort.

I have to say that removing that scene and the cliché hostage scene would've vastly improved an already good movie. Just imagine what the movie would've been like if we had seen more development of Kreacher or Snape or Neville, or Dumbledore animating statues as he battles Voldemort, or more of of Dumbledore's Army fighting off the Death Eaters. It could've been as close to perfect as movies ever get.