Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

My original intention was to make a blog entry with just my impressions of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie, but as I went along constructing my thoughts I realized that almost everything that I wanted to say could be applied in a more general sense to any of the other movies in the series. It's nice how the series has been molded by the hands of two screenwriters and four directors (and counting) but still forms a pretty cohesive whole, at least so far.

I don't even really remember much of the first four Harry Potter movies actually, except that they were generally faithful adaptations of the books. Naturally a whole lot of the source material has to be left behind in the translation to a 2-3 hour movie, that is necessary and forgivable-- and in the case of the fifth movie, preferred. That book had a lot of not-quite-necessary subplots that happily prolong the reading experience, but would just bog down the story in movie form (I'm thinking of Hermione's house elf crusades, Neville's parents at St. Mungo's, Percy's estrangement, etc). The longest Potter book at 896 pages translates into the shortest Potter movie at 138 minutes.

What I do clearly remember from previous movies are the things that were different from my memories of the books. Like the basilisk being Godzilla-sized, Ron's dance lessons from McGonagall, and Dumbledore being batshit pissed at Harry for his name coming out of the Goblet of Fire. I don't know if these are necessarily improvements or whatever, but they stand out in my mind because the books are already so deeply imprinted in my memory.

Sometimes I wish I could just forget everything that I've read so I can judge the movies on their own merits instead of constantly comparing them to my preinstalled mental image. All the while that I'm watching a Harry Potter movie I'm thinking to myself that certain things should be more emphasized, or they should have given more context. I keep worrying that people that haven't read the books are going to be so hopelessly confused. I maintain that the movies work better as visualizations for people who have experienced Harry Potter properly as books, rather than stand-alone experiences for people that haven't read them.

Other observations on Order of the Phoenix: Poor Cho didn't get another word from Harry after the hyped up kissing scene. Umbridge was perfectly cast with her scene stealing mixture of sweetness and cruelty. Luna was weird as she should be but creepier than expected. Overall it is perfectly decent but my least favorite in the series, and I could say the exact same thing for the book.

The day after watching Order of the Phoenix, I watched another movie, Die Hard 4.0 (see my impressions). Now that's a movie made for the movies, and the difference shows. It doesn't have to worry about being faithful to its source material, or setting up essential clues and plot points that'll be used in future sequels. I wonder if it would have turned out as enjoyable if it was based on a hit book with a pre-installed fanbase of millions.

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