Sunday, July 15, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Books 4 and 5 are my least favorite in the Harry Potter series and if asked to choose the one I like less among the 2, I'd pick book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Suffering the same problems faced by the middle episode(s) of any series, it had little of note happen and felt curiously incomplete. But I didn't feel the same about the movie. Light on action, especially compared to the previous entries in the series, it works when seen as a setup for things to come rather than as a self-contained adventure. Because of that, I think it would appeal more to fans of the book i.e. those who have read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince rather than to those following Harry only through his movies.

The movie continues the darkening of the tone that the series has gone through since Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Gone are the innocent wonder of the youngsters, the magical atmosphere at Hogwarts and the silly pranks and magic acts. In their place we get students who realize the enormity of the imminent danger and are ready to fight it, a dark and gloomy Hogwarts and powerful magic (one just has to see Dudley's fate to understand the change in tone - in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone he gets a tail while here he almost had his soul sucked away by a dementor!). How one reacts to this change in tone pretty much determines whether one will like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

There's not much action in the film. While earlier films had happenings like the Quidditch match, the Triwizard tournament, etc. that lent themselves to grand set pieces and quite a bit of action, the central piece here is the new teacher's vendetta against Dumbledore, Harry and the other students. That obviously isn't quite as exciting. There are a few laughs but the movie mostly keeps things serious and conveys just how harsh and mean she is. The whole track with Hagrid's half-brother appears tacked-on. Fully computer generated, Grawp looks like Shrek walked over from a nearby screen. The climax too is rather low-key.

But the film works when one looks at it as laying the foundation for the final battle(s). Both the scenes where the Order of the Phoenix convenes and the scenes where Harry trains the other students are exciting since they are essentially setting the pieces in place for the final good vs. evil confrontation. We can actually sense the pressure on Harry as he realizes he has a huge responsibility that he doesn't even know if he is ready for. And it is nice to see his growing army of friends, relatives and acquaintances who trust him implicitly and are ready to stand by him when he has to face Voldemort.

Things really begin to heat up from the second half of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. So Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix should be seen more as a part of an epic journey rather than a complete little trip. Then it works.


At 1:12 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

These movie was kinda slow for me, it was not as fast as the last two films. Morever they was tooo much of footage given to the character Dolores Umbridge. They should have shown more about the workings of the Order Of The pheonix than just a glimpse of it here and there.

Anyway ru waiting for the release of the book? i have already purchased and cant wait to lay my hands on it these saturday..

At 4:48 AM, Blogger oLi said...

Did not expect much more from this film. But to continue the tradition, I will watch it over this weekend, mostly at an iMax.

Waiting for Jul 21 for the HP and deathly hallows too...

At 7:29 AM, Blogger மு.கார்த்திகேயன் said...

Balaji, In IMAX, they are showing the the last 20 minutes in 3D effect

At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, I thought Potter was something that appeals to kids more. Thats why I was a little surprised to note that you continued to follow the book as well as the movie. Somehow, I have never been able to garner even a passing interest in this series. Although I didnt read the LOTR, I saw all 3 parts of the movie in the theater and was hooked briefy. Havent felt the same way about Potter. Is it good enough to sustain interest even after 5 films? It seems to be going on like a megaserial on screen :-)

At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As usual, the film is no where near as good as the books, the film rarely showed any friction between luna and hermione as there was in the book or the Rita Skeeter scenes. Well the HBP is the best book IMHO so we'll see there.

Expecting another poster on Harry Potter before the 21st!

At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Balaji,

I thought this movie is the best of the series so far! I really did not care for the first two movies (they're stupid!). But the 3-rd one (Prisoner of Azkaban) took me by surprise, thanks to brilliant Alfonso Cuaron at the helm!! I think this one is even more darker and just like Cuaron, Yates did a splendid job. Now, I am reall ready for the sixth one!

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

sidekick, kinda expected the time given to dolores. but u're right about the order of phoenix. the few scenes didn't illustrate its importance.

havent ordered book 7 yet but real tempted as the date nears :)

oli, me too :)

karthik, yeah i read about that. were u lucky enuf to see it in an IMAX?

vijay, i didnt catch onto potter until the 3 or 4th book came out. but from the moment the twist about prof quirrel was revealed, i was completely hooked. as i said, books 4 and 5 were disappointing and i felt it was running out of steam. but the 2nd half of book 6 was amazing and has me looking fwd to book 7 a lot :)

prin, since i didn't like book 5 much, i remembered very little about it. so was able to watch the film without comparing it to the book :)

sampal, looks like u r one of those who relishes the dark tone the books have adopted from book 3. so your reaction is as expected. reviewers like ebert and berardinelli have also been split on the movie depending on whether they like this tone :)

At 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, it was fantastic on Imax, I have many problems with the movies, they took so many liberties and it felt quite choppy. But as a fan of HP I still loved it.

At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loadsa difference b/w the book and the movie. Lots of sequences have been twisted to suit the movie. I expected more screen time for Fred and George's fly for freedom. They should have been allowed to create the swamp in the movie. Could have been awesome.

Inspite of all these... one great movie !!!

At 11:06 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

sivajini, yeah the choppiness is kinda expected when u condense such a long book into just over 2 hours :)

mruthica, looks like u remember the book quite a bit more than me :)

At 6:03 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

balaji, you don't remember the swamp? The twins' escape was one of the best scenes in the book.

What! You haven't ordered the book yet? Sacrilege!


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