Harry Potter  

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
2007, in theaters
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
By J.K. Rowling, 2007

You should know
First of all, my apologies for the lateness, but considering I'm reviewing both, I think you understand why. I actually went to the midnight release at my local Barnes and Noble with Dan Friday night, where he picked up his copy; Saturday Brian picked up his copy and then we saw the movie. They both told me I could read it when they were done – and they both had their copies swiped by their younger siblings. I got the book Tuesday night, finished it Wednesday, and now, here I am. I’ve been keeping up with the fallout, and then recovering from a mild case of Potter Burnout (Harry Potter and the Burnout of Fandom?). But I’m back.

Also, please be aware. While I will not be spoiling Deathly Hallows, there may be spoilers for the first six books – and since Order of the Phoenix is based on the book, the movie might be slightly spoiled. Please take this seriously, and do not flame me if you learn something that happened four books ago.

Let’s start with the movie, as it takes place earlier chronologically and, hey, I saw it before I read the book.

First of all, it was a brilliant (and completely atypical) blend of skill and luck that got us into our seats just as the previews started. Lots of kids’ epics coming up, by the way.

When the movie opens, Harry is being emo at a playground, which I suppose is more theatrical than Harry being sullen in the bushes as he is in the book.

And since the Harry Potter series has been put to rest, let me reveal some rejected book titles as I go (…ok, I’m lying. These are all mine).

(Harry Potter and the Bangs of Angst?)

So Harry and his cousin Dudley are doing their things at the playground – Dudley terrorizing small children, Harry moping about life with the Dursleys (Harry Potter and the Obnoxious Relatives?). The day is interrupted by Dementors, which come very close to killing Dudley, but Harry’s a good guy, so he saves his tormentor’s life. This, of course, is why it’s so hard to vanquish villains – heroes tend to keep saving them

Harry’s underage, so the Ministry of Magic puts him on trial for using magic outside school, giving Harry his first run-in with the Ministry’s policy of interference, which comes to a head as Delores Umbridge, Ministry Goon, becomes the new Defense Against Dark Arts professor (Harry Potter and My Brother’s Seventh-Grade English Teacher?).

Since Harry lives to star in two more books, it’s hardly a spoiler to tell you that, well, he lives to star in two more books. But someone else doesn’t, and if you haven’t read the book, let me tell you that when Order of the Phoenix first came out, the death was considered a huge spoiler ( Harry Potter and the Spoilers of Nonsensewordia?).

The movie had the expected awesome effects, and told the story well enough; again, cutting such a thick book into a watchable movie requires the loss of some subplots. Ron's adventures on the Quidditch field were eliminated, Hermione’s interest in House-Elf rights continues to be ignored, and Fred and George’s major act of defiance is played off as merely two trouble-makers making yet more trouble. None of these things are deal breakers, but their lack did remind me that as long as the movie was, the book is even more so (Harry Potter and the Thorough Edit?).

Overall, though, I enjoyed the movie. Harry’s complicated romance with Cho, Luna’s charming brand of flightiness, and the beginning of Neville coming into his own are all done very well. Umbridge was perfect (Ok, so she wasn’t all that toad-like; the spirit was captured perfectly, though).

But really, the movie got lost in the excitement of the release of Deathly Hallows.

They say you can tell comedies from tragedies because comedies end with weddings and tragedies end with funerals. Deathly Hallows begins with one of each. I’m sure if you’re even remotely familiar with the Harry Potter universe, you know exactly who these ceremonies were for, but in the interest of keeping things spoiler-free, I won’t reveal it to the three of you who don’t know (hi, Chris!).

So Harry, Ron, and Hermione take off on their world-saving scavenger hunt, and it’s no spoiler to tell you that Harry gets angsty, Ron and Hermione fight, people die, and at least one person is Not What S/He Appears. Plus, we learn more about wizarding history as we see Dumbledore, Snape, and Lily before they were the world-changing figures Harry knows them to be (Harry Potter and the Flashback of Destiny?).

I think that for the most part, the book made for a good end to the series. I think the middle section could have gone more quickly, either in terms of action or length, and while I didn’t despise the epilogue, I think it tied up loose ends that didn’t really need it, while leaving others hanging that I was genuinely curious about. There are some really interesting parallels drawn between characters, and the epilogue ignores them completely. Then again, I’m a former English major, not a twelve-year-old, so I suppose what I’m looking for doesn’t necessarily need to exist. That said, I hope Rowling considers things like that when and if she delves into adult literature (no, not Adult literature; we’ll leave that to the fanfiction [note: this link is filtered for only g-rated fic, so it’s safe for work {assuming it’s safe for human consumption in the first place (I like parentheticals)}]).

Begin at the beginning
Definitely check these out, but make sure you start from scratch. Coming in halfway means you risk losing references. Don’t see Order of the Phoenix unless you’ve either read the book or seen the first four films, and definitely don’t read Deathly Hallows until you’ve read the first six books. And hey, by the time you catch up, it’ll be off the wait list at the library.

The rest of the Internet
Beware of spoilers...
The Order of the Phoenix IMDb page and Wikipedia pages for film and book.
Critics at Rotten Tomatoes found it decent.
Mugglenet breaks down some fun facts about the movies.
Rolling Stone's movie review.
Nice word in Salon's review.
Roger Ebert seemed to have mixed feelings about the movie.
Bittersweet reactions to the film at NPR.
A good reaction from a non-fan at Independent Country.
Order of the Phoenix is better in film form, according to Moomin Light.
Matt at [sic] reviews the movie.
Jeff at MovieHawk reviews the movie and the book.
MSNBC rounds up reader reactions.
Daniel Radcliffe offers his reactions to Entertainment Weekly, where Stephen King weighs in as well.
Rowling's website.
Reviews from The New York Times, the Times Online, and Scotland on Sunday (which has at least one slightly erroneous spoiler).
Nina at Underside, John at Hogwarts Professor, Vicky at rejesus, Kari at Through a Glass, Darkly, and Peter T. Chattaway at Canadian Christianity all reflect on religion in the books.

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