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The longest Harry Potter book gets whittled down to the shortest Harry Potter movie
on December 13, 2007
I think that when you take the longest Harry Potter book and turn it into the shortest Harry Potter film, that a large number of complaints by fans as to what has been cut will be inevitable after they watch "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." Not that this means that the legions of fans will be bitterly disappointed by the film version, but rather that there will be regrets over not getting to see favorite scenes on the screen. For example, Quidditch is completely out of the film, denying Ron of his best moments in the sun (start singing "Weasley is our king"). So do not be surprised when your mind keeps shifting to what has been cut and distracting you from time to time while watching this summer's latest blockbuster.
When last we left our hero, Harry fell victim to a trap to bring back Lord Voldermort, which cost Cedric Diggory his life. The Ministry of Magic wants things hushed up, but Dumbledore tells the students at Hogwarts that Diggory was murdered and Lord Voldermort murdered him. As this fifth film opens Harry and his wicked cousin Dudley are attacked by Dementors. Harry uses his wand to defend them and is summarily expelled from Hogwarts for using magic in front of a muggle. The good news is that Harry gets reinstated, but the bad news is that the Ministry of Magic uses the opportunity to appoint Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary at the Ministry, as the school's new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. However, Umbridge teaches only the theory and not the practice because she insists Harry is a liar and there is nothing the students need to learn to defend themselves from. Then things get progressively worse.
"The Order of the Phoenix" was the most maddening book to read, not because it was the longest, but because I detest Dolores Umbridge. As far as I am concerned she makes Voldermort look good, because he knows he is evil, wicked, bad, mean, and nasty inside, while Umbridge thinks the ends justify the means. She is puritanical, sadistic and hypocritical. If there were not going to be children reading this review I would tell you what I really think of her. Suffice it to say, she makes me sick and I do not even take pleasure in loving to hate her, which is why my only requirement going into the film is that the Weasley Twins get their moment of glory when they become the disloyal opposition to the new order at Hogwarts.
Daniel Radcliffe continues to have the tote the heavy load in these films as Harry, with Rupert Grint's Ron Weasley being reduced more and more often to reaction shots while Emma Watson's Hermione Granger remains the Mistress of Exposition in these films. Alan Rickman as Snape remains pitch perfect casting and Gary Oldman as Sirius Black is also a joy to watch, but I discovered in this film that I really like Michael Gambon's performance as Dumbledore, mainly because he always plays up the character's intelligence and I find I prefer his interpretation to that of the late Richard Harris, forgive my heresy. Imelda Staunton does not look as much like a toad as Umbridge does in the book, but she captures the character's detestability from start to finish. We are always painfully aware how dangerous she is, whether she smiles or not. Also, Evanna Lynch steals more scenes as Luna Lovegood than Katie Leung does as Cho Chang, and it is certainly interesting to see Neville (Matthew Lewis) towering over everybody, with Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) in the silent but strong role for the pivotal sextet.
After seeing this film in the theater I raced home and got out my copy of the book and starting cataloguing things that had been cut. Such comparisons are, as I suggested up top, inevitable for anyone who has read the book. At this point what I missed the most were some of the conversations between Maggie Smith's Professor McGonagall and Umbridge where Minerva verbally flaws the Inquisitor. The omission that I am focusing on the most is the whole bit about why Neville's family was a target of Voldermort (I agree with Harry: always say his name and thereby reduce its power), since that suggests implications for what will happen in the final book, which gets released in just ten more days. I also would have liked to have seen an over reaction to Harry discovering his father bullied Snape at Hogwarts. My favorite part ends up being the impressive wizard's duel between Voldermort and Dumbledore (although I do not understand how they get to do cast spells fast and furious without speaking the magic words). Screenwriter Michael Goldenberg does a good job of whittling down Rowling's book and director David Yates does a competent job, but fans will simply want more. Also, we now know what happens in the next book and Rowling's big finale so all of the bad things that happen in this film cannot help but seem inconsequential in comparison. At least now that the movie is out on DVD we can enjoy the film on its own and not be distracted by mining it for clues as to what was going to happen in the last book.