Friday, November 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

(movie review)

After Spiderman 3 and Shrek 3, I'm now continuing my way through the summer blockbusters as they come out on video on account of having been stuck out in the Japanese countryside when they were in the theater. (This film however is one I wish I would have seen on the big screen. There's just too much going on in several of these scenes that's hard to catch on my little television screen.)

Although this is probably only of interest to me, this is the first Harry Potter movie I've seen after having finally caught up with the books. (See my review of the book "Order of the Phoenix" here). All the previous four movies I saw before I got around to reading the books.

So now I can finally assume the position of moral superiority and complain about how the movie isn't near as good as the book.

Actually generally speaking, I think these movies do a great job adapting the huge books into something watchable. It's not a job I would want to have. Especially with "Order of the Phoenix" which was one of the thicker tomes of the Harry Potter series. Not only do you have to cut everything down to the bare bones, but you have to take care not to offend all the rabid fans out there, and you have an increasing amount of characters that you have to juggle and make sure all of them get a little bit of screen time. And finally you have to make the movie something that will stand up on its own.

The trick with any movie adaptation is that you have to make a movie based on a book that feels like an independent work and doesn't feel like its a movie based on a book. And as much as I recognize the tremendous task faced by the film makers, I don't think any of the Harry Potter films have ever quite pulled this off. All of the Harry Potter films feel like you're just skimming the surface of a much larger story (which in fact you are).

In fact often I wonder if these films were not such great cultural phenomenons, with the legions of built in fans from the book (and the rest of us who are just curious to see what all the fuss is about) if this whole series wouldn't have been a commercial flop.

However viewed as tributes to the books, I think these movies work out quite nicely.

My big criticism however, (and again this extends to the entire series) is that the one place where these movies should shine the most is where they drop the ball. By which I mean the action sequences.

The movie of course can't be expected to compete with the book in terms of exposition or character development. But people go to these big budget Hollywood movies expecting a little razzle dazzle in the action sequences. Instead they're often confusing, poorly choreographed, and just not all that exciting when it comes down to it.

For example, although it was a short scene, I think it was a particularly bad choice to include Voldermort's possession of Harry Potter, and Harry's inner struggle to defeat him. That's the kind of thing that works in a book, but not on a big screen. (Although come to think of it, I don't even remember that part in the book. Did they just add that for the movie, or does anyone else remember it?) On the big screen we want to see the outer battle between wizards and witches. The scene in the book battling the giant brains, for example, would have made an excellent movie sequence if they had decided to film it.

Still, all in all these movies have done a tremendous job of staying faithful to the main parts of the books, bringing in a larger audience, and, perhaps most impressive of all, keeping together a huge cast for 5 movies running.

Link of the Day
Another must read article from the Washington Post: What Does Iraq Cost? Even More Than You Think.

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