Upon returning to New York on Thursday evening, my priorities were simple. Rather, I had one single priority, I should clarify, and jet lag be damned. You know how much I was looking forward to this movie. I rode a 10 hour flight aware that everywhere below me, Harry Potter had begun the battle against dementors and Death Eaters and everyone else was watching and I was missing it, oh what exquisite torture! Let me tell you, Blades of Glory on a flickering, finicky airline screen does not suffice in the least.
Per my preordered tickets, I have now rectified that atrocity and I have experienced HPOotP twice to date ~ Friday evening in IMAX 3D, then again Saturday afternoon on a regular movie screen. (It might be possible that I have another IMAX screening on the calendar for this weekend, but let's not get too carried away quite yet.) (And also, I saw the last HP movie five times in the cinema. We're off to another rousing start.)
Honestly, I must admit that, because I'd sheltered myself so completely from the hype and clips preceding the movie release, I actually didn't realize that the IMAX ending switched to 3D, so you can imagine my delight when a surly movie attendant handed over a pair of those goofy glasses. My dorkdom was complete.
Musings on Order of the Phoenix (and OotP movie spoilers, so watch out if you haven't seen it yet):
I adored this movie, just as I did the book. I know a lot of people found the story lagging at this point, but for me, it's where the action begins, where the intrigue finally gets down and dirty. We are growing up.
The first two books are lovely stories in and of themselves. The threat is contained, the foreshadowing minimal. They can each stand alone. These first two books provide a delightful preamble to the crux of our tale, a saga that teases us in Book Three with prisoners and godfathers and wayward dementors, then slaps us in earnest in Book Four when Diggery dies and raises the stakes of our little adventure. It is in Book Four that we can no longer escape the truth - that Voldemort has returned. Book Five - well, this is where we are immersed in the real evil, the torture and the slander and the harm that man can do to man, magical or otherwise. Childhood was trying, but adolescence is really a bitch.
But this is not a book review, so moving on.
A lot of people have remarked that this movie is dark and moody and I agree that it is. But of course. We are still reeling from Diggery's death. The Ministry is corrupt and infiltrates our safe haven, our refuge, our Hogwarts. No place, not even dry old Privit Drive, is safe from dementors. The movie captures this visually ~ a poster of the Minister of Magic dangles above us, Hitleresqe, larger than life, as Harry treads to court. The newspapers spew incriminating propaganda at the screen. We see students sequestered for questioning under spurious circumstances, dosed with serum to extract answers against their will.
Our child heroes are skirting the shadows, abandoned by Dumbledore, left to their own resources. The film crowds us with those shadows, so we must see the world through them as well. Harry and his friends are too young to take decisive action but too old to stand idly and watch their civilization fall. Our surroundings are still very big. Because of their youth, they are not privy to the whispered secrets of their elders and eventually fall victim to this secretiveness. Prohibitive notices and announcements resound morosely in the halls of Hogwarts. There is no room for frivolity here. Harry admits to Sirius that he is full of anger (but...I want to say to him, of course you are full of anger. You are 15. )
Harry's world has become a bleak place. Even his love, his relationship with Cho, stews in darkness, for both are haunted by the memories of the death of her last love, the death that Harry witnessed and for which he still carries guilt. These love scenes, which should be joyful, are filmed dark and drab. Finally, a sprig of mistletoe, a bit of Persephone spring in our dark days, appears abnormally bright and alive when it shoots into the chamber where the army trains for battle, inciting a kiss (and we aren't talking about a peck ~ although the director is quick to show plenty of distance between those bodies, this is a serious, lingering endeavor).
Harry lives in the darkness now. He befriends the Threstrals and through them uses his past horrors to carry him onward (literally and figuratively) toward his battle with evil.
There isn't as much delight in OotP. But we must consider that the wizarding world is now longer new to Harry or to us. We don't wonder at every bit of magic or unorthodox behavior after five years. We know the effects. Also, our little group is older, more jaded, and the humor we do glean matures as well. The subtlety of this movie surpass those that came before.
Many things were, of course, omitted, which is inevitable. While I would happily sit through a 10 hour movie, the general public whimpers when facing anything stretching beyond 90 minutes. But as this movie is the shortest HP segment to date, it would have been nice to have a few more little "extras" included. You do want to leave the audience wanting more, but with plenty of time for Quiddich, or more examples of Harry's early estrangement from his friends or even more interaction with our OotP crew, why over cut?
As for the optional 3D segment - do it!!!! I nearly peed when Lucius apparated right in front of me and stuck his manicured hand in my face. Before that, I nuzzled a Threstral. I was right there in the Ministry with Harry and Ron and everyone, terrified and brave and ready to fight all the evil in the world. I am sure that I even got stung by a spell or two, now that I think about it (luckily none that caused terminal damage, but I've got this eye twitch now...) The 3D is stunning. At first, I thought I might be missing some clarity of the action while distracted by the bits coming at me, but after seeing it on the regular screen, I realized that I saw more in the 3D version. The segments that appeared muddled were just stylistically muddled in whichever version. If only we could experience a 3D Snape!
I pity those watching this movie who haven't read the books. Wait, I take that back. I don't pity them because it's their own lazy faults! Read the books, people. I imagine that a number of twists and turns might appear rather obscure without the background information from the books. For instance, the Veiled Arch. If you haven't read the book, then wtf?
The Cons: Let's get the very few things I didn't enjoy out of the way first.
- During his floo conversation with our heroes, Sirius' image appeared this time as a hologram. While I honestly prefer the hologram over the ashy-likeness used in the prior movie (because a hologram was how I'd envisioned the sequence originally from the books) the lack of consistency bothers me. Was there some fashion of floo update, do you suppose? A different brand of floo powder? I was so distracted trying to figure out the reasoning behind the change that I really couldn't even concentrate on what Sirius said the first time I saw the movie.
- What was up with the bad editing of Bellatrix just before the battle scene? She is walking behind Lusius, addressing Neville, and her mouth isn't moving when she speaks. Also, she is walking all sultry-like, then when the camera focuses on her, she's twitch-central. I needed more consistency. At first, in the 3D version, I thought it might be a side effect of the glasses or the filming. However, the inconsistency remained in the regular film version and it looks like sloppy editing that was just ignored.
- Why didn't we see the fliers that the Weasley's dropped, regarding their shop? Without the fliers, they are just drop-outs! How many seconds would it have taken to explain that they do indeed have career plans? Okay, maybe it would require a few more seconds to explain that Harry gives them some start-up funds, but I think we could afford it, rather than making the boys look like the Weasley loser twins.
- Kingsley ~ I wasn't particularly impressed with the actor. He's....acting too hard I guess. In the scene when they are about to fly from Privit Drive to Grimwald Place, I am totally booted from the wizarding world back into my hum-drum movie theatre seat by his blatant schmacting ("okay, now my character is looking around to see if there's any trouble coming. Watch me look around!"). I didn't hate him, but he just didn't match up with our phenomenal cast. A little less, please, Kingsley.
- I wanted more Tonks, Moody and Lupin! Tonks seemed superbly cast, but I didn't really get enough of her to expound upon. And we all love us some Lupin. Did his scars seem a bit deeper this go around?
- So, how come when Hermione and Ron and the others have to ride the invisible to them Threstrals, we don't get to see them scared out of their wits? I mean, they can't even see these beasts carrying them and we know that Hermione intensely fears flying anyway. That could have been a cheerful bit of fun before we throw ourselves into danger. What a missed opportunity.
- Every moment Snape graced the screen. No, seriously, it's not just the Alan Rickman thing (although there is that); every syllable he uttered stole the scene. And dear god, the man is funny. His deadpan utterances prompted chuckles in an otherwise dreary (but wonderful) movie. I particularly loved the moments when he was under interrogation by Umbridge in front of his class ~ his eyes just seethed at her impertinence and you could tell he dreamed of feeding her all sorts of nasty potions.
- The beginning sequence, which scared the crap out of me. First of all, I could barely recognize Dudley. His transformation was as extreme as Draco's several movies ago (yet not nearly so pleasant.) Once I overcame the horror of Dudley, the drab countryside speckled with a dementor or two knock me sideways. Those ghastly dementors must have felt that heatwave, because their cloaks were missing, which left their gauzy bodies (bodies, can you call them that?) terribly exposed. *shiver*
- The adorable Luna Lovegood. I just want to eat her up, she's so sweet and quirky. I can't imagine a better actress for the role. He ephemeral voice perfectly suited the dreamy quality of Luna, for while she is naive, she is also strangely mature beyond her years.
- Hermione's fitted Gryffindor sweater. But sans the hand pouch. I couldn't keep my eyes off, I must knit it. I even pointed it out to Ben, but I don't think he appreciated it. He kept mumbling something about jail bait...
- Dolores Umbridge, the most frightening woman to ever wear pink. Aside from the fact that the actress has a naturally more pleasant face than I pictured (for which I am sure she is thankful) the character was presented as though mimeographed from my mind. I could not stop laughing at those awful little rowdy kittens in her office and her insipid giggle began to turn my stomach.
- Creature! Oh, how horrible he was, yet so pathetic. I can't wait to see more of him.
- The "insider" information. There were moments in the movie that would seem irrelevant to those non-readers, yet moments that speak volumes to those of us searching every scrap of this world for little peeks into the Wizard lives. For example, the portrait of Sirius' mother. While the director doesn't take the time to let us hear her full-fury as it is written, he does let us glimpse the covered portrait as Creature cares for it; we hear the whispers from the family Black echo around us. The ranting of Mother Sirius is an understandable cut, but how kind to give us those little, unnecessary tidbits to tie back to our reading, the little glimpses that enhance our experience ~ but I still say we had time for more.
- How much do I love Emma Thompson? She tried so hard to fabricate a prophecy while under the scrutiny of Umbridge. Then, when she tripped over her suitcase in the courtyard you could feel the solidarity of the students, even those who disliked her.
- The apparating. I just loved the swishy, ghostly whirls as the good and the bad swooped in and out of existence in our wizard fight. While it was, at moments, difficult to follow, well, wouldn't you expect a magical battle to be difficult to follow?
- What happened when Sirius died? Hold on there ~ did he fall through the veil? Or did Bellatrix throw a deadly curse at him? From the movie, I take it that the curse got him, because I distinctly hear her mummer those words and forgot about that obscure old arch. I had always assumed from the books that Sirius' death via the veiled arch would be very significant, for I believed that he truly wasn't dead, just...veiled. Which isn't the same, right?
- What about the mirror? The one that Sirius gave to Harry that would always show Harry where Sirius was located? Of course, we know Harry forgot about it in the book, but it isn't even mentioned here. Does that mean it's irrelevant? Then why was it in the book at all? I supposed that it might return and be quite important in Book 7, but it appears that JKR didn't feel the need to insist on its presence for the movie.
- The occulemenancy lessons were...strange. Their order was distorted in the story's timeline. I loved the office scenery, Snape was delicious and Harry justly frightened and squirmy. The treacherously declining whirl of a staircase particularly fascinated me (and how thrilling that Snape dragged Harry down that staircase, perhaps he feared Harry would flee? or he simply wished to manhandle his nemesis when the opportunity presented itself?) But why no pensive? How did young Harry, with no lessons in invading only in blocking, penetrate the mind of the occulemenancy master at one go? It was a very odd choice. I wanted to see more of Harry's dad behaving badly. We needed Harry to have a bit more shame at seeing his father revealed as not perfect after all. I needed a few more bits in order to establish Snape's humanity, his humiliation, his history. I wanted underpants. Unless it's all less important in the end than I think it is. Well will know soon, I suppose.
PS: Yes, the Greece photos are coming, more than you ever wanted. I just had to get this out of my system first.