Academic Writing

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry's newest challenge

I will always go see a Harry Potter movie. I love the whimsy and the magic that the movies create. The music alone is enough to transport me a world of witchcraft and wizardry. Isn't that so much about movies are meant to do? Take you away from reality? Let you enjoy a few hours of pure escapist entertainment? That is precisely what keeps me coming back. The fifth installment of the Harry Potter series is no exception. In the Order of the Phoenix, Harry finds himself in a much darker world of magic where death seems to be everyone's mind.

This movie, while by author J.K. Rowling's own insistence, is not meant to mirror any current political goings-on, does have some heavy moments where the students are forced to live in a Hogwarts under the control of Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton in a role scarier than the Dark Lord himself), a member of the Ministry of Magic. She moves through the school seemingly innocuously as she clicks her pink heels on the cold stones of Hogwarts, her pink poncho flowing through the wind as she ascends the stairs to her office adorned with cat-plates and pink curtains. She imposes rules and regulations, she is watching the every move of the students, and her interrogation and punishment practices all seem to be just over the edge into the realm of cruel and unusual, something not unfamiliar in today's world.

These movies have been able to achieve something not many film-from-book adaptations have been able to do. For myself and everyone I have spoken to, these movies have taken the images my mind creates while reading the books and directly transports them to the silver screen. It is for that reason I never want them to end. However, as far as movies go, this being adapted from an 800-page book Phoenix could have been well on its way to being an 8-hour movie. To compensate for that, director David Yates was able to shrink it down to a cool 2 hours 18 minutes So while it's great for the numbers-guys in the corner offices who have deemed movies over a certain length unmoney-makeable, the fans lose out. The story felt stilted, as though you could tell that something was missing. There was such a profound lack of context in that even for someone who has read all of the books thus far, the story was a bit confusing and difficult to follow. Furthermore, so much of what makes the Harry Potter series is how relatable the school sequences and the social interactions are, and yet so much of that has been deleted. For example, in the book the students are so preoccupied with studying for their O.W.L. exams that it hinders from their magical practices. In the movie the significance of the O.W.L.'s are grossly neglected.

Year five at Hogwarts does offer a glimpse into a new stage of life for Harry, Hermione and Ron. In Phoenix, the hormones begin to rage and the friendly relationships begin to morph into something else. Ron becomes more protective of Hermione as his feeling towards her leave the Platonic realm, and Harry finally garners up enough courage to do something about his year-long crush on Cho. We are also introduced to a number of new characters, one of whom I would be remiss not to mention. Luna Lovegoode (Evanna Lynch) is my new favorite Harry Potter character. Whenever she's in a scene she completely steals it from the other actors. Her distant demeanor and loony behavior is addictive and Lynch was a great casting choice for the quirky teen.

The climactic ending of the movie is the most exciting moment, not only in this chapter of the saga, but that of all the films. The special effects of the showdown between Voldemort and Dumbledore have the audiences on the edges of their seats, the theater was rumbling from both the sound effects and the heavy score. But ultimately the movie left me wanting more (which may have been its exact goal). I wanted to see more Voldemort, more Hogwarts, more Dumbledore, more professors, more ghosts, more Draco, more magic and frankly, more Hermione and Ron. This is probably the most Harry-centric film, focusing on his inner demons and the connection with Voldemort, so in order to sort that out, the rest of the players tend to get neglected. I definitely, though, left the midnight screening feeling satisfied. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix delivered what I expected it to deliver. Magic, mystery, a great story, fantastic performances, special effects that are beyond compare and an excitement for the upcoming book and all future movies.

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