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Rhetoretician -- Fiction etc.

Order of the Phoenix Film

Order of the Phoenix Film

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I saw The OotP film last night, and I’ve read the reviews by anyaxstrindbergr_beccaand gioiamia. Below are my own thoughts.
First of all, I continue to be blown away by the sheer magnitude of acting talent they’ve assembled for these films; the cast lists read like a Who’s Who of prominent English actors, and I’d probably want to watch these films even if I’d never read the books, just to see them go through their paces.
In that light, the single clearest thing I have to say about this film is that Imelda Staunton is a genius. I’ve seen her in a number of other films (Sense and Sensibility, Much Ado About Nothing, Persuasion, Peter’s Friends, etc.) and I’ve always been impressed by her range and subtlety. But Umbridge is a hard role; the way she’s described in the novel is practically inhuman, a repulsive-looking, Machiavellian sadist with the demeanor of a fairy princess. Staunton made some superb choices in the role, toning down the baby-girlness and adding a heavy dose of insincere empathy that sent chills up my spine. I think I’d want to watch the film again just to watch her.
I shouldn’t have been surprised at the superb performances of Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman either; two stunning actors who haven’t (in my opinion) been given enough to do in the previous films. I just wish they’d had a scene together.  Oldman got to do the brave, empathic godfather bit, and we got to see a little bit of the recklessness and the frustration at his inactivity too, without being beaten over the head with it. Personally I could have wished for one more scene in which those aspects of his personality were highlighted, but it was “cleaner” to do them this way – the sequence in the train station and the sequence with the family tree serving that purpose and many other purposes too. 
Rickman finally, finally was given an opportunity to show Snape’s malice and his bitterness at James, as well as his earnestness and his impatience with stupidity. Snape is the most complicated character in the whole series, and we’ve been seeing Rickman, even as far back as SS, imbuing him with nuance that the screenplay alone didn’t give him.
Helena Bonam Carter did an operatic version of Bellatrix which I think is perfectly in keeping with canon – I found myself wishing that I saw more of her. Jason Isaacs impresses me more every time I watch him. The scene where he was trying to woo Harry into giving him the prophesy was wonderful – I was half-persuaded myself!
Daniel Radcliff is growing in power and depth as an actor, and was a pleasure to follow through the entire film. I didn’t feel that way about Rupert Grint or Emma Watson, though. Their work was competent but unremarkable, and I felt that Watson was playing the same “beat” over and over again.
Apart from the delicious Umbridge scenes, I had many moments I loved watching. I think I could watch the DA sequences alone all by themselves; I had a feeling of an ensemble working together as performers in a way that dovetailed nicely with what the characters were “teaming up” to do. I loved the moment in the Death Chamber where the Order appeared like the Cavalry Coming Over the Hill – arriving in bursts of white light that contrast with the black clouds of the Death Eaters; Sirius giving Lucius a punch in the jaw; the light of battle in Tonks’s eyes when she arrives; Moody striking the floor with his staff and blasting his opponent away by what seems like the sheer magnitude of his anger, for all the world like Wotan in Wagner’s Ring.
All three of the flying sequences were exciting (I’m including the Weasley Escape as one of them). 
Now, it is common for fans of the books to bemoan what’s left out of the movies. I’ve done it myself, but as John Irving once remarked, a movie that didn’t cut out most of a novel would be about ten hours long. For the most part, I think the directors of the HP films (except, possibly, for the first one) have been focused on telling the story of that one film as an independent piece of art, not trying to tell the story of films-yet-unmade and not including details from the novel that aren’t what this particular film was trying to do. The Marauders backstory in PoA is probably my favorite moment in that book, and it was entirely left out of the film – but the film is an integrated whole without it, so I gritted my teeth and enjoyed it.
In that light, I was amazed at how much the director of this film was apparently concerned about HBP. I counted no fewer than four separate moments where the camera shows Ginny’s face troubled or hurt by the Harry-Cho pairing – a detail that does absolutely nothing for this film itself, but sets us up nicely for the romance in HBP (although of course it’s noncanonical; in the novel Ginny has taken up with Michael Corner and, so far from acting hurt about Cho, even goes so far as to advise Harry how to patch things up with her). And who failed to note that that it was Ginny, with one spell, who took out the entire Prophesy Room?
Could I have wished to see the “Snape’s Worst Memory” scene in its entirety? Hear the whole prophesy and the story of how it was overheard? See the “Lucky you” sequence r_beccaloves so much? Sure, of course, naturally, but I think the choices that were made here were reasonable and efficient.
I’m of two minds about the changes in the Grawp sequences. The cute bicycle-bell thing, and Hermione’s successful ordering of Grawp to put her down, made him much less frightening than he is in the book – and indeed, we don’t see Hermione’s panic at all here.
It’s hard to know whether the sequence with Harry telling LV that he pities him was helpful. The thing is, even in the novel, the fact that it’s the force of love that’s driving LV out of Harry’s brain is unclear until Dumbledore explains it. Here it would have been utterly incomprehensible without more explication. Personally I think that just the flashes of affection (especially all the hugs) would have been enough, but then we’d want LV to just leave, rather than calling Harry a fool.
A bit earlier, I think I really objected to LV's urging Harry to kill Bellatrix.  That was too much like Return of the Jedi, and too much like Palpatine and not enough like LV.  LV has no desire to have Harry "turn to the dark side;" Harry is a threat, and if he did turn "dark" then he'd be a rival.  In this sense LV is more like Sauron than he his like Palpatine.  So it makes no sense to me, even in the context of the film, for LV to be saying, "Kill her, Harry, kill her."

I didn’t really like the last scene, because it seemed too pat. I think the last scene from the novel, with Moody threatening Vernon, would probably have been a lot more satisfying. Given that they were going to end it this way, I think that, rather than saying “Something worth fighting for,” Harry should have said “Each other.” But reasonable minds can differ.
  • Thanks for the review. As you probably know, the HP movies are not for me. Still it was nice to hear it was so good. I heard Imelda Staunton was outstanding. Glad to hear it's true. Glad to see Dan's acting is better. I saw him years ago in David Copperfield. I think he was 8 or 9. He was terrible! Interesting about Emma and Rupert. Rupert is the one that seems like a natural actor. Emma gives the impression she's always reading lines. How was Bonnie's acting? She was barely in the movies it seems. Glad they gave her a bigger part. I've heard other people praise the girl who plays Luna.

    I'm a little tired and ready to fall asleep. I stayed up last night reading spoilers from here to kingdom come. Readers copies are out, so if you want to avoid...don't surf the internet.

    • Hi Rachel.

      Bonnie wasn't given too much to do; Ginny's role is miniscule in this film compared with Luna's. But her face is very expressive and I thought she did what was needed in terms of "setting up" HBP.

      "Readers copies?" This is for, like, reviewers?
      • Sorry, I meant reviewer copies. I was spoiled for HBP by a review...well not spoiled per say, but it did lead me to the spoiler. I also understand some warehouses for the book stores have them. Those are going to stores and libraries. So public libraries should be getting them in the next few days. All I have so far is the list of chapters and who....well, you know.
    • Why am I the only person in the world who can never find spoilers even when I go looking for them? Chapter list would be excellent. Who dies (and who doesn't) even better!
    • Don't tell me -- don't want to know -- not listening -- fingers in ears -- LA, LA, LA, LA --
  • My lips are sealed. :) According to the computer some people in the UK have them already. There was an embargo placed in the US. Don't know about the UK. Anyway, they are locked (or will be in a day or so) in warehouses, for Amazon, stores and libaries. By the way librarians are not allowed to see the books until the 21st. If they see, they have to keep it to themselves.
  • I thought the movie was good, maybe the best of the lot so far, but, as usual with a HP film, it didn't stand up very well on its own. Maybe because I'm too cognisant of all the missing pieces; but I think, too, the stories don't lend themselves that well to conversion into the linear, self-contained movie format.

    You didn't mention Evanna?! 'Most everyone I've read has lauded her performance. Myself, I thought she was a perfect Luna; I'd known she looked the part, but was worried about her voice (which was too high and lilting for me). But I got used to that pretty quickly.

    I didn't like how they had Luna skipping down corridors in two scenes. I thought the skipping demoted her from 'otherworldly, serene eccentric' to more of a 'silly, childish girl'.

    Emma Watson's acting has always irritated me in the past; I could always *see* her trying to act. It was interesting how she'd been quoted earlier this year stating that Yates hold told her that he "didn't want to see any acting". I thought her performance was much better; I was only frustrated a couple of times, when those eyebrows would go up and down and the poor girl was trying too hard. Still, who cares about her acting, she *looks* the part of the beautiful heroine who will win Harry's heart! :-)

    In that light, I was amazed at how much the director of this film was apparently concerned about HBP.

    Yeah, in addition to the Ginny->Harry crush (he's still ignoring her, of course) there were a number of artificial non-canon R/Hr moments inserted as well. I think the Ron-tries-to-rescue-Hermione-from-Grawp scene was badly scripted; as others have said, Dan just stood there with *nothing to do* while Ron was doing the comic relief thing, banging against Grawp's leg. The *real* Harry would, of course, do *something* to help Hermione ... just like the two boys did way back in the beginning against the troll. Bad scripting/plotting.

    I counted no fewer than four separate moments where the camera shows Ginny’s face troubled or hurt by the Harry-Cho pairing

    I only saw two - on the bridge, when Hermione mentions how Cho had been looking at Harry; and in the RoR, right after the last DA session before Christmas finishes (and Harry hangs around to kiss Cho). Could you tell me what the other two were?

    (although of course it’s noncanonical; in the novel Ginny has taken up with Michael Corner and, so far from acting hurt about Cho, even goes so far as to advise Harry how to patch things up with her).

    Yes, it would appear that in the movie world Ginny's crush on Harry is running strong, unaltered since it appeared five years ealier. No dating Corner or Dean; presumbly the sixth movie won't have Ginny rebuffing Harry as he tries to be with her? Just some more glances until - POW - the 'hard, blazing look' (TM Ginevra Molly Weasley) in the common room?

    And who failed to note that that it was Ginny, with one spell, who took out the entire Prophesy Room?

    Okay then, if that's how it's going to be, let's take the kid gloves off ...:-)

    *Blurrrgh* I didn't expect to see Ginny Sue until the sixth movie!! :-(

    I think *every* spell that super-Ginny cast was powerful; her patronus, her reducto in the DA, and then the Prophecy Room. Bleh. More meddling with canon, more injection of artificial scenes to bolster up dear Ginny. Although ...

    (continued in second post)
    • (no subject) -
      • I enjoyed your review. I'm not much of a moviegoer, and only recently saw GOF (2nd HP movie I've seen) Your comments about Emma amused me. Hermione is discribed as a rather sever, serious girl with bushy hair and prominent teeth. Looks don't count in books, but they do in movies. No surpirse they chose Emma who looks a heck better then her acting. Instant Hermione. Radcliffe was chosen for his looks, not for stellar acting. They lucked out with Grint. He supposed to be a buffoon. He looked the part.

        What keeps me from the movie is that stray away from the books. Glad the films are moving in a more mature direction then the cartoonish feel in the early movies.
        • (no subject) -
          • Actually I think the kids, at 10, 11 and 12, were picked for their acting abilities. If you go back to PS, the acting of those three is really quite good for kids their age. The problem is that only Radcliffe, in my opinion, has matured as an actor as much as he's matured physically. The other two are no worse than they were at eleven, but I don't think they'd be cast in those roles for this film if they weren't already in it. Or that's what I think -- this could be a simple matter of lousy direction and editing (which seems to abound in this film :P). It's really a very interesting casting problem, if you come to think of it, and I don't know what I'd do in their position.

            • "The problem is that only Radcliffe, in my opinion, has matured as an actor as much as he's matured physically."

              Good statement. To be fair, he has grown as an actor. I only wish the other two have. This is going a little OT, but I think anybody can act a little. I think of Hollywood, an industry that picks actors for their looks (as opposed for the stage, where some acting ability is required). The nature of film to go over a scene again and again versus one chance only on stage is staggering when you think about it. I know the cream will rise, but you have to admit there are so many children out there pushed by their parents flocking to audtions. Some are so young, they are unhibited by the cameras out there and become instant stars.
    • Hi, Brad.

      Sorry I didn't mention Evanna. She did quite a good job. But I have a very, very clear picture of Luna's behavior and demeanor in my mind, and it isn't what Evanna presented. That's certainly not her fault, and I gather that she is what a lot of people, including JKR, imagine Luna to be. It's interesting -- Staunton, Rickman, Branaugh and Oldman have fundamentally changed my mental images of Umbridge, Snape, Lockhart and Sirius, but other actors (e.g., Radcliffe, Watson, Grint, Gambon) haven't had that effect on me. I think that some actors' visions of their roles are so compelling that they convince me, too.

      The other two "Ginny-looks-miserable-because-of-Cho" moments I think I remember were (1) when the students are (I think) returning from Christmas and Harry & Cho are walking together in the Entrance Hall; and (2) sometime later in the film, possibly after the DA is caught but possibly not, in which Ginny is looking at Cho from behind.

      • Emma Watson (at least, after the first movie) is the one that's still farthest from what I imagine Hermione to be, I think because she's so far in appearance from how Hermione is described in the text while the rest are I think less clearly described in canon. Second would be Bonnie Wright — she's been ok, in the movies, but never really the pretty vivacious girl the books describe. I like Evanna as Luna, though.
        • See, for me it really isn't about looks, it's about behavior. Emma (up until recently, anyway) behaved like the Hermione I imagine even if she didn't look like her. Rickman didn't behave at all like the way I imagined Snape, but when I saw it I said, "Yeah, he's right and I'm wrong."

          With Luna, Evanna's performance makes perfect sense, but it doesn't cooincide with my preconceptions and it isn't powerful enough to dispell them.
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