Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wasn't What it Could've Been

Mr. Tweedy has avery interesting entry on the latest Harry Potter movie. Mostly, he complains about it:

So Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix turned out to be a horrible disappointment of a movie. Despite the fact that the jump, cramped plot was incomprehensible without reading the books, it deviated from the real story at every turn.

I haven't actually finished the book. I listen to the Harry Potter books in German - usually on my way to sleep. I've started "Orden des Phoenix" several times, but haven't yet managed to stay awake much past the trial scene. I did see the movie, though.

While I can't fairly say how it compares to the book until I've finished it, I suppose, it seems pretty obvious that this was, as Mr. Tweedy says, a pretty poor abridgement.

Of course, it's unfair to expect a movie ever to live up to a book. Movies have their own strengths, but I think it's still rare that one manages to outshine the book it's based on (barring, naturally, those like the Shining where the whole point is to take a second-rate book and make it what it might have been). And in this vein some of what Mr. Tweedy says may be asking too much. For example:

They also screw up Kingsley, who's made out to be a humorous, ethno-rock-looking african guy (in my opinion) rather than the serious, terminator-looking guy I expected to see... let's not even start on Tonks, who might as well have bent over forwards for Harry from the get-go, when I get no feeling of the sort that she's a pedophile flirt in the books.

Again, I don't really know to say from the book - but I think it's sort of inevitable that stuff like this happens in the transition to the screen. The people who make the movie will not necessarily have imagined things the way you did, and there just isn't enough time in a movie to develop all the characters in the way they deserve to be developed. I don't mind rolling with it a bit here.

But as for the plot, I can't really fault anything Tweedy says. For example:

They never explain what Harry saw in his dream before they (very quickly) rescue Arthur Weasley... so it's an arbitrary attack that cramps the movie even more instead of helping unravel the (mangled) plot

Right. That scene didn't make a whole lot of sense to me - so I'm glad to hear it (apparently) gets a better treatment in the book. It seemed like it should have a been a major turning point in the story, but (in the film, anyway) it just came out of nowhere and didn't seem to carry the weight we were supposed to attach to it.

Similarly, Hagrid wastes all that time showing them Grawp and getting them to promise to take care of him, but then that's it.

Yes, this really annoyed me too! What a pointless scene! I'd've said they only included it to show off their CGI prowess, except that the CGI wasn't really very impressive at all! Total waste of screen time, this.

Cho Chang 'betrays' them 'with verita serum', which is COMPLETELY wrong... her friend just betrays them anyway, and isn't sorry about it in the least bit... Cho and Harry argue because Cho turns out to a bit neurotic and using Harry to get over Cedric. The thing with Chang is so stilted and quick that they could have skipped those minutes too.

This was easily the most annoying part of the movie for me. What should be an emotionally involved plot development - betrayal (or, in this case, "betrayal") by a romantic interest - happened so fast you might've missed it if you weren't paying attention. There was barely any emotional buildup, very little in the way of an explanation, as good as no screentime devoted to how Harry deals with this, no resolution whatever, and a completely unconvincing aftermath.

There are one or two comments I'm not so sure of, though:

Snape seems to have an ounce of concern for Harry... I love Alan Rickman, but Snape's just not... well... shitty enough in this movie

This is actually something I liked. One of the more interesting things about the books for me has been the disconnect between the way Snape treats Harry and the fact that Dumbledore stands by him all the same. That means there's more to Snape than meets the eye: he's misunderstood in some way. I took Snape's flicker of concern to be the first layer peeled off of that particular onion: a welcome development.

As for Trelawney's firing... again: what was the point of dragging us through more of her supposed incompetency if we weren't even going to appreciate that the seemingly omniscient Dumbledore (who is played as if he's an old buffoon) is going to tell Harry that she made the prophecy about him?

Again, I can't say how this stacks up to the book - but I thought this scene was effective in the movie all the same for another reason: it drives home how inhuman Umbridge (PERFECTLY played by Imedlda Staunton) is - in contrast to Dumbledore, whose strange behavior toward Harry is still unexplained at this point in the movie. The scene therefore serves a kind of double purpose - it's also a "wink" at the audience that Dumbledore still is who he always was.

But OK, aside from those two minor quibbles - Mr. Tweedy's review is right on point. It was a tedious movie, and it definitely has the feel of something cobbled together ahead of a deadline rather than an artful condensation of a a worthy book. They could have done much better.


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