Saturday, July 14, 2007

The 5th Harry Potter movie

There are two reactions to the newly released Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. One set of people really enjoyed it. Another set think it lacked something. The difference between the two is whether they read the book in the past two years or not.

I fall into the latter book having re-read the last two books a couple of months ago in preparation for the final installment. The movie writers had a tough task. They decided to turn the longest book (800+ pages) into the shortest movie (just over 2 hours). Something had to go. What went were the characters. Only two characters get prime billing, Harry Potter and Delores Umbridge. Two other characters get a non-trivial, Luna and Sirius. But everyone else is pushed into the background. Hermione, Dumbledore, Cho, the Wesley twins, Ginny are there but not at the book's level. Sadly, Malfoy, Ron and Snape are pretty well left behind. This left a big hole; particularly, since it is Harry's relationship with Snape that was by far the most significant feature of the book.

The plot shortening took away the epic feel of previous movies. There was no sense of the school year and no build up. Dumbledore's Army was created but only named as it was disbanded. And the plot basics were twisted to make the story work. But it seemed to me that things went too quickly and the whole exercise seemed jumpy. Put simply, the movie seemed more filler than real development. The book made up for that with character development. This time around there was none to be seen.

That said, we go into these things with high expectations. It was very enjoyable and the incorporation of humour was very well done. It was also far less scary than previous movies; perhaps the least scary of the lot. There may have been a darker movie, but around the theatre there were fewer instances that sent childrens' popcorn flying. There was no time to build up a sense of foreboding.