Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix review

This node contains spoilers from the book. You have been warned.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix begins with Harry lying in the flowerbed of number four, Privet Drive, waiting for the evening news to come on. "Watching the news!" Uncle Vernon said scathingly to Aunt Petunia. "I'd like to know what he's really up to. As if a normal boy cares what's on the news." Well, as Harry's inner voice tells us, he's waiting for news of anything... unusual, anything that might hint at what Lord Voldemort is up to. But nothing tonight.

Later that night, we find Harry and Dudley arguing in an alley in Little Whinging when two Dementors attack, forcing Harry to produce a Patronus to save Dudley's life from the Dementor's kiss. In quick succession, Harry finds out that Mrs. Figg (his cat-loving neighbour) is a Squib, he has been expelled from school, his expulsion is cancelled and a hearing scheduled for him to explain why he did magic out of school, and his Aunt Petunia gets a Howler that prevents Uncle Vernon from throwing Harry out of the house.

And that's just the first two chapters. Harry is soon sprung to the Order of the Phoenix headquarters to meet up with the Weasleys and Hermione (Hermione's presence there is never fully addressed; why is she not at home with her Muggle parents?). The order of the Phoenix was the organization Dumbledore started the last time Voldemort rose, to stand against him. Since Voldemort's return, the organization has been resurrected. Its current members include Remus Lupin, Arthur and Molly Weasley, Mad-Eye Moody, Tonks, Sirius Black and more. (Harry tries to join but is denied as he's too young yet.) The Weasley children (Ron, Fred, George and Ginny), Harry, Hermione, Mrs. Weasley and a terrible unhappy Sirius take to cleaning out the Headquarters, the Black family house (if you wish to make a joke about the house belonging to the Blackest of all wizards, feel free). They are thwarted and hindered by Kreatcher, the Black's house elf, who is ten types of mad.

Then, to add to Harry's wonderful summer, Hermione and Ron are made Griffindor prefects, much to Fred and George's consternation.

Now, a word about the new characters in this book, most of whom are fleshed out nicely and don't overwhelm the ones we already know.

(in a vague order of appearance)

Tonks: Nymphadora Tonks is a metamorphagus, which means she can change her appearance at will. She's an Auror, one of the youngest of the Order, and is terribly clumsy. She's also related to Sirius (her mother, Sirius's cousin Andromeda Black, married Ted Tonks, a muggle).

Kingsley Shacklebolt: The Auror in charge of finding Sirius Black, also a member of the Order. He has been feeding the Ministry false information on Sirius's location (at the beginning of the book, they had been told Sirius was in Tibet). He plays only a minor role. He has been described as a bald black man with a slow deep voice (I imagined he sounds a bit like James Earl Jones, but then I've been in love with James Earl Jones's voice since I first watched Star Wars at age three.)

Mad-Eye Moody: The real deal, live and in the flesh. His mannerisms are quite similar to the fake Mad-Eye in GoF, so I won't go into them here.

Luna Lovegood: A fourth-year Ravenclaw, Luna (also known as Loony) is an eccentric student who Harry et al. first meet on the train to Hogwarts. Luna, as one of the only people who either believes Harry or who doesn't care if he's an attention-seeking nut, figures in to the actions in the book. Her father is the editor of the Quibbler, a tabloid-like magazine that Hermione calls rubbish. Her mother died when Luna was nine, which is why Luna is able to see the Thestrals.

Thestrals: As seen in Fantastic Beasts, Thestrals are "invisible" winged horses that pull the so-called horseless carriages from the train station in Hogsmeade to the school. Only those who have "seen death" can see a Thestral. The horses are bred by Hagrid, live in the Forbidden Forest, and are drawn by the smell of raw meat and blood. The horses can fly faster than anything Harry has ever seen.

Delores Jane Umbridge: Senior Under-secretary to the Minister and the new Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor. She resembles a giant frog and has a high girly voice which is soon irritating all. I love her name, only because I take a large amount of umbrage at her presence. Harry finds out the hard way that her methods of detention are a bit... disturbing.

    "You haven't given me any ink," he said.
    "Oh, you won't need ink," said Professor Umbridge, with the merest suggestion of a laugh in her voice.
    Harry placed the point of the quill on the paper and wrote: I must not tell lies.
    He let out a gasp of pain. The words had appeared on the parchment in what appeared to be shining red ink. At the same time, the words had appeared on the back of Harry's right hand, cut into the skin as through traced there by a scalpel.

There are other new characters, but their appearances are part of the "plot", so I will leave this list be for now. Back to the review.

DADA classes this year, under Professor Umbridge, will cover only theory after the Ministry interference. Hermione is not only worried about the OWL practical exams, but about the minor problem of Voldemort's rise and self-defence. She and Ron ask Harry if he'll consider teaching them (and others) in the practical aspects of DADA. It takes a while to convince him, but Harry finally agrees to teach such a class. The group gathers at the Hog's Head in Hogsmeade to discuss such a group, overheard by several others in the process, and manages to get itself banned by Umbridge before it can have its first real meeting. Undaunted, Hermione (and Dobby) make things happen, and the group meets in secret to learn all kinds of fun ways to protect one's wizarding self. They call the group Dumbledore's Army, or the DA, a play off the fact that the Minister thinks Dumbledore wants to take over by force.

So far in the book, in a series in increasingly bizarre declarations, passed down from the Ministry, Professor Umbridge makes herself High Inquisitor at Hogwarts, reviews all teachers to see who she can sack, bans student groups that haven't got her permission, bans the teachers from talking with students about anything not in their subject area, and others.

Here I must pause and say a few things about the Quidditch games. After Oliver Wood graduated, the Griffindor team of course needed a new Keeper. During GoF, there was no need for one, so we enter fifth year lacking a Keeper. There are tryouts, which Harry misses due to detention. In keeping with family tradition, Ron gets on the team as Keeper. He doesn't suck, but he's not the best at playing under pressure, even Harry admits it, but he's got potential. However, at the first Quidditch match against Slytherin, Harry, Fred and George go and get themselves banned for life from Quidditch, which effectively tosses Griffindor's chances of winning the house cup down the drain (or does it?). I'll not say who joins the team to take Harry's place, but I will say that it completes the family set.

Harry is having dreams, strange dreams, and they get worse as the book progresses. He finds himself in a hall, moving toward a door, finally dreaming he gets through the door and into the rooms behind, but he still has no idea what he's going for. Then, his dreams change, and he dreams of an attack on Mr. Weasley which, we find, occurred exactly as Harry dreamed it. Harry et al. stay in London over the holiday, meeting up with an old friend during a trip to St. Mungo's, then get patted on the head and sent back to school to continue with more of the same.

Dumbledore, showing the first hint of worry about Harry in the book, has asked Snape to give Harry lessons on how to block his mind from those who may wish to read it (like Voldemort). The insight into the characters of Snape and Harry through these lessons is great. However, the enmity between the two does not lessen. In fact, there is a sequence where Harry views Snape's worst memory, a charming incident of schoolyard bullying that James and Sirius pulled on Snape after a test. It's the first sign that Harry's had that his father wasn't the saint everyone has said he was (everyone but Snape, that is). Let me just say that Snape was ... less than pleased that Harry had seen his childhood humiliation, and promptly ends the little mind-reading lessons.

Finally, we near the end of what I can in good conscience put up in my review. Through circumstances I will not fully explain, Dumbledore takes leave of the school (blowing a hole through a crowd of Aurors to do so) and Umbridge takes over. The students (ok, Fred and George) declare warfare on her and Filtch, her only ally at the school, and the school descends into chaos (in the halls, of course). Hermione arranges Harry to have an interview with someone we've met before, to tell his side of the story to the media. The fifth-year students continue to hurtle toward OWLs, and minor breakdowns break out all over. An addition to the staff appears (someone we met in the Forbidden Forest in the Philosopher's Stone) and Hagrid shows Harry and Hermione exactly what it is he's been keeping under wraps in the Forest. Confusion abounds.

OWLs arrive. Harry, having decided he wants to be an Auror if he lives through school, tackles his OWLs with a vengeance and does quite well until his History of Magic exam, when he falls asleep and dreams that Voldemort has someone trapped, torturing them, about to kill them...

Believing this another real-time dream, Harry raises hell and high water to save this person, thwarted by Umbridge and her little minions (having grown to include the Slytherins). However, some of his friends join to help him save the day, right?

Needless to say, while some good is accomplished, and Voldemort reveals himself (unintentionally) to the Ministry, there is a death, there is destruction, and Harry learns that he can't save everyone and that his actions can have enormous repercussions.

After all the chaos calms down, Dumbledore tells Harry exactly why Voldemort tried to kill him all those years ago, and he explains why he hadn't told Harry so before that day.

fin

Noder's comments: This book is indeed darker than the previous ones (as the world in which it is set descends into chaos and war). The book doesn't drag, as the Goblet of Fire did (don't get me wrong, GoF was good); there is a sense of urgency that has up-to-now been absent.

This one also focused more on the Big Bad, rather than inter-school rivalries. For all that the Sorting Hat branched out at the beginning of the year to warn the kids to work together and not let their houses separate them, there is very little play on that angle, and the Slytherins are portrayed as sniveling little turncoats in their help of Umbridge. I suspect that Ms. Rowling will be dealing with this particular issue next time, but it seemed a bit of a dangling thread in this one.

Also not touched upon is exactly what it is that Snape does for Dumbledore. A major plot turn at the end of GoF, we only hear in this one that Snape is "in the Order." Again, probably next time.

Probably the character with the most amount of development in this book was Neville Longbottom. Neville is drawn in to most of the situations in the book, and there is a surprising twist at the end, where we find out that Harry and Neville have more in common than they thought.

Indeed, one can see why kids the world over stayed up until midnight to get the book. When do we get the next one?

P.S.: Albus Dumbledore's middle name is Brian.

Return to the Harry Potter Project

At the end of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it seemed as though the wizarding world would be split into three factions: those who followed Lord Voldemort; those who followed Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic; and those who followed Albus Dumbledore. Although Fudge and Dumbledore are both on the side against Lord Voldemort, they do not agree on how best to oppose him.

The upcoming fifth book, to be titled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (title subject to change), is sure to be about the struggle between the evil Lord Voldemort and the forces of good. Since Dumbledore is already associated with phoenixes (his phoenix Fawkes has been a somewhat prominent character in the series), it is likely that the so-called "Order of the Phoenix" will be the name of those who have joined company with Dumbledore.

This also makes sense because Harry is obviously going to follow Dumbledore, so will thus be a member of the "Order of the Phoenix", and the core of Harry's wand is a feather from the tail of Fawkes-- the same core as Lord Voldemort's wand. As we saw especially at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, these wands are very powerful and special, and the fact that the phoenix to provide the feathers for both wand cores is Fawkes, whose feathers are in no other wands, may be an important one in the battle to come.
"The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive.... The only person left outside was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number four."

The book was released on June 21, 2003, on a Saturday. Thousands of fans lined up outside bookstores, waiting for the book to go on sale. Many stores announced that they would open at midnight of that day to sell their first copies, and plenty of eager fans in the US and UK were there to sell out their copies.

It is 38 chapters and 255,000 words long, a third longer than the last installment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was the thickest.

The previous installment was the fastest selling book in history. Now that two movies are out and the fanbase has grown, this book beat that record. "We expected to sell 1 million copies in the first week and we sold that many within the first 48 hours," Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio said about 2 days after the release. Borders Group reported worldwide sales of 750,000 the first day. Amazon.com shipped out more than a million copies of the new book, making June 22 the largest distribution day of a single item in e-commerce history. In London, the supermarket chain Tesco said it sold 317,400 copies of the fifth in J.K. Rowling's fantasy series in the first 24 hours, seven times the number sold in the first week of Potter IV. "The book has now broken all our sales records and there is no doubt that this will be the best selling book we have ever stocked," said Tesco book buyer Caroline Ridding. Critics speedread through it to compete to be the first to review it.

Nigel Newton, chief executive of J.K. Rowling's UK publisher, Bloomsbury, described the Order of the Phoenix as "a brilliant and utterly compelling new adventure" and promised fresh revelations about the boy wizard's past.

Here's an excerpt:

"Dumbledore lowered his hands and surveyed Harry through his half-moon glasses.
"'It is time,' he said, 'for me to tell you what I should have told you five years ago, Harry.
"'Please sit down. I am going to tell you everything.'"
In December, hints about the plot were auctioned off at a charity fundraiser sold for £28,000.

The UK version sells with two different cover versions, one for children and one for adults. The adult copy "features a somber black and white picture of a phoenix, while the children's version of the boy wizard book is illustrated with a more vibrant red and orange bird rising from flames." However, in the US the publisher will be Scholastic Children's Books and will likely use a different cover.

You can listen to an audio excerpt at http://real.amazon.central.speedera.net/ramgen/real.amazon.central/mp3/HarryPotter/HP5excerpt.mp3

Facts taken from
http://books.guardian.co.uk/harrypotter/story/0,10761,875390,00.html
http://www.salon.com/books/wire/2003/03/20/harry_potter/index.html

After reading the book, I have decided to post some form of a book review without giving away any spoilers.

My copy of the book arived from Amazon.com the day it hit the bookstores. (Amazon posted its largest ever presale of an item.) The book arrived via USPS in a package labeled with several warnings on not to ship before June 21, 2003.

The book itself was a good read, very enjoyable. As it compares to the rest of the books in the series it was quite good, the same quality as the other books.

After reading all of the above nodes and everything posted on the web, the rumors and stories, I did not know what to think. I have heard the stories about someone dying in this book, someone falling in love and also the brief part about Albus talking with Harry. In fact, part of me kept waiting to read the sections. Trust me it comes at the end of the book.

There were some parts that suprised me about this book, things I never saw coming. I was wrong about who dies and I was also wrong about who falls in love. I enjoyed getting to know the characters on a deeper level, in fact character development is greater in this book then any others. The amount of magic was greater in this book then any of the others.

I was disappointed by some of the language in the book. There were several examples of the word damn in the book. As a children's book, or at least a book geared towards children, I find that word is not acceptable. This book was just like the rest of her books, they stall after about a quarter of the book. While the four other books stalled around 100 pages, this tome died around page 200. It lost its track and found me wishing for something to happen. (This is a problem I feel with all of her books, in fact out of the five people I spoke with about Rowling work agreed with me.)

But besides that point, a great book. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.

The Potter Phenomenon and a Spoiler Free Review

The craze over J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter seems ubiquitous these days, but it wasn’t always so. Back when Prisoner of Azkaban was coming out, childless adults first started hearing of a strange phenomenon on slow news days; kids were reading! Go back even further to 1997 and you have Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone, a book with an initial print run of 1,000 volumes,(1) and which was published by Bloomsbury Publishing with a generous advance of £2,500 to an unknown first time author.(2) And, even though it won children’s book awards, there was no fanfare, no huge marketing blitz. According to Rowling, her first reading was attended by 2 people who walked in by accident, and the bookshop staff. (3)

By word of mouth, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone gained readership even as it won awards. By Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rowling’s creation was recognized by at least its publishers and the children reading the book as something BIG. This was highlighted in 1999 when US fans began ordering Chamber of Secrets from online vendors, months before it was available from Scholastic which had released the US edition of the first book late in 1998. (4)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released with a robust media campaign to general excitement and the ringing of cash registers in 2000. Adults as well as children were snapping up the unexpectedly massive book and, unless you lived under a rock, you knew about Harry Potter and the rags to riches story of his creator. Harry had become a world wide phenomenon, and had spawned a much larger media propellant, a feature film.

Which brings us to the three year pause between Goblet of Fire and the Order of the Phoenix. In the interim, J.K.Rowling got married and had another child. Big things happened in the world of grown-ups and muggles. And, this year, another film was released by Warner Brothers. If you doubted the impact of the Potter phenomenon before, then consider that a group of Russian lawyers actually claimed that the film’s Dobby was modeled after Vladimir Putin. (5)

Somehow thinking that the massive built-in audience realized by the earlier four novels was not absolutely guaranteed (6), Scholastic invested between $3-4 million on an advertising campaign of truly epic proportions, more than twice what they had spent on Goblet of Fire. In the UK, Bloomsbury had a marketing budget of £1 million.(1) Fans already excited by the hype around the film, and fighting withdrawal symptoms from the long wait, were bombarded with images reminding them of the coming feast. Scholastics billboards; print ads; costume contests; 3 million bumper stickers; 400,000 buttons; 50,000 window displays; 24,000 stand-up posters with countdown clocks; logos on the 2003 BookExpo America badges; and over 15,000 'event kits' which were sent to retailers holding 'Potter parties.' ''The kits include(d) stickers, buttons, a trivia quiz and suggestions for how to handle long lines of impatient fans''(7) Bloomsbury’s tactics of tantalizing tidbits in print and bits and their contests and television placement nicely meshed with Scholastic’s. You could not walk into a supermarket, bookstore, discount retailer, or indeed any place which might remotely be expected to sell the newest 'Potter' book without seeing either hype for the book or hype for the movie, or both. And don’t forget TV, radio, and the web. Turn something on and like as not there Harry’d be, either from placement and sponsored events or from the growing news attention.

Add on top of this hype the mystery surrounding the actual story, Rowling’s determination that nothing be leaked, the sealed boxes and special contracts preventing early sale, the legal woes of the Daily News and others, a missing tractor trailer full of books, and fanfiction being stolen and then marketed as the real thing. (8) Is it any wonder that Pottermania peaked into a massive feeding frenzy on June 21st? Here are some statistics for you: (9) unless otherwise noted.

  • Total UK sales for the other books to date (6/23/03):
    Philosopher’s Stone – 3,371,090
    Chamber of Secrets – 2,809,856
    Prisoner of Azkaban – 2,655,787
    Goblet of Fire – 2,865,477
  • Amazon.com took 1.3 million pre-orders worldwide.
  • Because of pre-orders, Scholastic upped the total number for the first hardcover printing from 6.8 million to 8.5 million. Compare that to the 3.8 million first run for Goblet of Fire, which was unprecedented at the time. (10) Scholastic has also ordered another printing (officially the third printing) for 800,000. (11)
  • Barnes & Noble stores sold 286,000 copies in the first hour (or 80 books a second), and 896,000 copies in the first day, with lines as long as 2,500 people in some cities.
  • (12)
  • Borders reports that its first day worldwide sales reached approximately 750,000 volumes. (13) This compared to 300,000 copies of Goblet of Fire. (14) A Borders store in Singapore received 2,700 pre-orders for the book. (15)
  • 1st day sales numbers: US – 5 million, UK – over 1,777,000 (not including library, and institutional purchases); a record for both countries. Previous UK record was set by Goblet of Fire which sold 372,775 on its opening day.
  • In the US, FedEx delivered 400,000 books for Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com on the first day, compared to 250,000 on Goblet of Fire’s first day. In the UK, Royal Mail delivered 500,000. (14)
  • In Canada, 70,000 pre-orders were delivered by Canada Post, and Raincoast Books which prints the book for Canadian distribution, has already ordered a reprint run of 55,000 copies.(16)
  • The entire state of Hawai’i, sold out of the book by Wednesday. The 5,000 volumes sent to Costco branches sold out the first day. (17)

I could keep listing statistics, but I think this gives you an idea of the unbelievable consumer need to get their 'Harry' as soon as possible, and also of the following the novels have achieved. Keep in mind however, this frenzy is not quite the windfall for booksellers and publishers that it looks like. Many retailers are selling the book at steep discounts off the US$29.99 cover price, fueling cash flow rather than profits. It’s been a bad year for publishing, and both Barnes & Noble and Scholastic are down slightly in the markets.(18)

Another aspect of these figures is that they are for English language texts only. Because of the security surrounding the novel, translators were not permitted to receive their copies before the public release date. Foreign language, Braille, audio, and large type versions are scheduled for later this year, with Braille due out the soonest (2 weeks). (19)

Our own ailie had first hand experience with a midnight Potter party at a Boston book store. ailie says: People were pretty civil, it was lots of fun. We sold about 300 copies of Harry Potter in the hour between 12 and 1 am, another 500 during regular business hours on the first day.

My favorite example of the power 'Potter' now exerts over the reading public is the story of a woman in Canada who reportedly was erroneously sold a volume one day early. When approached by the publisher with an offer of $5,000 for the return of the book (for one day, mind you), she refused saying ''I haven’t finished reading it yet.''(20)

That Spoiler Free Review

Not that it will make a difference any more....

I liked the book. I’ve liked all of them for their funny details and clever bits. The characterization has always been a bit flat and the writing rather predictable, but not bad, and certainly entertaining. Call it brain candy.

In tone and structure, #5 is very different from the first 3, and even from #4, the transition text. I have a little theory that JKR’s been using a plot formula she cooked up from 3 genres (detective and boarding school stories within each novel, and the classical epic* form over the whole series); when one subplot slows down, another can take over. It is one thing that helps make her work so satisfyingly full of detail and yet so lacking in characterization; there simply isn’t space amongst all the stock characters! But, I did wonder if book 5 would continue to hold on to the 3 genres considering the turn it needed to take.

It didn’t. Much less torturously configured than Goblet of Fire, the detective story has essentially departed and the boarding school story is something of a red herring, something sufficiently important to keep us (Harry and the reader) occupied as we stew and wonder what’s going on elsewhere. There is a great deal of uncertainty, mystery, and suspense, revelations and discoveries. It has nothing to do with a problem Harry and his pals can solve in the course of a school year. Instead, the issue of Harry as our developing hero having problems that are larger than who will win the House Cup, is explored thoroughly. The book is, I think, much stronger for it.

I found Harry less likeable, yet more realistic. Perhaps because he has unpleasant things to wrestle with almost all the time, he’s getting a bit cranky. But as his character develops, the story also becomes more interesting. He’s recognizably a normal, self-absorbed teenager filled with anger and angst and frustration. He’s still got identity issues (sadly lacking in the film versions, but one thing I’ve admired from the previous books). In fact, the whole world, magic and all, is more realistic. Bad things happen from which there is no easy solution, no neat resolution, no clean ending and no new beginning.

There are a few gratuitous moments of ‘payback.’ I found that even these lacked the early, rather harsh, ‘justice of the school yard’ mockery of JKR’s earlier works. They are held up against similar acts and revealed to be problematic. Perspective and the big picture keep intruding and revenge has become empty. It doesn’t fix the problem or return what has been lost.

All in all, this is a very interesting new addition to the phenomenon that is Harry Potter. Due to the loss of one self-contained plot line and the great reduction of another, this book is most definitely a midpoint in a series. The ending lacks the satisfying closure of the first 3, and even of Goblet of Fire. We don’t even get to know what their O.W.L. scores are as the students don’t find out during the academic year. (Later) Just in case I'm not clear, I don't consider this a flaw. It simply is another indication that JKR is taking her narrative into a new (for her) dimension of storytelling. She is exploring the possibility of the longer format, and the story needs this. It is a difficult and brave thing to make such a significant change in a popular and successful formula. She began it in Goblet of Fire and it was awkward. Goblet of Fire could easily have been two separate books. In Order of the Phoenix she has successfully expanded outside of the confines of the previous mold.

* To clarify, I am using the term epic to refer to the classical model of the hero archetype. I would have used ''Heroic fantasy'' as this work is most definitely in the genre of fantasy, but ''heroic'' used here usually leads people to think of Conan the Barbarian and not King Arthur. I'm particularly thinking of the sub-genre of fantasy where the author is attempting to revisit the rise of a hero; think Lloyd Alexander's The Prydain Chronicles and you'll see what I mean. In these stories, the creation of a hero from obscurity is the reason for the story to exist. It is an educational story as well as a cautionary tale, and has historically been used to teach the young. That the model now resides in what is accepted as fiction rather than history does not eliminate its efficacy, as the hero archetype is well imbedded in our collective consciousness.

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**Near Spoilers**

A great deal of previously secret privileged adult information comes out, some history is revealed, and we get some more background on Harry’s parents and the feud with Snape. Several other largely secondary characters are getting a bit of solid character development as well, and I definitely think JKR has big plans for one. And all the hints listed elsewhere are essentially true.

Kudos to JKR for killing off the right character and making its inevitability progressively clear in the text. It must have been a difficult choice, and I’m interested to see what she will do with it.

If you want a spoiler or a hint or a clue, think really hard about whether you really want it or not, ‘cause if you /msg me, I will tell you.


Sources

JKR’s author page at Bloomsbury Publishing’s website. (www.bloomsbury.com/authors/microsite.asp?section=1&id=53)

The webcast will be up for a week: (www.msn.co.uk/liveevents/harrypotter/event/Default.asp?Ath=f)

New J.K. Rowling has her own website now: (www.jkrowling.com).

(1) Guardian Unlimited ‘’Harry Potter and the Crock of Gold’’ by John Arlidge, 6/8/03, (film.guardian.co.uk/harrypotter/news/0,10608,973910,00.html).
(2) Guardian Unlimited ‘’Bloomsbury booms every witch way’’ by John Ezard, 6/20/03, (books.guardian.co.uk/harrypotter/story/0,10761,981292,00.html).
(3) The New York Times ‘’A Wizard’s Creator Answers the World’’ by ALAN COWELL, 6/27/03, (www.nytimes.com/2003/06/27/books/27ROWL.html).
(4) The New York Times ‘’ Children's Book Casts a Spell Over Adults; Young Wizard Is Best Seller And a Copyright Challenge’’ by Doreen Carvajal, 4/1/99, (query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60D17FA3C5D0C728CDDAD0894D1494D81).
(5) Guardian Unlimited (film.guardian.co.uk/harrypotter/news/0,10608,885387,00.html) Lawyers say Dobby is based on Putin 1/30/03.
(6) Washingtonpost.com ‘’Behind ‘Harry’ Delivery, Months of Plotting’’ by Ariana Eunjung Cha, 6/24/03, (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24404-2003Jun23.html) The volume of pre-orders suggested that the target audience was already prepared to buy the book, however a representative of Scholastic, Judy Corman, said: ''It’s been a difficult retail environment, and our thoughts were ‘you don’t take too much for granted to make sure the audience is guaranteed, and blessedly they were.’’
(7) CBSNews.com ''Are You Ready for Harry Hype?’’, 6/5/03, (www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/06/05/entertainment/main557148.shtml).
(8) CBSNews.com ''Frenzy over Phoenix’’ 6/19/03, (www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/06/18/earlyshow/leisure/books/main559256.shtml). MSNBC ‘’Internet pirates hawk fake Potter’’ by Bob Sullivan, 5/8/03, (www.msnbc.com/news/910674.asp).
(9) BBC News Potter smashes UK sales record 6/23/03 (news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/entertainment/arts/3012174.stm ).
(10) Business 2.0 ''Operation Harry Potter’’ by Ian Mount, June 2003, (www.business2.com/articles/mag/0,1640,49404,00.html).
(11) Reuters ''Scolastic Conjures Up 3rd Harry Potter Printing’’, 6/24/03, (reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=industryNews&storyID=2982478).
(12) BusinessWire ''Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Breaks All Records at Barnes & Noble’’, 6/22/03, (www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/cb_headline.cgi?&story_file=bw.062203/231735022&directory=/google&header_file=header.htm&footer_file=)
(13) Reuters ''Major Book Chains Upbeat on Early Potter Sales’’ by Ellis Mnyandu, 6/22/03, (http://reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=industryNews&storyID=2968909).
(14) USAToday.com ''Harry Potter casts a record-breaking spell’’ by Jacqueline Blais, 6/22/03, (www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2003-06-22-potter-main_x.htm)
(15) The Guardian ''Harry casts worldwide spell’’ by David Brown, 6/23/03, (www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,982878,00.html)
(16) The Globe and Mail ''Fifth business’’, 6/23/03, (www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPPrint/LAC/20030623/RVSIDE/TPTechnology/?mainhub=GT).
(17) HonoluluAdvertizer.com ''Real Harry Potter mystery is where to find the book’’ by Christie Watson, 6/25/03, (the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2003/Jun/25/ln/ln27a.html)
(18) Reuters ''Used-Book Sellers to Jump on Potter Mania’’ by Ellis Mnyandu, 6/22/03, (reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=2968433).
(19) Expatica ''France goes potty over Potter’’ June 2003, (www.expatica.com/france.asp?HRSite=&pad=285,310,&item_id=32173). See also note (15).
(20) The Guardian ''Embargo fails to stem tide of leaks’’ by John Ezard, 6/20/03, (books.guardian.co.uk/harrypotter/story/0,10761,981299,00.html)

Mild spoilers below

Much anger can I see in that young man.. or so might Yoda have said, if he read HP5. Harry is an angry 15-year-old, fighting hormones, fighting his own poor self-image and fighting, it seems, the rest of the wizarding world almost single handedly in this book. He even ends up fighting—or rather shouting at—Ron and Hermione much more than might be good for him.

OotP is more grown-up than the earlier Harry Potter books. Not just darker. JKR has deftly expanded the depth of characterisation in each of the five books so far, to match the expanding world view of a growing teenager. Simultaneously, she has also exanded her vocabulary, using longer, more grown-up words. All these subtle advances allow OotP to jump more than just one level in the depth of the characters.

So this time we see Harry realising that many of his heroes are in some way flawed, while others are impotent. This time we see that Harry himself is a mixture of strange feelings and unfamiliar emotions. We are not simply talking a mixture of good and bad, but Harry is full of confusion and uncertainty.

Harry is directionless in the book. He simply doesn't know what he wants. Late in the book, we see a careers advice session going badly wrong, a subtle message, perhaps, from JKR that Harry has—at age 15—no real sense of the future. This explains some of the lack of direction of the book. In previous episodes, Harry knew what he had to do, and he did it. In this one, he is much less sure of himself, and the book reflects this: the events happen all around us, but we somehow feel that Harry is less of a controlling influence and more of a passive observer. I am guessing that the next book will remove some of this doubt and in the final book, Harry will regain his old certainty, but then it will be as a mature adult, prepared, if need be, to sacrifice himself to some greater good.

Up to now, I have always liked book three the best. You could almost tell that JKR was more relaxed about writing that one. It did not seem at all forced or awkward. Now that HP5 is out, I am going to have a hard time deciding which of the two is best. I'll have to read OotP a few more times, but I think book three still just about holds on, mostly because the ending of OotP is relatively weak. As a book, the tension builds steadily, and there is a great deal of interest and humour throughout, but the ending does not fulfill the earlier promise, and (IMHO) lets the book down.

Nevertheless, HP5 is far more complex and layered than any of the previous books. We see all the characters from book three, many from book four and a few of the minor characters from the first two books returning to the scene. We discover much more about the past, but this time from the adult perspective. We see that the simple world view that Harry took with him at the end of books three and four, of a heroic father surrounded by two loyal and equally heroic friends and a fourth, traitorous villain was not necessarily the whole truth. Or even the truth at all.

Throughout the series, we have seen the size and scope of JKR's world expanding as the 'baby who lived' grows into a boy and then a man and on the way expands his own ability to see the world for what it is, rather than how he might like it to be. This book makes a giant leap forward, certainly in terms of geography but more especially in terms of comprehension. Harry really starts to grow up in this book and so do his friends. And it all happens at about age 15. JKR knows her teenagers.

The book kicks off right from the start with revelations about the people who live in Little Whinging. Everyone guessed that Mrs Figg was not all she seemed, and we discover that we were right, but not in the way we expected. We see a lot of changes in the Dursley household—it is not only Harry who is growing up. But even in this parody of curtain-twitching suburbia, the Dursleys have some surprises for us.

Through all this, we find a confused and hormonal Harry striking out at friends and enemies alike, desperate for news of Voldemort and for news of his friends.

Back in the real world, it has been three years since book four came out. Three years since we first visualised those terrible scenes of Voldemort's resurrection, but I had to keep reminding myself in the first few chapters of OotP that those events are only a few weeks old in JKR's fictional world. It took a conscious effort of will to remember that Harry is still shocked at the memories and deeply worried about the implications of that horrific resurrection.

Some have complained that the first few chapters in OotP are a bit slow. I agree that JKR spends a lot of time showing her readers that this book is different, but I don't think that makes for a slow start. The scene-setting in those early chapters is vital for the rest of the book. We learn that the Ministry is using the Daily Prophet to discredit Harry and to smear Dumbledore. We discover that simple vanity, and the jealousy that goes with it, has turned Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge into a vicious ostrich, one moment hiding his head in the sand of denial over Voldemort's return, and the next using his power to discredit those who want to reveal the truth and destroy their means to tell others. What does this tell us about JKR's view of governments and the media?

When Harry meets Fudge once more, in these early chapters, Fudge is anything but the bumbling, avuncular figure we met at the beginning of book three. He is on a mission to destroy Harry's reputation, discredit Dumbledore and all his allies and remove Dumbledore from any position of influence. He succeeds in most of these aims, and so impairs the fight against Voldemort.

Meanwhile, we discover—as many fansites predicted— that the Order of the Phoenix is a group of adult wizards and witches who fight Voldemort and his followers, the Death-Eaters. The Order—Dumbledore's "old crowd" of book 4—has re-formed following Voldemort's resurrection and is attempting to prevent Voldemort's return to power.

Eventually, all scene-setting finished, JKR brings the friends back to Hogwarts, but Hogwarts has changed. The new DADA teacher is indeed a woman, but not one that any of the fansites guessed. She is a new character completely. Did I say that all the characters had shades of grey in their personality? I was wrong.

Dolores Umbridge is 100 percent nasty, spiteful, and narrow minded and we all quickly come to hate her. Even Snape has his fans—and probably more of them after this book—but Umbridge…. She is JKR's most brilliant (and most hateful) character yet. She plays a dominant role throughout the book, acting as the personification of the Ministry's increasing power at Hogwarts, and becoming an allegory for all the small-mindedness and spite of power-crazed civil servants who put their own petty personal agendas above the greater good. Now, what were we saying about JKR's view of governments?

One of the interesting things about Umbridge is that she is evil. Not in the same comic-book way that Voldemort is evil, but the evil she does—like the thought police in Orwell's 1984—is forcing people to pretend to believe something they know to be false. This is in some ways a more pernicious form of evil than the terrorism practised by Voldemort. JKR is exploring different kinds of evil here, and she has some very challenging ideas, for 15-year-olds and adults alike.

Umbridge aside, There are other new characters. And many of the older ones start to become properly fleshed out. The fansites are full of approving references to the slightly peculiar Luna Lovegood, and to the heroic transformation we find in another of Harry's fellow Gryffindors. Another vote of approval from the fansites comes in response to the maturing of Ginny Weasley. She becomes a strong character in her own right: intelligent, courageous, assertive and kind, but also ruthless in her ability to lie with a straight face. And she's a better Quidditch seeker than Cho Chang. Ginny has become one hot red-headed chick and I am sure she will play a larger role in future books. Hermione, previously used by JKR to explain the history of Hogwarts and describe magical culture, now becomes the plot device to show Harry (and the poor readers) the strengths and flaws in many of the adult (and student) characters. She is constantly explaining to Harry why so-and-so said this or that, or burst into tears, or acted out of character. Her insights are a valuable guide to the people who surround Harry, and JKR rarely allows Hermione to be mistaken in her analysis.

Serious spoilers below

With the emergence of so many strong characters among the Hogwarts schoolgirls, we also find Harry feeling many mixed emotions. He gets his first kiss under the mistletoe and his first real date, which he messes up completely. True to the mood of the book, these things happen to a near-passive Harry, rather than as a result of any deliberate action on his part.

Continuing the theme of more subtle characterisation, just as Harry is becoming aware of more complex emotions within himself, we also discover that some of the emotions he is feeling belong to someone else. Harry has discovered that he can sense the emotional state of Voldemort. Again, though, the things which happen to Harry come from outside, rather than from Harry's own volition.

This mutual awareness continues a trend in the books, and I have to put my own theory in here. Harry and Voldemort seem to be growing closer in thought, emotion and deed. Was anyone else surprised at how willingly Harry fired the cruciatus curse at Bellatrix Lestrange. That should be enough to land him a life sentence in Azkaban. Another trial in book 6, anyone?

We already knew there were parallels in their parentage, orphan status and powers—not to mention their wands—but OotP shows that this increasing similarity is no coincidence. It will, I am convinced, become a dominant aspect of the last two books. My guess is, the parallels and interconnections will be pivotal in the resolution of the Harry/Voldemort conflict. This is reinforced by the final chapters of OotP, in which we discover that Harry and Voldemort are (probably) linked by a life-death bond. One has to die 'at the hand' of the other.

Having discovered that Harry can sense Voldemort's emotions, Dumbledore suspects, rightly, that the power is reciprocal, and sends Harry for private lessons to hide his emotions from Voldemort.

During these lessons he starts to understand more about the time Mooney, Padfoot Wormtail and Prongs were at school, and how they behaved, and how that behaviour was perceived by others. It is a sobering lesson in how his own behaviour might be interpreted by current Hogwarts residents.

In a separate thread, a small group of Hogwarts student s form themselves into 'Dumbledore's Army' as a junior league to the adult 'Order of the Phoenix. This allows JKR to move away from the over-familiar Harry-Ron-Hermione-Malfoy cycle and involve more students in the Hogwarts action. It is a good decision, allowing her to tell us much more about other students who, up to now, have been mere walk-on characters. Beyond that, it allows us to see possible relationships forming among this new core gang.

Harry, Hermione and Ron are in their fifth year, taking their OWL exams and the workload is arduous. Fred and George by contrast, are in their seventh and final year and supposed to be taking their final exams, NEWTs. However, they seem to spend more time testing samples for their joke-shop-to-be than school work. In one of the funniest scenes of the whole series, they decide they have had enough of Umbridge and Hogwarts and depart in spectacular fashion to set up shop with Harry's Triwizard winnings.

As the emotional link between Harry and Voldemort grows, Harry discovers that Voldemort is desperate to get his hands on someting hidden deep in the Ministry of Magic. Eventually, Harry decides he has to go there. Harry finds his way to the correct place and finds a prophecy hidden within a crystal ball. He takes the ball, but it is a trap. All Voldemort's Death-Eaters are there, including those who, earlier in the book, escaped from Azkaban.

In a scene which should have been gripping, but which I found too much like a poor Keystone Kops episode, Harry and his fellow DA students attempt to fight off the Death-Eaters. Honestly, six 15-year-olds trying to fight off a dozen sadistic, wizarding murderers, bent on revenge? I simply don't see it. Malfoy should have picked the kids off one by one to force Harry to hand the ball over. But no, all the kids escape with no permanent injury and then Harry is cornered, and just as he is about to hand over the prophecy, all his adult friends in the OotP arrive to fight the Death Eaters. There is another terrific battle, during which the predicted death occurs, and the crystal ball is smashed. Eventually Dumbledore arrives to help his friends, and easily defeats all the Death Eaters. Harry meanwhile chases one of them (who caused the awful death) and does battle. Eventually, Voldemort himself turns up, and Harry has to face him yet again . Once more Dumbledore arrives and, in a scene reminiscent of Yoda facing Count Dooku in Star Wars-2, fights Voldemort. It is quite clear that Dumbledore is the superior wizard, but Voldemort still manages to escape.

Finally we have the denouement, with the prophecy revealed and Dumbledore's de-briefing, in which he reveals to Harry why Vodemort wants to kill him, but precious little else. Nothing about Lily; nothing about the eyes; nothing about family histories. Personally, I think the line "Please sit down. I am going to tell you everything." is a serious exaggeration, because the explanation falls so far short of the full story that it is a real disappointment. Throughout the speech, Harry remains belligerent and angry, while Dumbledore is reduced to tears. Dumbledore once more insists that Harry was able to repel Voldemort because of the strength of his love for his godfather. Voldemort was not able to remain in Harry's mind through Harry's intense love for Sirius.

At last, following the near-destruction of the Ministry of Magic and the capture of all but one of the Death-Eaters, and the appearance of Voldemort, the Minister for Magic acknowledges that Voldemort really is back, and instructs the Daily Prophet to inform the wizarding world of the fact. Harry is at last exonerated.

A touching scene at the end of the book has all Harry's adult wizard friends seeing him off to the Dursley's and for almost the first time in OotP, we see Harry's anger starting to subside. A hint of the mood in book 6, perhaps. We should see Harry more at ease with himself.

While OotP repeats the same formula of Dursleys-Hogwarts-schoolyear-climax-debriefing-Dursleys, it is such a many-layered book that, in my own opinion it was worth the wait. Book 4, although long and involving did seem a little ponderous in the middle and overly rushed at the end. JKR got the balance much better with this one, building the pace more steadily and, although the final climax is perhaps more gimmicky and less intense than the climax of book 4, it still leaves us just the same way: begging for more. I hear she has already started Book 6. Let's not rush her for that one. She needs the time to write it properly. This time the wait was worth it.

What is to come in books six and seven?

These may change...

Hopefully we will see Harry in a more confident mood. Of course, he has to get the results of his OWL tests, which are likely to be good, because he will probably try to be an auror. This means he continues to study potions under Snape and Transfiguration under McGonagall. I think this because in a live webcast on 26 June, 2003, JKR said her reading (of the careers advice episode) contained a hint of some of the content of book 6.

No doubt Voldemort will be growing stronger. Now that the Ministry has officially acknowledged he is back, he will be free to appear and wreak havoc once more, but how will he act without his death eaters? We will also see, I guess, how the Ministry treats the captured death eaters, including Lucius Malfoy. I guess book 6 will be shorter and simpler than 4 or 5, setting the scene for the big showdown in book 7.

I think we have to see Harry fall properly in love, and then Voldemort will use this love-interest as a lever against Harry. Voldemort has used everyone that Harry has truly loved, and killed them, one by one. My guess for the final book is Ginny Weasley. She is turning into a formidable character. Will she survive? Or will Harry have to make a choice?

JKR has put in a number of hints that Harry and Ginny might end up together. Not least was the Hogwarts Express scene in the first book, with a love-struck Ginny running along by the train as it pulls out of King's Cross. Surely that was foreshadowing a future scene carrying a great deal more emotional power.

Ginny has already been possessed by Voldemort once, With her DADA lessons from Harry, her native wit and her ability to lie and to love, she stands as good a chance as any of the students of getting away through her own merits. It is also interesting to note that Harry saved Ginny's life in the Chamber of Secrets, so there might be some kind of extra connection there, should Voldemort try to use Harry's love for Ginny against him.

I also think we have to see many of the former characters, and especially Hagrid's creatures, return for the big fight at the end of book 7: I want to see Norbert come back. Otherwise, what was the point of introducing him in book 1. I also think we will see Grawp again for the same reason. I would not be surprised to see Aragog and the spiders making an appearance for the good guys.

Neville has been set up for a much more important role in the last two books. I somehow feel that he will come out of it all as one of the main heroes, possibly by being the one to capture or cause the death of Bellatrix Lestrange. He has been more than a bit-part all along, and his love of herbology, his affinity with plants and his growing courage are all leading somewhere... And then there was that prediction. Expect Neville the wimp to become Neville the major character.

Then there is Pettigrew. JKR kept him hidden in this book, but he has to return in book 6 or 7, so that the life-debt he owes to Harry can be the flaw in one of Voldemort's plans.

Snape is made still more complex in this installment. We see clearly that he is a spy for the order, and that he can both close certain parts of his mind to other wizards, and probe their minds for thoughts, memories and emotions, but hidden in the book is a clear reference that Snape is beholden to Lucius Malfoy. We see Sirius taunting Snape about snivelling to Malfoy and other references. When I re-read the other books, looking for evidence of a strong connection between Snape and the Malfoy family, there are many references to such a link. Looks like Snape does pretty much what Lucius Malfoy tells him.

Luna... Now what is she doing? Luna Lovegood. JKR has a Dickensian way of naming her characters according to their characteristics. Ms Lovegood has to be the love interest for one of the main characters. Hermione and Ron will end up together. That's more or less a certainty. I already said I think Harry will go out with Ginny in book 7, but maybe Harry and Luna will be drawn together in book 6. Such speculation aside, I think Luna will end up with Neville. He was always described as having a moon-shaped face, and her name seems to hint at a moon connection. In any case, there is something about her that remains to be seen. Update 11 Dec., 2004 Wrong! JKR specifically said on her site that the two will not become more than (platonic) friends. She's a bit too wacky for Neville.

And Dumbledore. He is still, obviously, more powerful than Voldemort. Witness that last battle scene in book 5, but he is growing old and weary. He had to use other objects and creatures to block Voldemort's Avada Kedavra spells. I have a feeling that he will not survive all the way to the end of book 7. Probably he will give his life to save Harry, because I think that Dumbledore too loves Harry, and this will help Harry to finally overcome Voldemort at the end.

Finally, what about Harry? JKR has repeatedly said there will be exactly seven Harry Potter adventures; no more, no less. When asked what will happen to Harry after book seven, or if she will be able to resist pressure to stop writing about him, she now responds cryptically, "How do you know Harry will survive?" I admit to being puzzled by this. But if you want to stop writing about a fictional character, there is no better way than to kill them off. However, in the early days, just after books one and two were published, her answer to the same question was different. She implied that Harry does survive to the end of book seven, but that she would choose not to write anything about Harry beyond his 17th year.

So I think the only result is that 'Good' wins over 'Evil' and that Voldemort is finally vanquished at the end of book seven. My guess is that Dumbledore dies (in book 7) to save Harry. This gives Harry the power to first resist and then defeat Voldemort.

It's wild speculation, but I think love is the key to the whole thing. Dumbledore constantly tells Harry how love saves him from Voldemort. First it was his mother's love and self-sacrifice. Next, it is Harry's (platonic) love for Ron and Hermione which enables him to drive off the dementors, then at the end, it is Harry's love for Sirius that drives Voldemort out of Harry's mind. And then there was that room in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry, which was devoted to love.

I'm starting to form the idea that Harry's platonic love is powerful enough to protect Harry from Voldemort, but when enhanced by the power of sexual love, it will be enough to defeat Voldemort. Maybe, as Harry falls properly in love, and Voldemort tries to use Harry's lover as a lever, they come face to face. Voldemort tries to possess and dominate Harry once more, but the passion of Harry's love is enough to destroy Voldemort.


Back to the Harry Potter project

Book four

Book six

This is a very good film that could have been a great film, if only more attention had been paid to details of character. Those who have not read the book will likely not notice anything wrong, and may find this to be the most satisfying and thrilling of the cycle so far. But to me, and to many others, I'm sure, who list this volume as our favorite (including book six, but, we hope, excluding the yet to be released book seven) justice has not been done. The film is missing its emotional center.

Before I hit the laundry list of nitpicks, please do not respond, "They just don't have time for all those tiny details." No no no. Not true. They had plenty of time to work with. Here is a chart.

Book 1: 309 pages. Film 1: 152 min
Book 2: 352 pages. Film 2: 161 min
Book 3: 448 pages. Film 3: 142 min
Book 4: 734 pages. Film 4: 157 min
Book 5: 870 pages. Film 5: 138 min

So the longest book has been squeezed into the shortest film. Children would have sat still for at least another twenty minutes. The restorations I'm going to list couldn't have taken more than five. 

(I'm going to assume you've at least scanned the many writeups above this one, and do not need a plot synopsis or fear spoilers.)

1) Too much emo, not enough angst. Harry never YELLS at his friends, or at his parental substitutes. "I'm angry all the time," he tells Sirius, but he isn't - he's depressed and vaguely annoyed. His eruptions are supposed to be out of character and irrational - the way they are for most of us at age 15. Since Harry never goes too far by smashing Dumbledore's possessions at the end, he never realizes how futile his rage-driven actions are. He never grieves for Sirius, he merely mopes.

2) No date with Cho, and no resolution to the Cho subplot whatsoever. The character of Cho's friend, Marietta Edgecombe, who squeals on Harry and the rest of the D.A. because her mother works for the ministry, has been eliminated. Instead, Cho herself squeals, under the influence of Veritaserum. A clever efficiency, and perfectly plausible! But this begs the question, will Harry be able to forgive her for this, and will she even have the courage to ask him to? We never find out. In the book, Harry's realization that he simply does not care about impressing her anymore, because they have nothing in common, is a major surprise, and another important lesson of adolescence.

3) Relatedly, no parallel development of Ginny. In the book, from the first moment we see her, Ginny has completely changed. She's speaking her mind, she's hurling Dungbombs, she's kicking ass on the Quidditch team, she's calling Harry stupid for not consulting her about what it's like to be possessed by Voldemort, and most importantly she's dating boys. Harry doesn't figure out he's attracted to her until the middle of book 6, so I guess we don't NEED this info in film 5, but it was very disappointing to me to see her have to play every single scene in Silent Longing mode - "Okay, Bonnie, now remember, you're still in love with Daniel, but you can't show it!" - the way she did in all the other films.

4) Why is Luna hitting on Harry, instead of Ron, who has nothing to do in this film now that his Quidditch-playing arc has been removed? Not that there would have been time for all of that, but it's as though there's a conspiracy to push Ronnie the Bear out of the film completely - during the midnight ride to London on thestralback, we can't even get five seconds of a comic relief reaction shot of him soaring on an invisible mount. But sorry, I was talking about Luna - why, also, does she mumble something vague about her shoes instead of explicitly reminding Harry that they both heard the voices of ghosts behind the veil, which gives him the hope he's looking for - the hope that he'll get to see Sirius again?

5) Neville doesn't progress nearly as far. Instead of becoming one of the best students in the D.A., he gets roundly congratulated for correctly using Expelliarmus, a second-year spell, meaning on average he still sucks. His motivation, being his parents driven insane by Bellatrix Lestrange (played by Helena Bonham-Carter in a WILDLY over-the-top fashion), is described at length by Sirius and Neville himself. However, had we gone to St. Mungo's Hospital to visit Arthur and stumbled upon them (and the way that Neville treasures an empty gum wrapper given to him by his mother Alice is one of the most heartbreaking parts of the novel), we'd be following the first rule of screenwriting: Show, don't tell.

6) For the sake of exposition, Hermione behaves very rudely. She calls Luna "Loony" to her face and tells Harry about Cho's affection for him in front of Ginny. As Hermione is the only one who notices what everyone else is feeling, these are gross violations of character. 

7) Kreacher is wonderfully realized, but he has no reason to exist as he never fulfills his mission of deceiving Harry into thinking that Sirius has left the Black family mansion. Nonetheless, they're kids and they're impulsive, so this bit still works. But this fits the trend of subplots which are introduced, developed, and never resolved.

8) Grawp should not be sweet and cuddly. The whole point of the character is that he's a dangerous monster and Hagrid is an idiot for bringing him back and hiding him in the forest, which upsets the delicate truce with the centaurs. Hagrid is another mentor figure who is meant to become unreliable in this volume. 

9) We have the scene with the Black Family Tree (wisely moved to the Christmas section to give the first act more momentum), but Sirius never points out his brother Regulus, who becomes a major clue at the end of book 6. TEN SECONDS, people, that's all it would have taken.

All those quibbles aside, it's still a very good film. It was adapted by Michael Goldenberg, unlike all other Potter films, which were adapted by Steve Kloves, and great care was taken in reorganizing the storylines for a smooth flow while keeping the core of scenes intact. 

The director David Yates is known primarily for his work with the BBC. He was chosen because he's known to get great performances, and he's certainly succeeded here. The three main kids, who in the first film seemed like they were playing, and who were openly asked to be comfortable with their replaceability, have become essential to these films. They are layered and endlessly watchable. The biggest addition to the cast is Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge, and she's perfectly hateworthy. 

Moreover, the whole film has an inescapable creeping mood of dread, and the final battle is very frightening and powerful indeed. With this volume, Harry is first aware of a more complicated world, in which adults often selfishly vie for power. The political subtext in the book is fully present in the film, and so is the anti-authoritarian message: If you're not learning what you want to know, you should feel empowered to teach yourself.

A movie review by waverider37: July 14, 2007

Warning: Spoilers ahead. If you haven't read the novels or seen the films, you're about ten years behind. Get with it already.

The movie adaptation of the fifth novel of the highly successful Harry Potter series, by JK Rowling, has opened recently in cinemas worldwide. Starring the cast from the first four films (with the exception of the character of Dumbledore, who has been played by two different actors), it shows Harry's struggle through adolescence, rumormongering and an overzealous "High Inquisitor" at his school, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry, his headmaster Dumbledore, his godfather Sirius and his closest friends Ron and Hermione are attempting to tell the horrifying truth to the general wizarding population: a dark wizard, whom most are afraid to name, has returned after 13 years in hiding to once again terrorise the world.

Dedicated fans will remember the hype surrounding the release of the fifth novel, which does not appear to have waned, even though many people have considered the films to be rushed and not in-depth enough. Indeed, upon first glance, the film is quite rushed: the important parts are kept in, but other, "flavour" material has been removed. However, in contrast to the other films in the series (but in particular the third and fourth films) viewers can draw all necessary information from the film, rather than needing to read the novels for explanations of key sequences.

In addition, some of the sequences at the beginning were not quite believeable for me. Taking into account that characters' emotions are difficult to portray on screen, I still believe that the very first sequence - Harry's cousin taunting him to the verge of losing his temper - was poorly done. His frustration at not receiving word from even his closest friends was also underdone a tad, yet his frustration at Dumbledore near the middle of the film was portrayed brilliantly. Some sequences were sped up too quickly, creating more possibilities for difficult portrayal on screen, and also for dialogue to be sped up considerably - at several points throughout the film, Harry and Hermione in particular speed their lines, at times making them completely incoherent.

Despite this little setback, the film is quite good by comparison to the first four. The main characters have all been established, even those who have barely been involved (Sirius Black, Lord Voldemort etc.) and there is, therefore, little to no need for character introduction and development. Daniel Radcliffe's (Harry Potter) acting has improved greatly since the first film. Special effects and camera angles are as impressive as always, and (as mentioned) key sequences have been enacted exceptionally. I was particularly enthralled with the final fight scene at the Ministry of Magic, and Bellatrix Lestrange killing Sirius Black drove home the thought that I had of the archway in the Department of Mysteries: that it is not all that it seems.

Overall, a good movie. Much better than its predecessors, yet was still lacking in key areas. I hope for more improvements to be made to the sixth and seventh films, and eagerly anticipate the release of the final novel in a week's time. I rate this move 7.5/10.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

If Voldemort's raising an army, then I want to fight.

Before I begin, I should state that this is a review of the film written by (and for) someone who has read the book. As such, this will probably be less a review of the movie than a comparison between the two. Secondly, I cannot guarantee that this review will be without spoilers. Scratch that. I can guarantee that this review will be ripe with spoilers. This is likely a moot point, as most everyone who cares enough to be reading this has likely already read the book. But if you are new to Potterdom and just making your way through Prisoner of Azkaban, be ye warned.

To be blunt, I was disappointed in the movie. It is expected and grudgingly accepted that much will be cut from the book in order to make the jump to the silver screen. No one, afterall, wants to sit through a seven hour movie. This was done well in Goblet of Fire and to a lesser extent Prisoner of Azkaban. The first two books were short enough that very little had to be left out. Order of the Phoenix, on the other hand, leaves far too many and important bits on the cutting room floor. Criminally, the longest book in the series has been translated into the shortest movie, at 138 minutes. For comparison's sake, the first four films clocked in at 152, 161, 141, and 157 minutes, respectively.

What is left are, naturally, the high points. You walk away from this movie wondering if you actually saw the movie, or just a bunch of previews strung together. Some of the best character developement from the book is cast aside in favor of more teen angst from Harry (and even that comes off as just depressed). The emotional trauma faced by the Weasley family as brother Percy turns his back on them is gone. Neville's parents are briefly mentioned, but there is no visit to St. Mungo's for the tear jerker scene in which Neville pockets a candy wrapper handed to him by his confused and anguished mother, nor any explanation of the Prophecy and how it could have applied to him. Neville's vast improvements in magical acuity are trivialized in the film, reduced almost to a joke (as the DA members around him are mastering the Patronus Charm, Neville finally manages a successful disarming spell). The subplot of Ron and Ginny joining and excelling on the Gryffindor Quidditch team was struck from the movie entirely. This is doubly disappointing, as no Quidditch was played in the previous book. Nor do we see Ron and Hermoine (and Malfoy) become prefects. Harry's book long struggles with Snape's Occlumency lessons are reduced to two scenes. Harry's grief at the loss of Sirius is severely abbreviated, and there is no explanation whatsoever for what the hell is up with that Arch of Death.

One of the more distressing parts of the movie is the "montage" in the middle. Most of the scenes involving Dumbledore's Army sessions and Umbridge's regime of discipline are reduced to a thirty minute clip show in which the high points are haphazardly strung together. Having watched the extra scenes on the DVD release, it is obvious that these could have been and indeed were whole scenes in their own right at one time, but for some reason were cut from the final theatrical release.

That is not to say the movie is totally without merit. The casting was brilliant. Evanna Lynch's portrayal of Luna Lovegood is spot on, Helena Bonham Carter's makes a particularly wicked Bellatrix Lestrange, and the viewer will love to hate Imelda Staunton's Delores Umbridge every bit as much as in the book. The visual effects were all top notch. The Thestrals were exactly as creepy and affectionate as they should have been. Many of the book's key locations are perfectly realized on screen, such as Number 12, Grimmauld Place and the Ministry of Magic Atrium. The dungeon bound courtroom was fittingly intimidating, though the lack of Dumbledore's conjured armchair was a let down. And the climactic battle between Dumbledore and Lord Voldemort is everything an epic battle between two powerful wizards should be.

But in the end, all the flashy effects and great acting is not enough to save this movie from someone who loved the book. Some of the key things that were left out make one fear what will be stricken from the next two films. Book five was meant to be a turning point for many characters. Hermoine finally realizing that you need to break the rules sometimes and Ron's success in Quidditch allowing him to finally believe in himself were passed for Harry, and even so we only get a hint of his struggles. Characters that seem minor now but later play a much greater role especially got shafted. Most notably Neville and his strides in magic, and Ginny maturing and finally "getting over" Harry (although we all know how that turned out).

**1/2 out of ****. Long time fans of the book will likely find themselves disappointed.

The movie was released on July 11, 2007 and grossed nearly a billion dollars worldwide. The DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-Ray release was December 11, 2007 (which is why I'm writing this review now and not five months ago).

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