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).