Harry Potter on Crack

July 15th, 2007 by Chris

At least that’s what it felt like to me. K & I went to see the new Harry Potter movie, Order of the Phoenix, last night.
Even though I won’t get to anything resembling a spoiler for quite a while, I’ll put the break here to protect those who wish to keep their film viewing untainted. There will be another spoiler warning before the plot/storyline comments if you want to dare a bit further.

For the most part this was a pretty visual film: the effects for spells were sharp and bright contrasting with most scenes, which were lit and staged even darker and drearier than Azkaban. I found it interesting that the few shots of Azkaban looked well lit compared to some of the places at the Ministry or Hogwarts. This continues the trend in emphasizing the macabre side of Harry’s world with Azkaban – the movie this time- and continued in Goblet.
To be fair, the stories themselves get darker and more mature, but I found myself a bit emotionally drained by the time the film was over, almost as if dementors were in the projection booth. I felt that the mood contrasted strangely with the rapid pace of cramming an 896 page book into 138 minutes. That’s about 6.5 pages per minute if you’re keeping track. Now I’m a fast reader, and a picture is supposedly worth a thousand words, but I think that pace is a bit ridiculous. Compare to Goblet at 734 pages in 157 minutes (~4 2/3), Azkaban with 435 pages in 141 minutes (~3 pp/m), Chamber: 341 pp in 161 minutes (~2.1 pp/m)and Stone: 309 pp in 152 minutes (~2 pp/m). I thought Goblet was rushed, but at least one could hold on tightly to keep from being thrown to the wolves*. Phoenix is hyperactive to the point of being plot-less. Sure, many important scenes were there, but it felt like someone was just flipping through a deck of Order of the Phoenix flash-cards. I admit, it’s been several years since I read book 5, but I didn’t think I needed to hit up a refresher course before entering the theater. I understand that the target audience is someone who’s read the book, but a bit of exposition never hurt anyone. Beyond following the plot, the movie ends up feeling rather flat, because there’s no time to actually experience the depth of the world. There are short glimmers of detail when you have just a moment to experience the entire scene, but most are cut short before you can develop any real sense of wonder.
In the end I was left wondering where the rest of the movie was, how could the longest book (Hallows is reported to weigh in at 784 pages) be the shortest movie?

* Thanks TMBG.

Now for some plot comments which might be deemed spoilers. You have been warned.

I have reviewed some summary notes of Phoenix and will point out the obvious missing bits…

  • No cleaning of Grimmauld place occurs on film, this is possibly significant, since the locket found there in the book is theorized to be the lost Slytherin locket horcrux… stolen by R.A.B, who is theorized to be Regulus Black.
  • No Howler in the beginning for Aunt Petunia. A pity.
  • Percy Weasley appears in the film, but his disassociation with the family doesn’t come up. His character may not even be addressed by name in the movie.
  • Ron & Hermione as Prefects is absent.
  • In the book, Moody gives Harry the picture of the old Order, Sirius does in the movie
  • Quidditch doesn’t exist in the movie at all, despite this being Ron’s rookie year as keeper and Ginny’s as Seeke (when Harry gets banned).
  • Dobby doesn’t appear in the movie. He was the one who told Harry about the Room of Requirement, but in the movie Neville discovers it.
  • The book includes an extended narrative about Hagrid’s adventures with the giants. The movie reduces this to a few sentences and a shrug.
  • Mr. Weasley’s injuries by the snake (in Harry’s vision) and subsequent recovery, is reduced to a response from the headmaster’s painting that Mr. Weasley will be ok. We don’t get to see St. Mungo’s.
  • Umbridge gives both Hagrid and Trelawney an extended hard time, but we only see Trelawney’s discomfort in the film
  • Harry and Cho’s dating is reduced only to a couple of meaningful looks and a single kiss
  • Rita Skeeter is absent (as she was nearly so from Goblet. Although she isn’t particularly important to this story, it is fun when Hermione gets the better of her)
  • Although Luna Lovegood is present, the side plot involving the Quibbler is not.
  • When Trelawney is eventually sacked, the centaur Firenze is named as her replacement. This is omitted. In fact the centaurs get a pretty bad portrayal in the film as a bunch of four legged barbarians. No real nobility.
  • In Snape’s memory (which we get from the Occlumency lesson rather than the Pensieve) does not include Lily’s intervention in Snape’s defense against James and Sirius
  • Although the Weasley twins get a nice fireworks display to see them off, we miss out on some of their magical antics. We only see the Extensible Ear and the Skiving Snackbox. Other tricks are omitted. Their big escape interrupts a written OWL exam in the movie, but OWLs haven’t started in the book.
  • Harry’s gift as prime investor into Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes is not mentioned.
  • Umbridge’s capture by the centaurs and Grawp’s interaction is completely redone. All scene’s involving Grawp seem disjoint with the rest of the story. It’s not clear why he is included when so much else is omitted. Grawp is also one of the only computer animations where the animation looks apparently artificial.
  • None of the interesting complexity of the Ministry of Magic chase/battle/etc. is included. Only the Hall of Prophecies and the Archway room.
  • In the battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort, Voldemort generally has the initiative in the movie, while in the book Dumbledore is dominant. The battle itself is significantly rewritten.
  • Anyhow, I’m sure there’s more, but these are the ones that occurred to me as a reviewed the notes.

4 Responses to “Harry Potter on Crack”

  1. Heidi Says:

    Don’t forget the following:

    *Seeing Neville’s parents (though you did mention the loss of St. Mungo’s, I feel the horror at the results of the Cruciatus curse worth mentioning, specifically).

    * The possibility of the prophecy referring to Neville. And also the fact that Voldemort hadn’t previously had access to the entire prophecy and had only a portion of it relayed to him (by Snape?? am I remembering that right?).

    * That only Harry was tortured with the evil pen by Umbridge (though I understand that in the film it worked to more quickly amplify our understanding that all the D.A. student hated her).

    * The movie has Cho revealing the existence of the D.A., through the foced interrogation of Umbridge and by use of Veratiserum. In the book Hermione’s clever boils/acne charm reveals the traitor in their midst.

    * Importantly (I think), in the book Sirius actually IS at the Ministry of Magic when Harry sees him there. Kreacher and Snape have taunted him and Kreacher lies to Sirius to get him over to the Ministry. In the movie, it’s a deliberate false image planted by Voldemort in Harry’s mind.

    * In a conversation with Dumbledore, in the book, Harry is told that his staying with Aunt Petunia has magical protection issues involved.

    * I missed seeing Professor McGonagall in the Ministry battle.

    * The existence of the two-way mirror (which I can’t help but think will have meaning in Book Seven) in which Harry could have reached Sirius at any time prior to his death.

    * The scene with Nearly Headless Nick in which the ghost pretty much tells Harry that Sirius isn’t coming back, that he’s “gone on” is eliminated. Instead, the scene with Luna (which does exits in the book) is altered a bit to give more hope that Sirius will return somehow. The line in the book is “I’ll go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up …. It always does in the end.” I don’t remember the specific wording in the movie, but it seemed more portentous than that.

    * And, though it’s a bit trivial, I was kind of looking forward to seeing Madame Puddifoot’s flying cherubs.

    * The magical Galleons used to signal D.A. meetings are used in the following book, but they didn’t exist in this movie, so I’m not sure how they’ll fix that.

    Anyway there’s already a Wikipedia article on the differences. We’ve covered many of them. (Here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Differences_between_book_and_film_versions_of_Harry_Potter_and_the_Order_of_the_Phoenix)

  2. Heidi Says:

    Whoops … McGonagall was injured in the trying-to-capture Hagrid battle.

  3. Chris Says:

    Kristin spotted this in your comment and we looked it up:

    Sirius was NOT at the Ministry until after Harry goes there. Kreacher’s lie implies that Sirius is already there, but he’s upstairs attending to Buckbeak.

    Here’s the text from pg 830 in Dumbledore’s exposition: “Professor Snape found that Sirius was alive and safe in Grimmauld Place.” and later “Professor Snape requested that Sirius remain behind… But Sirius did not wish to remain behind.” Clearly if he had already gone to the ministry, he could not possibly stay behind. Next page explains what I said above and that it WAS a deliberate vision planted by V.

    The whole Cho/Harry relationship IS significantly altered in the movie (including the fact that she is not the snitch), and this is all part of making Harry’s life seem so much more depressing and painful that it seemed in the original story.

  4. Heidi Says:

    Right, got it. Kreacher was a bad little House Elf in the book, but he barely appears in the movie. The whole Harry/Dumbledore debriefing scene was greatly minimized. We don’t really see Harry’s anger at Sirius’ death.