I just got to see the Order of the Phoenix movie for the first time, since it finally came to the $3 theater (I was beginning to be afraid I had missed it). I didn't expect to like it very much, because OotP is my least favorite book in the series...and yet, I loved it! It's my favorite Harry Potter movie so far.
Now I don't know why this would be, but I have a couple of theories. (a) since I stopped having expectations of Harry Potter movies I can't be disappointed, (b) the alterations required to adapt a book for the screen cut out a lot of the stuff that bugs me about the book, (c) they had a different screenwriter for it. (It looks like they got Kloves back to write the next one though, but this same David Yates will be directing it and maybe that'll make all the difference. I hope so.)
I suspect that point (b) is probably the strongest factor. When reading OotP I get so frustrated with Harry and Sirius, and I think the movie didn't allow time for as much of their asshattery, which was a blessed relief. Another thing I liked about it is that I felt it was more coherent than most of the other movies (I still don't think I would understand it without having read the book, but by now that's par for the course). I didn't feel that characters were flattened as severely as they have been in most of the other movies. The biggest improvement over GoF was that there were very few elements randomly stuck in that have nothing to do with the story but need to be there because they're establishing something that will be important later, and even those few there were weren't completely distracting and frustrating as they were in GoF and, while not advancing the plot, mostly served a purpose other than comic relief. For example, Kreacher didn't serve any story function, but he added to the unpleasant and threatening ambience of 12 Grimmauld Place; the sacking of Trelawney didn't herald the advent of Firenze, but it did show the extent to which Umbridge would exercise her power over her fellow teachers. I even liked the music, even though it wasn't John Williams. I really liked Umbridge's theme; it was so sort of sweet and tinkly when you first heard it, but as you listened you realized it was all dissonant and ominous.
I was really happy with the casting this time around, although I thought it strange that Kingsley was apparently from the West Indies, and I thought Helena Bonham Carter came very close to playing it too broad, but she was so scary it made up for it. I was a little concerned about Luna, but she was so good! Loved Umbridge; I'd had a couple of actresses in mind I would have liked to see, but I wouldn't re-cast it now even if I could. Speaking of re-casting things, another good thing about it is that Lupin wasn't in it very much, so whenever Thewlis was onscreen I could avert my eyes and say, "Think of Jack Davenport, think of Jack Davenport..."
The special effects were great: thestrals were great, centaurs were great but I wish we could have seen more of them (why no Firenze? why?), and Grawp was strangely adorable.
So actually, there was only one thing that really, really bugged me about the movie, which is when the Inquisitorial Squad breaks into the Room of Requirement. Here's the thing: if the Harry Potter I know and love saw his girlfriend being forcibly restrained by Draco Malfoy, his first thought would not be "She must have betrayed me, that bitch!" but rather, "I gots to protect my woman!" And even if he did feel betrayed by her informing on him, I think he would at least listen to her side of it. So...I guess I could have done with a little bit more screentime devoted to breaking them up in a believable way, though I have no idea what that way would be.
And I really have only one other tiny nitpick to make, which is that I wish they had had Luna mention the voices behind the veil to Harry, instead of talking vaguely about lost things turning up in strange places, although I do have to admit that talking vaguely about things is entirely in Luna's character.
A couple of random thoughts:
- Oh, how I love Fred and George! Loved loved loved the scene where they were comforting the little kid before they made their triumphant escape. So sweet! I also really liked the timing of this scene so that it happens right after Harry finds out about his father being a bully from Snape's memories; it shows a nice contrast between the twins and the Marauders, that Fred and George are tricksters, but not bullies who prey upon the weak. Also love that the twins' hair was cut in the same style as their father's (or vice versa), that really served to create the illusion of a family resemblance.
- Speaking of hairstyles, better hairstyles all around in this one.
- During the nightmare sequences, why so many shots of Harry's neck?
- Why, when they're writing lines in their own blood, do the words appear on their opposite hand?
- Speaking of which, I kind of like that she had all of Dumbledore's Army writing lines. I don't know why. I guess because it kind of underscored the theme of Harry's guilt about causing other people to get hurt while they help him combat evil.
- On a related note, kudos to Professor McGonagall for standing up to Umbridge about her abusive and "medieval" punishments! When I first read the book I was still in the middle of teacher education, and I was so appalled that everyone was just letting this blatant abuse go on uncontested. Oh, and how they used the stairs in that scene so that when one gains the upper hand she steps a few steps up? Fucking brilliant.
- They're all mispronouncing Bellatrix's last name.
- Sirius Black sure is a snappy dresser.
This goes back to GoF, but why didn't they give Voldemort red eyes? I'm sure they made that decision for a reason, but what was the reason? To me, red eyes and slitted nostrils are Voldemort's signature characteristics.There's now a reason for this given on IMDb's GoF trivia page. It's a good reason.
And then this is a question primarily to those of you who saw the movie in America, because if I'm right, it wouldn't have showed up in other countries; am I insane, or did Cho's lines sound oddly and incongruously American accented? Because it seemed to me that she was pronouncing R's that nobody else was pronouncing, and while I barely remember GoF, I do remember her sounding British in it. I suspect that they sneakily had somebody dub her lines when they released it over here, but I can't imagine why they would bother. Did anyone else notice that? If it happened in other countries too, that would suggest dialect coaching rather than dubbing, which again, I can't imagine why they would coach her to do something different than what everybody else was doing.
On an unrelated note, I think the $3 theater might have a problem with mildew, because on leaving the theater I had a terrible headache, and I don't think that's the first time that's happened. Darn.