Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Literature - 1; Cinema - 0

Thanks to Charity who hooked me up with a ticket and enticed me to be irresponsible, last night I went to a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Rereading this book back in May in anticipation of the movie's release proved to be both a blessing and a curse (no pun intended...okay, well, maybe just a little) to my enjoyment of the movie. [Spoiler alert.]

On the plus side, rereading the book reacquainted me with where the events of book 5 lie in the grand scheme of the HP saga, and so as the movie started I was able to pick up where book 4 left off -- even though it had been years since I'd seen that movie or read the book -- and I knew where the arc of this installment would end.

On the down side, having the narrative of the book so fresh in my mind made me painfully aware of the many things they left out of the movie (in some cases entire subplots or things vital to life at Hogwards, like Quiddich and Hogsmeade and R & H being prefects) and the several things they altered to either account for the omissions or hurry the story along. Though I enjoyed the film very much, appreciated what the new director did with it, and think the young actors keep getting better at their craft, I think when it was all over, my acute feelings of disappointment stemmed from just that -- the whole movie felt very hurried along.

Now, I understand that a 1,000+ page book must be significantly abridged in order to make it into a movie, but to me it seemed like even the elements and subplots they left in were rushed and flattened. When the credits began to roll I looked down at my watch and was surprised to discover it's only a 2 hour movie. I would have preferred if they had taken another 1/2 hour in order to flesh out some of the included elements and scenes, particularly the big show down in the Department of Mysteries. Thanks to Rowling's descriptive storytelling, as I read I was able to watch the whole thing unfold in my imagination with vivid detail, and felt the spectacular scene a worthy culmination of the nightmares and curiosity that had plagued Harry up until that point. With all that they cut out of that sequence, the whole thing seemed a lot less, well, mysterious. For those who don't read the books, it also seriously cuts down on the believability of the whole event -- the movie asks viewers to believe that Harry and his entourage hop off their thestrals and just burst into the Department of Mysteries and the Hall of Prophecy without meeting resistance from any kind of protective measures set in place by the Ministry of Magic. The sorcerer's stone and the chamber of secrets were protected by all kinds of obstacles that required cunning and skill to bypass, but the Hall of Prophecy doesn't even have a lock on the door? Please. Show me a multiplicity of doors in a revolving room and a brain in a tank at least!

Well, I could go on and on (which, I know, pegs me as quite the HP nerd) but for those who will go see the movie (and have read this far despite the spoiler alert) I'll reserve the rest of my disappointments for a later conversation, and end on a positive note by saying that the actress who plays the awful Professor-turned-High-Inquisitor Umbridge does so to a T. Way to be odious, Imelda!

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