Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jul 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I'm not usually the type of person to go to a midnight matinee (especially since you don't get to pay the matinee price), but my boss wanted to go see the new Harry Potter movie on opening night (actually, morning) so I decided to oblige him.

The movie was fun, but it substantially different from the book. This actually makes it better than the previous movie as far as I'm concerned: they realized they couldn't fit everything in, so they did some re-writing to make it work on the screen. Even so, it is still a very, very busy movie. I didn't have any trouble following the rapid-fire plot, but it was still the progress of a machine gun. I doubt I would have had such an easy time if I hadn't read the book more than once.

I think they kept in a few things that they still should have cut entirely, like the Occlumency lessons, which were important in the book because they set up further ambiguousity about Snape's character, but they were a great deal less so in the movie due to the re-writes. I think they would have done better to have left out the bit with Bellatrix Lestrange and Neville's parents as well.

I think there are also a few bits they could have cut a bit more ruthlessly to make more time for the things that were really important, but I'd have to watch the movie again with a notebook to really make further recommendations. The scenes came in so fast that they sandblasted my opinions out of my brain almost before I could form them.

The actress that played Dolores Umbridge did a great job however, and they also did a great job of turning Sirius into a sophisticated gentleman with a spotty past rather than a scary street mutterer. The acting was pretty good although the new Dumbledore still grates on me.

About all I can say at this point is that I'm wishing they turned it into a miniseries instead of a movie series. The first book was the shortest and it still made a 3-hour movie. If you are a fan of the books you will probably enjoy this movie, but you probably won't be able to expect any kind of payoff until the final one comes out in 3 years or so.


Toiler said...

I'm told that Rowling, who rarely gets involved in the movies, warned the producers that they might not want to cut Bellatrix, because she will be very important in the final book -- along with Neville's story, I presume. Not that any of this matters for a particular movie. Devoted fans will read the books anyway, so it's not like they would miss anything if it were cut.

Jennifer Snow said...

The problem with that idea is that with Goblet of Fire the movies began making significant decisions as to which plot elements they were going to present as important and which weren't. This is natural as you simply can't put as much plot into a movie as you can into a book.

I mentioned when I reviewed the Goblet of Fire movie that they screwed themselves viz continuity by leaving out the introduction of Bellatrix, and they should have taken the gutsy move of continuing to leave her out in order to trim this movie.

There are a few other things that they have done that diverges significantly from Rowling's plot: the ambiguity of Severus Snape's allegiances is barely even mentioned. From the advertising I suspect that this is THE big payoff in the last book, and it's too late to fix that in the movie series without making it painfully artificial.

As an aside, I would bet money that they are facing the same problem with the Atlas Shrugged movie. If you're going to bring a complex book to the screen you have to accept the fact that it's not going to be the book and concentrate on preserving the emotional *impact* of the book while ruthlessly cutting it.

A job for someone with a LOT of skill.

Since the AS movie appears to be shelved, maybe I'll read some stuff on writing movie treatments and do my own treatment just for fun.

Toiler said...

I agree re: trimming the movie for the movie's sake. In fact, I'm for not merely "ruthlessly cutting it", but actually re-creating it from scratch using the basic plot and theme elements as my guide. At least that's what I would do if I were writing my own script. Heck, I might even combine several characters into one, or re-create an aspect of the conflict to make it fit the new medium.

It's interesting how some authors seem to expect the opposite from screen writers (wanting them to make it match the book). I never understood that.

Anyway, you go write that script for AS, meanwhile I'll whip out a modern interpretation of Les Miserable, and afterward we'll meet for tea at the March Hare and eat whatever we see.

Jennifer Snow said...

I didn't say "script", I said "treatment", which is more like a plot summary. I wouldn't write an actual script for AS unless I was getting paid. A lot.

Toiler said...

Oh, my mistake. I forgot about treatments, which are far different from scripts. I thought you were being silly about it, as you might imagine considering how difficult a script would be.