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Avada Kedavra, Crucio and er… Potatoes?

July 13, 2007

So, Order of the Phoenix then. Yes, I know it’s not strictly TV, but as you can see from my sub heading, I’ve cannily made it so that I can also talk about ‘stuff’ and I think you’ll agree that films fall into er… stuff.

As some of you will know, I made the grave mistake last time of reading Goblet before watching the film. As such I was left very angry that the film’s producers had left out Very Important Stuff and added silly scenes like dragons on Hogwarts’ walls etc. So this time I stayed away from the book… and enjoyed the film immensely.

Of course, they haven’t fitted everything in. It’s a huge book. But they’ve been very clever in the fact that the film is basically a trailer for the book – more or less everything is there, just some longer scenes in the book are scaled down or alluded to. Take the DA for example. The coins the DA use to organise meetings etc don’t feature at all, which is a shame as (as someone mentions in the book at some point) it has direct links to how Vol – he who must not be named – contacted his followers Back Then. But hey ho. The DA scenes are great and I love that Harry wears a cardie when teaching in homage to his fave Defense teacher, Lupin. Great touch folks. They also leave out the reason why all member of the DA sign up in the first place, but again, this is just trivial I think.

The fact that certain scenes are watered down somewhat does very little for the supporting cast though. Even Ron and Hermione (staples of the other four films) seem mere background artists at points. But I don’t think this matters really (especially for Emma Watson who has two expressions: concerned puppy-dog eyes and blank. In fact, Hermione is even more annoying in this film than Luna – who we’ll get on to later – in one scene she delivers a line and can’t seem to control her eyebrows, as they wobble about the place. And no, I’m not still pissed off about my Watson experience. She’s not a great actor and needs heavier direction, IMO). This is Harry’s film.

Umbridge is superb and just how I imagined her. Sweetly terrifying and a reminder that often, needy people do bad things with a smile and a pink cardie on. Her office was amazing and the kittens are great.

I know the cast say this every year, but this film is dark. It’s very scary in points, especially the Voldemort scenes – truly menacing. I love how the film has gone a bit kooky in its art direction too – cameras cut oddly and there are frequent flashes of images that bounce off each other in discord.

The Kiss. The Kiss is sweet and tender but you do feel a bit awkward watching Harry get it on when you’ve been watching him since he was a squeaky-voiced 11-year-old. Just as the kiss scene starts, there was a sense in the cinema of embarrassed anticipation. Even the actors were smiling slightly as they knew what was coming. At one stage, the camera pans from hip height up to their snogging faces – which is really uncomfy as you’re left thinking, “Is that your wand in your pocket, Harry or are you pleased to see Cho?” It’s no Equus but it’s just a bit of a dodgy shot is all

There’s so much to say that I think I’ll just do a list:

Things I liked:
The Hogwarts set – poo to Columbus, this is just how JK imagined it, with its wonky staircases and grand archaic beauty.
Luna – she has the potential to be very annoying, and I can see how (if you’ve not read the book) you’d hate her. But the actress playing her does it EXACTLY how Luna is in the book. All floaty and matter of fact. Kudos to the young actress who I gather was a massive fan of the book even before she was cast.
Helena Bonham Carter – yes she can probably play deranged cackling mad lady in her sleep, but she’s perfect casting. Beautiful but menacing.
The Ministry of Magic – grand, beautiful… Not exactly how I imagined it, but it’s just stunning all the same.
Occlumency lessons – these scenes were only really touched on (there are loads of lessons in the book) but I loved the flash backs, especially Snape’s (shame they were so short). Great to see the film makers re-using old footage too!
Seamus – a great little actor. He’s really come into his own, from the mumbling kid in the first film. Shame he’s not a central character.
Rupert Grint – great comic actor, fabulous delivery of his quips, great emotional range. He’s going to be a star (if he can just stay away from silly kids films about flobber or whatever)

Things I didn’t like so much:
The twins – I wish they’d stop talking at once. It’s annoying and it just doesn’t work. Plus at that age, I doubt they’d be wearing the same clothes. In fact I’m sure in the books they wear similar clothes, but different colours…
The Dursleys – especially Dudley. He plays the role with a stupid voice and tries to play it for laughs. Dudley is actually quite a menacing character in this book; a bully, emotionally abused by his parents… He certainly shouldn’t have a stupid voice on. Especially if he’s dressed as a chav…
Mrs Figg – not at all how I imagined from the books. She talks too slowly and I imagined a bustling, fussing old lady, not the meek, strange one on film.
Radcliffe’s speech impediment – it’s a bit grating, but I’ve got used to it by now. But at one point, I’m sure when fighting one of the Death Eaters, I’m sure he flicks his wand and yells “Potatoes!” Wonder what that one does…
Neville’s parents – it’s not exactly explained and Neville’s problems are only briefly touched on in a scene with Harry. To the casual film viewer, we still don’t really know what’s happened to them.
Harry’s teen eppies – not so much eppies, more a slightly raised voice. Ron and Hermione spend a lot of the film tip toeing around Harry, but you get the sense that he hasn’t done anything to warrant this treatment. In the book, Harry’s yelling left right and centre, and the scene where he wrecks Dumbledore’s office isn’t even alluded to.
Ron’s potty mouth – he says ‘bugger’! Now, I know he says ‘sod’ in the books, but I don’t remember him ever saying ‘bugger’!

In conclusion then: Yes a lot was left out, but if you view the film as a trailer to the book (and then go and read the book) I don’t think you’ll be left disappointed. I wouldn’t say it’s a film for very young kids and because of this, I think it could have easily gone on for longer than its two-hour (or so) run. I was certainly left wanting more!

I soooo can’t wait for Friday night!

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