Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix: A Visual Treat

by prash on 12 Jul 2007


Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

“The mind€™s eye.”

This mythical retina of our imagination is all you can employ when you are immersed in the world of books. You use this eye to create the setting, to imagine what the characters look like and to visualize the action in moving pictures even as the story unfolds as words on a page. And, especially, when you consider a massive, magical tome of the likes of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, you come to rely pretty heavily on this eye to corporealise the enchanting – and often wildly imaginative – yarn that Rowling weaves.

So how does one compress an 870 page novel into a 2 1/4 hour movie? Screenwriter Michael Goldenberg talks about the adaption process:

It’s a translation process from one medium to a very different one. Ideally you want people, especially fans of the books, to walk out saying it was just like the book — even if, when they think back on it later, they realize there were lots of differences. The challenge is in finding the best equivalent way to tell the story. My job was to stay true to the spirit of the book, rather than to the letter.
Salon (via Etcetera)

And in that endeavor he succeeds and, consequently, so does the movie. Sure, entire episodes are left out – there’s no mention of Quidditch and the St Mungo’s episodes are completely absent. What is present, though, is the underlying spirit of the book: the growing up of kids into adolescents, the alienation of being “The Chosen One”, the sheer joys and pitfalls of school-life and the eventual rebellious union against the authoritarian, enforced order.

From the dark openings of the dementor attacks in a little English village to the showdown in the Ministry Of Magic, first-time-Potter-director David Yates does a pretty good job of capturing the essential elements of the story while at the same time trying not to get very involved in one particular sub-plot. If the movie has a disjointed feel at times and seems to jump around, this could well be the cause.

Artistically, directors have always been allowed the license to deviate from the book a little. While it little matters who discovers the Room of Requirement or who sneaks about the DA meetings, one thing emerges slowly as the movie progresses. Harry’s friends gain a new-found respect for and belief in him. Their progression from disbelief and sometimes downright belligerence toward Harry to acceptance and training under him are all well-captured. And finally, when Harry says it’s too dangerous so he will go alone to fight the Death-Eaters and his friends confront him together asking if all the training and preparedness they underwent was just talk, you just know that the transformation is complete: they are together in this and it’s good versus evil now.

Dolores UmbridgeThe show-stealer, however, was the mildly coughing, always pert-in-pink, deliciously wicked Professor Umbridge (Imelda Staunton in a well-executed role), the new Professor at Hogwarts. Her portrayal of the strict disciplinarian who exerts an authoritarian influence on the school is a treat to watch and that you detest her very presence is testament to her ample histrionic abilities. Another surprise was Evanna Lynch’s Loony Luna Lovegood. She really had that goofy, butt-of-all-jokes look on her face, but finally comes through as a thoughtful and insightful ally to Harry’s group.

Yes, compared to The Goblet Of Fire, this movie is even darker in nature and that can only be expected as the plot thickens and the seriousness of the return of Voldemort slowly sinks into everyone’s minds. But Yates never lets you forget that these are still kids who are trying to be men under very difficult circumstances. Darker scenes are sandwiched by humorous ones like when Hermione teases Ron about having the emotional range of a teaspoon or when Fred and George feed another of their sickness-inducing treats to an unsuspecting junior.

Visually, the movie brings in some pretty spectacular sequences. Of course there is the broom-flight over London, the mumbling house-elf Kreacher and the metamorphmagus Tonks who amuses everyone by changing her appearance. But the artistic license I mentioned earlier has been put to good effect to give you even more than your mind’s eye could have imagined. There is the ludicrous sight of the caretaker Filch tottering on a tall ladder as he nails decree after ridiculous decree on the school walls (“Students should stay at least 8 inches away from each other”!). There’s the brilliant display of fireworks during the O.W.L.s as Fred and George decide enough is enough and leave Hogwarts leaving behind a large “W” in the sky. And of course the Hall of Prophecies: rows and rows of shelves with their gleaming prophecy-containing glass-spheres – all of which have been shot with a sense of grandeur and which evoke the same sensations of elation or mystery you feel when you read the sequences in the book. Even the pseudo-narration-using-newspapers technique has been used with great effect especially since The Daily Prophet contains photographs with subjects that can move around in the picture. (“POTTER changes back and forth to “PLOTTER?”)!

The mind’s eye: every movie that’s based on a book strives to please this very finicky (and very individual) lens. While I might not go so far as to say this is the best movie of the series, The Order Of The Phoenix certainly does an admirable job of keeping close to the plot-line yet deviating enough at times to give your visual and auditory senses a real treat.

Definitely worth a look-see.

[tags]harry potter, order of the phoenix, movie[/tags]

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