Order of the Phoenix, while an undeniably moody affair, really brought out some comedic moments that were most likely funny for all the wrong reasons. While I agree the sets were dark and oh there was angst, I walked out going “that was a LOT funnier than the book was” – because it was played that way. Maybe it was just my group in the theater, but I don’t think so. Order was a bit campier than the book, and I’m still undecided if that was a good thing. There was some much needed levity, but there was also levity in the entire wrong places; more than one time I was thinking “no this is wrong, that’s not supposed to be funny.. heh”.
This is the non-spoiler review so I’m going to glaze over a lot of things… much like the movie did to the book.
Dumbledore’s Army was well done. The Ministry of Magic was well done. The atmosphere in lighting worked well – things were dark where they were supposed to be, light when it suited the mood. While Goblet of Fire was overcast from start to finish, Order wasn’t afraid to let out the sun once in a while, and with fitting results. The use of flashbacks was wonderful and kept a much needed continuity to things across films. The attention to details were astounding – Harry’s picture of James and Lily we first saw in Azkaban, the dreadful cat plates in Umbridge’s office, things like that.
The main problem was not with what got left out – the film did manage to hit the highlights of most of the important stuff, but the problem lies in how things that were left in got handled. Unfortunately for Order, that’s a lot of what things were – highlights. If something’s going to be deemed important enough to leave in, then don’t just drill to the core like a bullet point list of things you have to check off, take a minute and throw down a little nuance along the way. Fog is not nuance! Transitions were a little weak. You could see where cutting to a commercial break would happen in some points – editing was clearly off in places – too long in some, not enough in others.
A movie of highlights isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t a great thing. The book was too long. Far too long. This is almost a universal “yeah” within the fanbase. The movie is a good set of Cliff Notes, and if you’re only watching the movies you can still get the point of the story – Order is two stories in one – Voldemort’s “weapon” and the “Hogwarts Rebellion”. Both of these mini-stories got covered with a start and finish.
What they took out is not that important, no I’m not going to die or shake my fist in anger or say “the movie was ruined ZOMG because they didn’t put x, y, and z in”. See, okay, I understood about the Marauder’s Map in Azkaban. Most people think that book nuts summarily dismiss POA because of OMG they didn’t explain the patronus/Marauder’s Map, when in fact, the biggest problem book fans had with POA was pointless “director nods” and the hackball ending. The main point is book touches should always trump director touches when adapting a book because at the end of the day, fans drive the box office for the movie, not for the director behind it. (Don’t believe me? Columbus was a hack. People flocked to the first two movies for faithfulness alone.) This isn’t a major, “oh man I could have done it so much better” thing. Of course I could – I’m a fan. But I’m not a director. Order did lack a certain ‘personality’, though – and some may find that good, some may find that deplorable. It felt like it could have been made by anyone. I’m fine with that. It was “book faithful” – that’s what fans come to see. Movie delivered.
I liked this much like I liked Goblet of Fire, perhaps slightly less so. I also liked the book a bit less than Goblet of Fire so that doesn’t surprise me either. For the most part I’d put them on an even level with each other. Both of them are hard books to try to condense, and for that Order did a good job. I even liked the ending – it felt appropriate.
Order of the Phoenix was not magical. There really is no wonder left by the time you get to this point in the series. Order is what it is: just the sobering reality of a bunch of students realizing wizarding is Serious Business. This makes for a very understated sort of film. It is entirely possible for a movie to be funny, but not exactly “fun”, and for better or worse Order of the Phoenix demonstrates this. The book is like that, and so the movie is like that.
I did like the music, the little bits I caught of it, and plan to give the soundtrack a complete listen to when it arrives. That said, I’ll go see it again (mostly to try to catch any details I may have missed), and tell my friends and readers to go see it as well. Those near an IMAX really need to see it that way, too.
Also, don’t stay for the end credits. They’re not that flashy and there’s nothing hiding afterwards at the end.
Enjoy the show!