Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Re-reading and Re-watching: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Resuming my quest to re-read and re-watch each of the Harry Potter books and movies, years later as a full-grown adult, I have come to the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Now my copy of the fifth book is the Bloombury edition, which was printed and sold in the U.K.  At the time of the book’s release, I was in London as part of the Radio/TV/Film overseas summer course in British Broadcasting co-hosted by my school, the University of North Texas, and the University of London.  My classmates and I stayed with host families for two months in the Muswell Hill area.   I had spied the local bookstore, Muswell Hill Bookshop, and on the night of the fifth book’s release went to stand in line to buy a copy.

Went I got to the bookshop I couldn’t help but grin in amazement.  I stood behind a long line of young local kids standing with their parents, chatting excitedly in British accents and dressed in long black robes and pointed witch hats.  I SWEAR to God, it was like being dropped off at the 9¾ platform in person.  It was like stepping into the books themselves, and I’ll never forget that treasured memory.

The book itself, on the other hand, is my least favorite book, so far.  I say so far, because maybe in re-reading the last two, I may turn out not to like them as much as I previously thought but I highly, highly doubt it.  It starts sad and slow, remains at a somewhat sluggish pace and then ends in an incredibly sad manner but I’ll get to that more below.

Spoilers to follow.


Of course we are introduced to new characters such as Nymphadora Tonks (Don’t call me Nymphadora!), Kingsley Shacklebolt, Luna Lovegood and the villainous Dolores Jane Umbridge.  We also get see Bellatrix and what she is like, aside from Dumbledore’s flashbacks in the previous book.  I think it’s safe to assume that Barty Crouch Jr. gets executed with the lone-standing arch with the fluttering veil, which we see in the Ministry of Magic and are lead to believe functions as the wizarding world equivalent as the death chamber but Book Five does not specify his fate.

As far as my Ravenclaw/ Hufflepuff standpoint, there are both Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff students that participate in Dumbledore’s Army but the most revealing details found in the Sorting Hat’s new song. 

For were there such friends anywhere
As Slytherin and Gryffindor?
Unless it was the second pair
Of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw,

So how could it have gone so wrong?
How could such friendships fail?
Why, I was there, so I can tell
The whole sad, sorry tale.

Said Slytherin, "We'll teach just those
Whose ancestry's purest."
Said Ravenclaw, "We'll teach those whose
Intelligence is surest."

Said Gryffindor, "We'll teach all those
With brave deeds to their name."
Said Hufflepuff, "I'll teach the lot
And treat them just the same."

So Rowena and Helga were best friends, according to the song, and whereas Rowena choose to teach the students she found to be the smartest, Helga chose whoever was leftover and treated them the same. 

My respect for Hufflepuff just skyrocketed.  Looking back as an adult, I’m like , “what the hell kind of quality teacher just cherry-picks students to teach?  Isn’t the very nobility of the teaching profession teaching all children what they can, despite the differences in the students backgrounds and talents.”  The other heads are all a bunch of dicks.  Hufflepuff is amazing.  I honestly don’t know why that house gets looked down upon when Helga is all like, “it don’t matter, I’ll teach everyone!”  That is what Superman would do, that is what Obi-Wan Kenobi would do. 

Ok, rant over.

My favorite parts of the book are most certainly include Luna.  She is such a lovely, complex and 
realistic character to join the main three.    I also liked the Weasley Twins’ major supporting arc of quitting school to start their own shop, they proved to be one of the brightest spot in very dark and sometimes depressing book.  I wish we could have witnessed more of Ron’s victory in Quidditch rather than following Harry and Hermione into the Dark Forest. 

Right up until this book, I had a secret theory as to why Dumbledore seemed continuously negligent of Harry’s safety.  Through the last four books, he has repeatedly has been non-involved and not pro-active in any of the elements threatening the school.  In Book Five, he even mentions that he left the newly orphaned Harry’s on the Dursley’s doorstep with a letter detailing the situation. A LETTER.

I know this had to happen so that the plotlines could happen at all but I secretly thought that Dumbledore had some sort of time-turner of his own, since he so deftly explains to Hermione how to use it to save two lives at the end of Book Three, when she was explicitly made to promise to only use it for her lessons.  I thought that since Dumbledore is so powerful, wise, and always looking so ancient, that he has lived Harry’s adolescence multiple times in an attempt to defeat Voldemort.  Every time he has tried to nurture Harry, Harry does not develop to his fullest without the maximum amount of struggle and thus ends up not able to defeat Voldemort. 

Dumbledore is forced into a hands-off approach with Harry in order to ensure his later victory.  I even believed that Dumbledore’s use of the pensive was to enable him to keep track of the multiple time lines he has lived.  He keeps going back in forth in time to save as many innocent lives as possible but many it would seems many are completely unavoidable and still doomed to die.

Alas, this book seems to puncture the air out of my theory, as Dumbledore regrets not telling Harry about the prophecy sooner.  Seems odd to me that he would have regrets if he could have just continues to jump back in time.  Also I remember when I first read the book, feeling that the prophecy was a bit of a let-down once the book revealed what the “weapon” was that Sirius was referring to.

This book is hard to read mainly because of Harry’s built up rage and the punishments he is forced to endure by Umbridge.  Although I did like his discovery of his father’s true nature through Snape’s flashbacks; neither being the shining hero Harry has been told and neither the evil bully Snape always accused him to be, but a combination of both, as most people are in reality.  This instance more than anything struck a chord with me in regards to Harry maturing, the realization that our parents are vulnerable people that make very human mistakes, rather than unbreakable heroes we grow up imagining them to be.


A new screenwriter, Michael Goldenberg, wrote the screenplay for fifth film.  I liked that he tweaks the ending so that Harry defeats Voldemort in attempting to possess him at the end, telling Voldemort he is not weak because he knows love and friendship and that makes him strong, “"You're the weak one. And you'll never know love. Or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.”This is not really evident in the book, or is phrased in such way that I did not pick up on it. 

In the book Dumbledore arrives to save Harry and Harry becomes possessed by Voldemort, struggles and then passes out.  The movie does of better job of showing us that despite losing Sirius, Harry is ultimately triumphant.  This concludes the fifth film with a bit of an upbeat ending whereas the book is super depressing.  Also the sit down with Dumbledore is toned way down in the movie, making for a natural resolution.  In the book Harry screams and breaks shit in Dumbledore’s office. 

I also liked that Luna is kept more involved in the plot in the film than in the book, which does not mention her for a long period during the middle.  When she reaches out for Harry’s hand to console him after losing Sirius was beautifully done with both actors.

Ron and Ginny unfortunately get shorted in the film.  There is no mention of Ron’s prefect badge or even any mention of Quidditch at all. However we do get to see Ron’s, Ginny’s and Luna’s patronus forms in the film when it is not mentioned in Book Five, at this point in time.

Not much is changed about Umbridge, Oscar-nominated actress Imelda Stanton completely slays, even if she is conventionally much prettier than the book version of Umbridge.  That goes without saying for the movie version of Tonks, as well.  Helena Bonham Carter also completely nails the role of Belletrix.

Unfortunately much of the connective tissue of the plot has been cut out.  This is the shortest film in the Harry Potter series, which did not surprise me at all since so much had been cut out.  There’s no explanation to what the Order of the Phoenix is, whole parts of Sirius’ background is left out, Percy’s fight with the Weasleys is left out, he just shows up doing Fudge’s bidding out of nowhere.  Voldemort appears wearing a black suit on the train platform, entirely without explanation.  Ginny, Neville and Luna are captured when audiences that haven’t read the books have no knowledge that they volunteered as lookouts to help Harry in the books.  

Steve Kloves, screenwriter of the previous four movies would cut and condense plotlines but would at least have a character make a passing reference as to why it was left out.  That is not the case here.  I may have missed one of Umbridge’s proclamations prohibiting Quidditch but it’s rather strange that none of the character ever comment upon it.  There’s also no revelation that Umbridge sent the dementors after Harry.

My favorite shots are in the beginning, in which we find Harry’s feeling isolated on the neighborhood playground and also the tunnel covered in graffiti in which Harry and Dudley are attacked by dementors. 

Also the overhead shot of the beautifully tiled floor during Harry’s trial.

The Ministry of Magic sets are also completely breath-taking, as well as the Order of Phoenix’s ride through London, and the Azkaban breakout scene.

Overall, my least favorite book and so far, my least favorite movie but there’s more to come and despite not being my favorite, any Harry Potter book/film is head and shoulders above any other book/film franchise series to date.


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