Saturday, July 14, 2007
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix last night. Well. That’s not strictly accurate. We took the boy along with us to cover the fact that it was we who both wanted to go.
I absolutely love the Harry Potter films though I’m probably one of the few people in the UK not to have read any of the books and I don’t, in truth, intend to until the film franchise is fully completed.
That might sound odd coming from a confirmed bibliophile but I actually have a deep reverence for the cinema. You’re never going to hear me complaining that a movie adaptation of a book is inaccurate or has “left out the best bits”. I don’t expect or want to see a movie that is just a slavish rendition of a novel. Both are entirely separate art forms and should function according to the rules and demands of their own separate disciplines.
Put plainly, a movie is never going to be a novel and a novel is never going to be a movie. And neither should they be. I’m quite happy for directors to run a bit with an idea and change it, reshape it, prune it, mould it… sculpt it into something new. For those that want the novel… well, there you go. It’s there. But the film must be accepted as a thing entire and integral to itself.
For that reason I was one of the few people among my friends who loved V For Vendetta. I also loved the last Harry Potter film, The Goblet Of Fire and found people’s comments about “this has been left out” and “there was so much more in the novel” really tiresome. To enjoy a film adaptation properly you almost have to forget the novel. Give the film a fresh start and a fair go. Hence, I have chosen not to read the novels. There’s too much hype around them. I’m sure they’re excellent and I shall enjoy reading them a few years down the line. In the meantime I’m enjoying the films immensely.
Talking of which, The Order Of The Phoenix, continues the gradual darkening and greying up of the main character’s moral outlook started with The Prisoner of Azkaban. This is a good thing. The world is not a simple black and white place and the politicising of the Harry Potter world is a good thing. It adds more depth to both the characters and the plot.
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Emma Watson (Hermione) and particularly Rupert Grint (Ron) have very much upped their game in the acting stakes and their performances are a joy to watch. They work well together and their (obviously) real life camaraderie spills over onto the screen in abundance and adds a good deal of warmth to the macabre goings-on. My only complaint is that Hermione’s dancing eyebrows – much controlled in the previous film – are now wildly river dancing in every scene and are very, very distracting! Other than that her performance as Hermione is superlative and the slow burning attraction between her and Ron is just charming.
Ron for me is the real star: though Daniel’s Harry has now beefed up both physically as well as emotionally and has developed a very real, very strong screen presence, Ron’s comic timing is absolutely flawless and his delivery so natural that you are utterly convinced by him. He does however look like he’s just stepped out of the 1960’s music scene. I could easily see him in the Rolling Stones or The Small Faces. Lazy Sunday afternoon’s anyone?
It was also good to see Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Richard Griffiths, Gary Oldman and Ralph Fiennes reprising their roles although a fair few of them are looking decidedly creakier than in previous outings. I just hope the older ones are still alive when they to get to the seventh and final film. They’re totally free to cark it after that point obviously. Richard Griffiths as always looked particularly grotesque as Harry’s guardian, Vernon Dursley, but Karen and I were alarmed at how ill he looked. I suspect it was not all make-up and gloy which is rather worrying. Gary Oldman is superb as Sirius Black and there’s a very real warmth between him and Daniel’s Harry that benefits the film immensely.
Some of the new characters are notably excellent too – Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood was fantastic and, as expected, Imelda Staunton was untouchable as the torturing Dolores Umbridge. She was like an unhinged version of Her Maj The Queen.
My favourite though is still John Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy. His tightly controlled cruelty and superiority is always delicious to watch. His sneers drip acid and his voice is like a serrated knife coated in honey.
I could go on for hours but I will spare you all that. Suffice to say the film is excellent. Unlike The Goblet Of Fire though there’s not such a sense of crescendo towards the end. Instead the pace and tension are wound tighter and tighter as the film proceeds to its conclusion and there is no true sense of release. It feels like it’s part one of a two-part story almost. There’s unfinished business. Threats are left hanging. Promises are left to keep. None of this is a criticism. Real life isn’t about tidy, happy endings and I like the fact that the Harry Potter story doesn’t always take the safe kiddie option of nice, neatly packaged conclusions where all the loose ends are tied up. This is a dangerously adult world; not a kid’s world and there is a surprising amount of gravitas and food for thought in that one, single realization.
The Order Of The Phoenix is immensely satisfying and leaves you thirsting for more. That should be a thumbs up in anybody’s book. Roll on number 6 I say.