Monday, December 17, 2007

Why, David Yates? Why?

(Warning: Serious whining ahead. Also, spoilers for folks who haven’t read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix or seen the movie.)

You know that feeling you get when Christmas morning comes and you look under the tree and the cat has vomited on the new cashmere sweater you’d been wanting for months? Yeah, that’s kind of the feeling I got after watching "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

I never got a chance to see this latest Harry Potter installment in the theaters, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release on DVD. Order of the Phoenix is hands-down my favorite of the Potter books. It had heart and depth and angst and a generous helping of Sirius, which makes me happy indeed. In fact, this was the only one of the books to actually make me cry – I got quite weepy and perhaps inappropriately angry at Sirius’ demise. (I just kept thinking, “But...but...that means no more Gary Oldman.”)

So you can imagine how excited I was to find how this installment had turned out on the big screen. Which leads me to one simple question: David Yates, what the hell did you do to my book? And yes, I’m choosing to blame him rather than screenwriter Michael Goldberg although I’d probably give Goldberg a glare or two as well if we met on the street. The thing is, I understand having to cut giant chunks out of an 850+ page book in order to fit it into a 2 1/2 hour movie. That’s fine. But good God, throw in a transitional scene every now and then. Without transitional scenes, there’s no opportunity to create an emotional build-up. You know, something that would actually make the end battle between Dumbledore, Voldemort and Harry matter.

A few expositional scenes would have been nice, too. As a viewer, I was too busy wondering what the hell was going on – and I’d read the damn book! -- to get invested in the characters. And my poor husband, who hasn’t read Order yet, spent most of the movie asking me what just happened – he didn’t even realize Sirius died. He just thought he got sucked into the mirror thingy (technical jargon) and disappeared. Now that’s bad – when you lose a main character, it’s supposed to mean something and, um, the audience is supposed to know it happened.

I’m completely willing to trade in all the arty camera angles and washed-out color palettes and set designs stolen from The Trial in exchange for some decent pacing, smooth transitions and quiet moments of character development. Is that too much to ask?

The thing that really blows here is that the last two movies before this one were so good. The whole series was really on a roll and now there’s this great big Phoenix-sized lump in the road and, well, it makes me sad. And to know that Yates is doing The Half-Blood Prince makes me even sadder. Like the cat just vomited on two sweaters.


Anonymous said...

I liked it.

/Lina Lamont

Dylan said...

Huh...the consensus amongst most folks seems to be that this one was a return to Azkaban-level decency, where Goblet was kind of a fallback to Chris Columbus standards.

Book 5 is just a monster, though, with loads of internal detail and no major external plot advancement until THE VERY END OF THE BOOK, which might make it the most difficult one to translate.

Liz said...

I looked at a lot of reviews out there, and it seems like a lot of folks really did like it. Maybe it's just that I'd been expecting so much, I set myself up for a disappointment.

And Dylan, I agree that the book is not very plot driven until the very end which, as you said, makes it probably the hardest to translate. I think all that internal details advanced the characters well and I guess I wish I'd seen a bit more of that manifested on screen. I felt like the character growth in Phoenix set the stage nicely for all that came next. I feel like it would have made for a richer experience to have had a bit more of that in there.

Oh well, I'll just have to go back and read the book again to get my fix. :-)

Anonymous said...

I really really hope David Yates and Goldberg do not screw up the 6th movie. I agree about not even noticing Sirus had died! If you didn't read the book you wouldn't have even had a clue that's what happened. And if you're going to transtition a really good book to a movie, which had no plot until the end anyway according to previous commenters, at least GET THE ENDING RIGHT! What happened to the rooms before the prophecy room? What happened to the statues fighting with Dumbledore against Voldemort?? I was so mad coming out of the theater I was almost in tears! I can only imagine the mess that the 6th movie will be. Please stay true to the books David Yates!!!!!!!! PLEASE!

Anonymous said...

They took out Weasley is our King, and that is UNFORGIVABLE.

dr.gambit said...

as a general rule, and speaking as the HP freak who reads your should be reading the books every few months just out of habit.
now, the film was okay, if you know the books by heart, you get it, and all is cool with the: "the only one he ever feared" battle, it was killer in 3-D.
yes, it is jumpy... nigel is weird...umbridge can't bombarda her way into the room of requirement, but it tries to show as much as it can.
they built sirius and harry well (winking/hugging), and bellatrix said she killed sirius (fault your boy for missing that one there).
mrs figg was horrible...she needed help.
snape was cool as ever...but they botched the "worst memory scene"...where is lily?!?!?!?
thestrals were cool, luna was perfect...and the soundtrack is superb.
dylan is right, there is a lot of detail, but it hit most points, the glaring mistakes [lily, and not enough kreacher] become clearer b/c of DH (yes, i am using HP shorthand).
i'll still read your blog, you are forgiven for your scathing review...
i'll put the 'robber' on your '6' when we next meet....

Jadielady said...

I probably would have liked it, though we saw it in imax and I spent most of my time trying to keep my breakfast down.
I too didn't realize Sirius had died (I haven't read the books either bad nerd!)

Shan said...

I'm torn. I thought the movie was well done and stood on its own pretty damned well (though you're right on about non-book readers not understanding what the hell happened to Sirius). However, compared to the book, it seems that too many characters (Luna, Tonks, Snape, Sirius, Bellatrix, etc.) were put to the background -- mainly to make sure Umbridge got enough screen time and her machinations hit you over the head with a hammer. Staunton did a fantastic job with the character, but a little of that could have gone a long way.

And finally, I don't mind a long running time if I'm entertained. The first two movies dragged on too long, 3 was taut (and not long enough in my book) and given the source material, I probably would have sat there with my popcorn for 3 hours with Order.

Anonymous said...

My big complaint about the OOTP movie was the end, with Harry shouting that Voldemort will never know love. One of the stories running through the books is that Dumbledore keeps going "blah blah blah love" and Harry doesn't really understand it until the end. And a lot of the angst in book 5 comes from Harry not being in touch with his feelings. So Harry shouting at Voldemort about love rang false to me.

Shanna Swendson said...

I had rather the opposite reaction to both book and movie. OOTP is my least-favorite of the books. I found it oppressive to read. But the movie is so far my favorite of the films, even if it did leave out some of the things I actually liked about the book. Somehow, the visuals from the movie gave me a new mental image of the book, and re-reading the book after seeing the movie, I enjoyed it much more.

But I suppose it does depend on what your favorite aspects of the book were. I could see how a Sirius fan might feel cheated by the movie (then again, I'm a big Ron fan, and his best stuff was cut from the movie).

Steve B said...

In my defense regarding the death of Sirus, without reading the book it is highly probable that someone would not know he just died at that moment. Sure I figured it out once Harry started screaming but even so there was nothing to it. From my recollection it was , "hey there is Sirus, oh now a fight is starting and Boom, Sirus is jumping through some magical white blanket....WTF? Now Harry is crying, wait, was that it, did he die? Are you serious? Really, that was him dying? That was lame? What a stupid movie."

It had no flow. It reminded me of Casino Royale where things just happened but it all seemed detached from the previous scene. No build up, no emotion. I have seen the other one's 2 times or more and Goblet was the best in my opinion. And again, I have only read the first two books and am halfway through Az.

Either way, it was a very blah 2.5 hours that I will never ever get back. I would have rather spent that time cleaning the house and that should tell ya something. Maybe after I read the book then it will be better since I will have the full back story needed to understand why Dumbledore is acting the way he is and such. Till then I will stay away.

Jen said...

I felt they didn't give enough attention to some pretty important plot points which will develop throughout the following two books.

They painted themselves into a corner by not focusing on some of them - e.g., - Sirius leaving Harry the house and what happens with that...

The next two movies are going to be met with cautious optimism.