Good morning readers and Happy Friday!! I know my Harry Potter Week took a bit of a detour a few days ago, but family coming into town for Thanksgiving will do that to you! I’m still determined to finish out the week though, so I’m planning on doubling or tripling up on posts, depending on what all I can accomplish today. For now, I’m getting back on track with my revisit of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
This book in particular has always been my mother’s favorite, and she’s especially enamored with the fight at the Ministry of Magic. She, like me, remembers reading the novel until the wee hours of the morning and realizing that she had been holding her breath the whole time. J.K. Rowling definitely knows how to capture one’s imagination and make you feel like you’re taking part in the action itself. But it is this exact skill that could be behind my various critiques of the previous movies in the series, which essentially boil down to “it wasn’t like this in the book.”
As I have said in those reviews, I am fully aware that the content of a novel has to be trimmed when it is being turned into a movie and that films always include the disclaimer that they are “based on” the book, as opposed to exact representations. Yet I can’t help noticing all of the various changes that have occurred from one to the other.
Mostly I think this is a result of how I’ve structured my revisit, which has consisted of reading a book and then watching the companion film. I’m sure that if I had read all of the books and then watched all of the films, I would have a different take on things. But it’s a little too late for that now!
Of course, as I looked through news articles about the release of the movie version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I discovered that I’m not alone in making these critiques and that there is a relatively strong divide between fans that wish the later films were a little more faithful to the text and those who think the films are fine since they stick to the spirit of Rowling’s words.
Regardless of where you fall along this spectrum, Order of the Phoenix does seem to be one of the least popular of the Harry Potter movies. Though all of them are considered critical and financial successes, Order of the Phoenix currently has a 78 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which means that it is certified fresh, but nearly all of the other films are rated 80 percent or higher. The only exception is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, also rated 78 percent. On top of that, Order of the Phoenix is only one of two Harry Potter movies to receive an A- score from Cinemascore; the other is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
I know, I know, other films would kill for scores like these, but there is no denying that Order of the Phoenix seems to be a bit of a departure from the previous entries in the series. Perhaps this is because of the tone, for it is decidedly darker than the others (I mean, just look at that cover art) and represents the first time a major character is killed off. Suddenly we know that, with the exception of the three main characters – Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger – no one is really safe.
On top of that, Order of the Phoenix is the only film that wasn’t written by Steve Cloves. Instead, Michael Goldberg is credited as the screenwriter. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to dismiss Goldberg’s skill as a writer and it does seem like he was in the same amount of contact with Rowling as Clovis. But he still has his own style and take on the story, which helps explain some of the shift.
Admittedly, Goldberg had a tough challenge since Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series, coming in at a whopping 870 pages in American editions (this is nearly 100 pages longer than the British version, which is 766 pages). On top of that, Rowling hadn’t finished the series yet, so what I can see as critical foreshadowing now would have been less readily apparent to the filmmakers then. Still, despite being the longest book, Order of the Phoenix is the second shortest film in the series and I can’t help feeling like that hurts its overall success.