I want to comment on HP in general, but I need to be careful not to offend any of you HP-lovers out there.
I haven’t read any of the books, so what I’m commenting on are the stories and characters as they are presented in the movies. I hate to mention the obvious, but it does seem like the books vs. movies is setting up a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t paradigm. If you’ve read the books, the movies will seem too short, with not enough detail, and won’t match your imagination of the settings and characters. If you haven’t read the books, the movies will be incomprehensible.
We watched all the previous movies this weekend, with the exception of the first one, The Sorceror’s Stone, which I have seen (mostly) before. Of the four, I think I liked #3, the Prisoner of Azkaban, the best, because it has the most complete story (about Sirius Black), and it has the best example of “black” humor in the series. It might have been directed by Tim Burton.#4, the Goblet of Fire, has a distinctive and useful structure that the others lack, because of the competition and its three tasks — the movie is clearly divided into 4 parts, which helps it immensely.
After viewing these DVDs, we went to the Order of Phoenix movie on Sunday morning.This was not the worst movie I’ve ever seen (I’ve seen some pretty bad ones), but it was close to the worst of the 4 Harry Potter movies of the weekend. It did have one redeeming value, the performance of Imelda Staunton as Professor Umbrage, the teacher from hell, someone with which I have had some personal experience.
Otherwise, the movie was perfectly and completely incoherent to me — I didn’t have a clue what anybody was talking about, references to “prophecies” etc. that were meaningless to me. Also, the stories from the movies are clearly emulating Lord of the Rings. The Dark Lord amassing an army, not just of evil wizards and sorcerors but bad creatures of all kinds? Um, this story has been told before.
One thing I really don’t like about the stories (as presented in the movies) is that Harry seems passive to his fate. Magic is used to cover up banalities in the plot. Even though Harry seeks to solve mysteries (particularly the death of his parents), he is never really imperiled, but always rescued by some use of magic. Hence, the magic “car” rescues him in one scene. He’s rescued by his future self in another scene. Harry is never allowed to use ingenuity or creativity to get out of scrapes. This is the opposite of heroes from the pulp stuff I read as a kid, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, who put themselves in danger again and again only to figure out how to escape. One admired their ingenuity.
As others have noted, this last installment of the Potter series (the movies) barely mentions Hermione and Ron at all, and yet the wrap-up is “evil doesn’t know friendship or love.” Well, the movie doesn’t show us much of that, either. And by the way, what exactly was The Order of the Phoenix?