First Review of Order of the Phoenix, from Chicago Screening

Mar 04, 2007

Posted by: Melissa Anelli


We have for you the first complete review and set of details from an early screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that took place in Chicago. (There is also a review at Ain’t It Cool News here.) A review is below, followed by a VERY long and VERY detailed set of answers to questions that our reviewer has been giving in the comments. They are very spoiler-heavy.
Another reader noted that the movie looked like it had about 70 percent of special effects finished, and called it by far her favorite HP film. Reader Carlos’s review is below, and he’s been answering questions in the comments (and we’ll keep adding his answers to this massive list of details). He gives the movie 3.5 stars and notes it’s currently about 2:30; highlights, he says, include Evanna Lynch’s turn as Luna and Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix. (If you went to the screening and want to share, email us!)

Please be reminded that SPOILERS abound in this description (not too many, actually, but we warn you just in case)…if you don’t mind that, continue reading… (and if you’re on the text only site, better close the window now).

“Yesterday, Christmas came very late, as I was fortunate enough to attend an advance screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

As I duck the volley of butterbeers thrown my way, I have to say I was rather impressed. The version I saw was not a finished product in that some of the soundtrack and CGI hadn’t been completed in time for the screening, but what you do get is a version of the movie that’s about 85% complete. The dialog and final edits seem to be complete so you get a film that was easy to follow. The CGI that wasn’t complete usually centered on creatures that were rendered as either animatics or rough versions of the finished product.

The movie opens with the audience being introduced to some of the Order of the Phoenix, including Tonks, who’s being played by Natalia Tena, as they whisk Harry away to Grimmauld Place. All of the returning players did an excellent job with the script and have seemed to really settle into their characters. Their on-screen ease translates into a much more digestible storyline. And for the new cast members, among them, the ineffably delightful Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge made the experience all the more delightful. Newcomer Evanna Lynch had a great turn as the eccentric Luna Lovegood. Her scenes with Harry had the audience chuckling. The biggest laugh of the film was also tied to Harry; however, it’s what preceded this laugh that will have some of Daniel’s fans swooning.

We see Harry’s first kiss. In the room of requirement, after most of the members of Dumbledore’s Army leave, he’s left alone with Cho and she tells him how difficult it’s been for her after Cedric died. They just sort of get closer and finish in a long kiss which he later relates, in comic detail, to Hermione and Ron in the common room.

It’s clear throughout the movie that Harry is maturing and finding his place in this world where Voldemort has not only returned but has strengthened his numbers.

Maturity is a recurring theme for some of the other characters as well and everyone is beginning to take responsibility for their actions.

One more standout performance, that would be tragic if I didn’t mention it, has to be Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange. She is one of the three actresses who floated around in my head when I read the book. Her performance was over the top, but I quite expected it from her character.

All in all, the movie is a quick paced fun ride which is sure to wow audiences with the sharp visual effects and provide staunch literalists with a balanced story line. Director David Yates, who has mostly worked in television, has helmed a great movie. Condensing a book of near 900 pages into a film of tolerable length would be a challenge for any director, let alone one who’s new to feature films.

Yes, there are deep cuts, but the heart of the story is faithfully represented. Hopefully, the built in fan base, who can be rabid and quite militant at times, will appreciate this movie and for new fans (obviously living under a rock for the last decade) of the series it will serve as an explosive introduction. I will be in line to see the finished product many, many, times.

RATING ***1/2
Runtime is approximately 140 minutes or 2:20.”

The following is a summation of the answers to the questions that have been posted in the comments. Please remember that the film is not finished, so some of this may not be accurate by the time the film comes out. MAJOR SPOILERS are in this very large list.

– The Dementors are more skeletal than in PoA
– Dudley’s gang (“which are quite hilarious when you come from the West side of Chicago”) confronts Harry on the playground. The grass is dry (as there’s a drought in the books). The Dursleys are in the film for 10-15 mins, then Moody etc come to take Harry to Grimmauld.
– Harry does have his “shouting and throwing” scene in Dumbledore’s office. “It’s a powerful scene and Dan’s acting (as have most of the younger regular cast) has vastly improved. It isn’t as heartbreaking as you may think. The book causes you to empathise with Harry, but Daniel can only do so much.
– Occlumency is done using quick editing and flashback, with quick but not lumpy or saturated looks.
– Ron and Hermione are being held by DeathEaters during the DD/Vold/Harry fight.
– The twins do bust out of Hogwarts like in the book, but they don’t cast the swamp spell. “It is one of the more memorable scenes in the movie. Incredible effects.”
– Very little foreshadowing between Harry and Ginny – they share a look that book fans will recognize and appreciate.
– Carlos says the film will be “less disappointing to fans” than others.
– The Ministry is portrayed as totalitarian, with the Minister as a bit of a dictator and Umbridge as his right hand.
– Dumbledore’s escape was spectacular.
– Harry writes “I must not tell lies” on his hand, and it’s a “brutal” scene. The entire DA is subjected to this later in the movie, except Cho.
– Imelda is “just the right amount of cruel.”
– Grawp has a role in saving the kids from Umbridge. His screen time is minimal.
– The Black family tapestry is “lush and detailed” as Sirius explains it to Harry.
– Ron is minor in the movie.
– The film centers on Harry and the DA on the whole.
– The Seamus and Harry fight is in the film, but not very big – just more of an arugment. Ron comes to Harry’s aid and all is forgotten.
– Ron and Hermione: subtle and constant tension, a little foreshadowing in looks and actions.
– There aren’t any “invented” scenes; it’s all from the book.
– The movie moves quickly, but the scenes last as long as they are relevant.
– Harry produces his patronus to knock the dementors out at the beginning, leading to his trial at the Ministry.
– Dumbledore was “calm and inventive” during the Voldy battle, which was “great”; no curse whirled Herimone’s way.
– Natalia Tena as Tonks was “great and funny,” and there was no real Tonks/Lupin interaction.
– Harry’s kiss isn’t actually funny; it’s the description later that is.
– On the cinematogrpaphy: “This film feels, cinematically, like a film from the 50’s filmed in Cinema-Scope. A wide aspect ratio with tons of shots that have a lot of movement in them. The kind of thing that will be killed in P/S format on television. The scenes with the DA are all wide with few closeups so we can see everyone practicing. The walls are mirrored so it gives you the sense of a dance studio/martial arts training center. It makes for a great visual. Versus the other films, it’s more like the first one. I don’t know if Yates’ stamp will be apparent, as I understood this is his first feature.”
– Ron, Hermione, Luna and Neville are held by Death Eaters during the last battle.
– The death is well acted and well shot
– There is no St. Mungo’s
– Sirius has a lot more screen time.
– The DA lessons “begin awkwardly,” and are among the most memorable. One particular duel is going to “blow up the forums” (relating to shipping – as Emma Watson has said in the past that at one point she pins Ron against a wall, this is probably that duel).
– Mr. Weasley’s attack is in the film.
– Bellatrix is “mean, no doubt, and lets Neville know he’s #1 on her list.” She doesn’t interact with Harry much.
– No Quidditch, and no kiss from Hermione to Ron.
– Ron and Hermione have roughly the same amount of screen time.
– The “I disagree with Dumbledore on many counts…” line is in the film and is a great crowd pleaser.
– The Weasley antics are huge and bright, just like in the book
– The twins do sell their wares in the film.
– No Quibbler article, but Luna is reading it in the carriage pulled by the Thestral.
– On Emma: “Emma is a consumate professional which is to say that she’s picking up all the good acting habits from the fabulous talent and hundreds of years of combined experience from the actors on set. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Emma break out and become a real movie star in the future. She’s got the chops and you don’t just develop that over time. Don’t be surprised to see her at the Academy Awards some day. When she’s done with the potter series, you’ll be amazed at what she is capable of. I really mean this.”
– Moody’s broom is supposed to be fun/funny
– The Room of Requirement is discovered by Neville and explained by Hermione. No boggart. Ron never makes the film!Ron scared-face.
– Aunt Petunia’s Howler is not in the film.
– Ron is more confident than in the past.
– Cho is the snitch, but she was Vertiaserumed into it. Though Harry gives her a very cold look.
– The DD/V fight “rocks the house”
– The possession of Harry by Voldemort is in the film and supposedly very well acted.
– Lily does not stick up for Snape in the Worst Memory part.
– Hagrid speaks only a little bit about where he’s been, and his brother.
– The film reflects on Harry’s growing independence from the adults in his life.
– Harry acts as a leader, with Ron and Hermione more like sidekicks than in other films.
– Sirius seems to be the only person Harry won’t contradict.
– The “Snape’s Worst Memory” scene is “much easier to bear” than in the books; it’s not as humiliating in the film. It’s 3 or 4 minutes long. No underpants, just hanging in the tree.
– No lion hat on Luna.
– Kreacher is featured and is a big jerk (lol). He’s a sinister Dobby.
– Draco isn’t in the film much, though he does well when he’s there.
– Harry and Hermione go with Umbridge to the forest, as in the book.
– The jokeshop isn’t explained; it’s not necessary to do so.
– Prefects are not appointed as in the book; the appointments are not mentioned.
– Draco is Umbridge’s lackey in the Inquisitorial Squad.
– “The Weasleys are the script’s whipping posts.”
– Hermione instead of Ginny introduces Luna. Ginny has very few lines, but does cast some spells, and is shown to be powerful.
– It’s a “Krum-free zone”
– Hermione doesn’t challenge Umbridge in the same way as the book, but does challenge her.
– Ron and Hermione prompt Harry to start the DA.
– Aberforth is in the film for a quick second as is one of his goats.
– Flitwick is still the “new” Flitwick from movie four.
– There are very few teachers shown, besides McGonagall, Umbridge and Trelawney
– Cho does not get “sneak” on her face.
– Gary Oldman’s performance is subdued, as in PoA.
– No Phineas (though his line is in the Dumbledore escape scene)
– Ginny’s patronus seems to be a phoenix; Luna’s is a hare. (NOTE: The film people would never make this up; there’s a 99% chance this is canon approved by Jo.)
– No Mundungus
– Black family tapestry is enormous
– Remus still has the moustache
– No “lucky you” from Ginny, no chocolate in the library scene
– Dumbledore says “I wonder how you’ll catch me” to the Ministry official, then grabs Fawkes and disappears.
– The ending is not cheery.
– Kreacher is in two scenes
– Harry gets angry at Dumbledore for him not looking his way, and it elicits a surprised response from Dumbledore
– Dumbledore insists on Occlumency right away.
– Molly is very cheerry
– Percy is in the film, but his fights with his family aren’t highlighted
– Harry ignores Cho for the whole film after she is the sneak; the whole DA gets detention.
– The focus in the Marauders scene is on James and Snape.
– The worst memory scene is NOT a Pensive scene; it’s Harry practicing Occlumency and getting into Snape’s mind. Snape stops the lessons because of things.
– DD does call Voldemort Tom, which angers him.
– The statues don’t protect Harry, he is just pinned to the wall.
– Voldemort smashes glass to throw at DD and Harry, which DD blocks.
– DD helps Harry being possessed by reminding him of the differences between him and Voldemort.
– No brain room or locked room, but the Prophecy Room and Veil Room are there; in the veil room, Harry, Luna, Neville (and perhaps Ginny) are drawn to it, and Ron and Hermione aren’t.
– Harry does attempt Cruciatus and fails. Voldemort tells him how he has to mean it.
– Professor Grubby Planks has a cameo in the film, at the beginning feast.
– The Christmas at Grimmauld is there but brief.
– The last line is about having “something worth fighting for,” with the sextet going home for the summer.
– Right now the running time stands at two hours, thirty minutes.

Update #2: Containing details up until Carlos ceased answering. 🙂 Thanks very much, Carlos, we appreciate it all.
– There isn’t an obviously positioned locket in the film; the dialog makes no mention of one either.
– Voldemort is in the movie toward the end, though Harry has a vision of him as he’s about to board the train to Hogwarts (he sees him in a very sharp suit). The dreams show the camera moving throughout the corridors and in the Prophecy Room.
– Mrs. Figg is present both post-attack and during the trial.
– Mrs. Weasley’s boggart is not in the film.
– Harry dreams of the Dept. of Mysteries and does see Mr. Weasley attacked.
– The Harry-and-Luna scene at the end of the movie is different from the one in the book. She does not tell them about her mother, or about the voices beyond the veil. She is posting up things about getting her stuff back.
– Dumbleedore does not cry at the end, but he does look misty. He tells Harry that the reason he didn’t tell him was that he feared it would tempt Voldemort too much and he didn’t want to put him in that predicament.
– Of the Death Eaters, only Bellatrix and Lucius have speaking roles
– The dream with Rookwood and Voldemort is not in the film.
– We do not see the Death Eaters arrested after the Ministry battle.
– Dawlish has only a small, non-speaking part (sorry, John)
– The Azkaban breakout is in the film; it features a good chunk of the prison blown out, with Bellatrix looking out from her cell to the open sky.
– The film does not contain obvious hints about Snape being a spy for the order.
– The veil is “creepy.” The gang “just looks at it like, ‘what is it?'” and Harry looks at it different from everyone else. Luna doesn’t comment on the voices.
– The prophecy breaks with others in the room, but it appears only Harry hears it.
– This cut didn’t feature McGonagall attacked, but it might be in the finished version
– Filch puts up every one of Umbrdige’s decrees by getting taller and taller ladders on which to do it.
– McGonagall and Umbridge have a few powerful exchanges.
– Ron “is awake and looks at Harry with empathy” after one of his nightmares.
– Hermione comments about Cho not being emotionally ready for a relationship in “one succinct line.”
– Umbridge makes a tongue-in-cheek comment to Snape about how many times he’s tried to be the DADA teacher.
– Hermione does make up the “great weapon of Dumbledore’s story” but does not pull Harry out of the fire as she does in the book. It’s “made clear that it was a mistake” to go into the forest.
– Umbridge interrupts DD at the opening feast, steps up to the podium and addresses the student body. There’s forced applause.
– The centaurs do carry Umbridge off.
– Most of the exploration of Neville’s emotions over his parents was not in this cut.
– James, in the flashback, has ruddy/sandy blonde/brownish hair. Not dark like Harry.
– Harry and Cho are alone in the kiss scene, though Ron and Hermione are last to leave.
– The fountain wasn’t fully CGI’d in this cut.
– The house-elf heads are in the Room of Requirement, and the ROR does demonstrate its ability to provide whatever you need.
– OWLS happen in a limited fashion; we don’t see people taking the exams, just Umbridge talking about them.
– Harry does not receive the mirror from Sirius.
– No ghosts (so Harry does not ask Nick about becoming one)
– Harry does pass a coded message to Snape about his Umbridge situation
– There is no puking in the movie.
– Dumbledore seems to be more like he is in the books (says Carlos)
– In the common room, the kids listened to contemporary Muggle music (though this may be changed for the soundtrack)
– No lovey-dovey Harry/Cho ship stuff, no swearing.

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.