Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of Staying Up Way Too Late and Still Getting Up for Work the Next Morning

A few thoughts came to mind as I sat in the theater waiting for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to start last week. First and foremost was,

“What, am I crazy? There is no frickin’ way I’m going to want to get up for work three hours after the movie!”

And second, of only slightly less impact,

“How weird is it to hear the opening strains of the Harry Potter music and not have Stacy’s fingernails digging into my leg?”

For you see, Stacy has this adorable habit of clutching my leg whenever she hears the Harry Potter music on TV or in the theater. The pressure exerted is proportional to how close the release of a new Potter movie is. I may just get a slight clutch at the first teaser trailers months in advance. By the time it is a week before the opening of the movie, I may have five small permanent indentations right above my knee. You can imagine what kind of pain opening night brings. Despite all that, my third thought was,

“I kinda miss it.”

Stacy and I had decided to wait until I got to Utah to go see Harry Potter together. I have no problem with that. Although I have enjoyed the Potter movies, I could stand to wait. However, Wednesday after I got home from work, a couple friends called and told me I was going to a movie with them. “Why not?” I thought, until they told me which movie and what time. A midnight showing would get me home around three or three thirty in the morning on a work night. I wasn’t thrilled about that, but further, the movie was reserved for Stacy and I this week and I told them so.

Of the two of them, only one was married. He just groaned in recognition of the marital edict. The other one, a perpetual bachelor, objected, “Oh, I guess we know who wears the pants in your family!” and other such clich├ęs. My married friend voiced his sympathies and understanding. Sometimes marriage is about understanding and respect. In this case, I understood Stacy’s manic love of the Harry Potter series and respected the amount of damage I would bring upon myself if I violated it.

Undeterred, the two friends rallied with the offer to convince Stacy to allow me to go. I laughed and told them to have at it. Rather than get off the phone, my married friend got his wife to call Stacy. Both of them are good friends of ours. I only caught snippets of the conversation in the background, but from the sounds of it, I was in trouble just for suggesting the idea. Stacy had already given up tickets to the midnight show and she was going to watch her nephews and niece while their parents went. I was told that Stacy would be calling me directly. My married friend expressed his condolences and I hung up, awaiting the call to death row.

What I didn’t mention during all of this is how understanding and sweet my wife is. I knew that if I had asked, she would let me go, maybe make me pay for it elsewhere, but let me go at the time. She called in a couple of minutes and told me to go out and have a good time, which isn’t nearly as entertaining to you my reader as me getting my head chewed off, but much less painful for me.

Still, I can’t help but think that I will be paying for this in no small way by the time I get out to Utah Thursday.

What about the movie, you ask? No, you don’t ask? Well why not? What do you expect from me? I can’t not review a movie I’ve gone and seen! You knew what this was when you came here. You knew what this was!

The fifth in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix found me with relatively low expectations. For some reason, I have not been as excited to see the movies ever since Sir Richard Harris passed away and the role of Dumbledore was given to Michael Gambon. For some reason I cannot separate Gambon from his role in the Robin Williams vehicle, Toys.
Despite this personal issue, the movie turned out to be very enjoyable, if compressed. I have read all the books, but it had been a while since Order of the Phoenix. I knew I was missing a bunch of scenes, but since I didn’t remember what I was missing, I was free to enjoy what was there.

As enjoyable as that was, this was still, as two friends of mine put it later that week, “just another Harry Potter movie.” That really sums it up. No one person’s performance was sub par, no technical issues marred the production, the scenes were lavishly produced with an obvious love of the subject matter, yet there was nothing remarkable about the movie. It was just another in a series. Perhaps I was hoping for more character development, or something above and beyond the story the books already told. I don’t know, but I just wasn’t “wowed”.

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson all played their parts respectably well, as did the supporting cast. I love to see Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman in anything. Severus Snape is a very complex character that Rickman pulls off with aplomb. Oldman’s Sirius is a tragic figure that he is well-suited to play. I wished for more Hagrid scenes, I think Robbie Coltrane steals every one he’s in. While Voldemort, played admirably by Ralph Fiennes, who I want to call Ralph no matter how often I hear his name pronounced “Rafe” (there’s a damn “L” in there, “Rafe”, say it right!) is ostensibly the villain of the movie, I think that role was filled by another character. From the first moment she was on the screen, I could not stand Dolores Umbridge, played by Imelda Staunton, who couldn’t have done a better job under threat of death (actually, she probably would have done a much worse job under those conditions, who needs that kind of pressure?) She earned my loathing much quicker than did Snape in the early movies. I was amazed at how evil she could act while believing for all the world she was in the right. Kudos to Staunton.

My final thought is that if you like Harry Potter, go see the movie. If you are a fan of fantasy, but not particularly attached to the Potter series, wait for Stardust to come out. That one is going to be good.

I give Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix two out of four busybody know-it-alls on a scale I just made up that means nothing.