A. Quibblers 's Review
I knew I was going to enjoy my first viewing of the recent OOTP release. After all, like just about any HP fan, I knew there'd be lots I would like (new faces, new locations, favorite scenes). Even if a scene I was looking forward to had to be cut, or if one that was included didn't quite hit the mark, I could still look forward to what was coming next and hope that the final scenes would compensate for earlier sacrifices. However, when the dust had finally settled on the floor at the Ministry of Magic, I was left with the feeling that too many opportunities had been missed, and the movie was ultimately unsatisfying as a result.
The Room of Requirement, far from being a magical room fully equipped with defensive textbooks and devices, appeared to be little more than a big, drab, empty room. There weren't even any pillows around for cushioning the fall of those who'd been stunned. The sparse furnishings consisted of a few mirrors. The only magic in evidence was the door to the room, and for the minor nuisance it turned out to be for Umbridge, they could just as easily have used a normal classroom and simply cast a Colloportus spell on the door. This set could have been dressed up significantly better, and it wouldn't have taken any additional screen time.
For the most part I liked how the thestrals were treated, but I thought it was unfortunate that they glossed over the fact that most of the students riding them to the Ministry couldn't see the beasts they were riding on. In overlooking this detail, they not only missed an opportunity for some comic relief and interesting visual effects, they made it appear the thestrals were visible to all of the students. Was this apparent contradiction not confusing to anyone paying attention?
As much as I dislike Umbridge and like Hagrid, I thought they missed another excellent opportunity when they decided to exclude the scene where Umbridge evaluates Hagrid. In the book this scene provided one of the strongest examples of Umbridge going out of her way to be nasty and manipulative, and Hermione's angry reaction would have helped focus the audience's feelings about Umbridge.
St. Mungo's does not appear in this film. While I appreciate that the events that occur at St. Mungo's are not of crucial importance to the story (or can just as easily be slipped in elsewhere), there are so few opportunities to see the wizarding world outside the isolated confines of Hogwarts that it was a shame to skip this. Once again, some wonderfully gruesome special effects and comedic opportunities were missed.
Another defining moment in the book came when Harry finally went public with his story by allowing Rita Skeeter to interview him. More even than the DA, this act of defiance by Harry was a direct contradiction of everything the ministry had been saying, and it marked a turning point for Harry as some people finally started believing in his version of events. The movie skips this significant plot development entirely.
The movie shifts the blame for the exposure of the DA to Cho Chang (albeit under the unwilling influence of Veritaserum). This bothered me, but not as much as I was bothered by Harry's reaction. He is shown walking angrily past her without giving her even the opportunity to speak, showing that he is apparently no better than the Ministrybelieving what he wants about someone without listening to their side. Although he later learns of the Veritaserum, he still comes off looking like a jerk.
I was disappointed by the portrayal of the Death Eaters at the Ministry of Magic. In particular, I thought that there was too much use of black smoke trails, and not enough wand-to-wand combat.
It bothered me a lot that the DA members were summarily defeated by the Death Eaters. With all other DA members captured and held at wand point, Harry gives up and hands the prophecy to Lucius. If not for the intervention of the grown-ups of the Order, it is clear in the movie that the efforts of the children of the DA were a complete failure.
So far this review has focused on the negative, but clearly there was much in the movie that was very good. In particular, I was very impressed with the new additions to the cast.
I had read in another article somewhere that the portrayal of Umbridge was not very faithful to the book, but I was glad to see that she was in fact very close to how I'd imagined her (both in appearance and behavior). From her first Hem Hem' to her last harried moments at the school, I loved (therefore hated) everything about her.
I was also very happy with the portrayal of Luna Lovegood. I enjoyed every scene she was in, and look forward to seeing more of her in future HP movies.
Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) got to develop his character a bit more in this film, and showed why Harry quickly came to love and respect him. Too bad he had to make an early curtain call.
The rest of the cast were as usual all very good as well (including some excellent scenes by Emma Thompson as Prefessor Trelawney). Finally, I appreciated their attempts at continuity, and the fact that this was clearly the same Hogwarts as in previous installments. For example, the shot as they approach Hagrid's hut is clearly recognizable from PoA. Similarly, the shot of the front-hall door mechanism, and various clips from the various flashbacks, helped tie this movie to the others by reinforcing familiar locations.
On the whole, I thought they produced an entertaining movie, but one which ultimately failed to convey the emotional impact of the book on which it was based. Given all that they had to work with (the story, the cast, the budget), I thought they could have done much more.