I think Order of the Phoenix might be my favourite Harry Potter book. I’ve only read Deathly Hallows and Half-Blood Prince once and twice respectively though, so there might be bits I’ve forgotten in there which will sway my judgement over the next couple of days. At the moment though, Order of the Phoenix is my favourite. I know a lot of people don’t like it so much because they think it’s overly long and angsty, but it’s so crammed full of action that it can easily sustain my interest for 766 pages. I was reading it with a certain amount of apprehension though as it makes me sob like a baby, but perhaps that’s another reason why I like it, in a strange and slightly twisted way.
The Order of the Phoenix is a top secret organisation of witches and wizards who are uniting against Voldemort and trying to stop him from regaining his full power. They’re trying to gather information, protect Harry, and make the world aware that Voldemort has returned, all the while struggling against the Ministry of Magic who are trying to convince the world that there’s nothing to worry about, and subsequently that Harry and Dumbledore are mad attention-seekers.
Like I said, it’s quite an angsty book. Harry spends a lot of time moping about Cedric and feeling sorry for himself, then he goes and gets his beloved godfather killed (yes Harry, it is your fault, and no I won’t forgive it), and then spends the rest of the book moping about Sirius, and feeling sorry for himself for having lost the closest thing he’s got to a legitimate family member (or at least one who actually likes him). Yes Sirius was sulky and proud and resentful of the small role he was given in the Order, but then you would be if you’d spent twelve years of your life in prison for a crime you didn’t commit, all the while grieving for the person you loved as a brother, being held responsible for his death (and probably blaming yourself for his death too), and then spending two years on the run being unable to clear your name before being locked up inside the house where you were miserable, being surrounded by reminders of the family you hated (and who hated you). The poor man had hardly had the best life, it sounds like he was probably only happy at Hogwarts. His whole life was so sad really, and I was quite heartbroken when he died. I probably sobbed my way through the last 100 or so pages, knowing what was going to happen. The real tragedy was when Harry eventually found his half of the two-way mirror though, knowing he could have spoken to Sirius without ever having to go to the Department of Mysteries. I’m absolutely furious at the way Sirius’ death was portrayed in the film though, and especially that he called Harry James before he died. It was quite a disappointing death. I didn’t cry at all, a fact which made me quite sad in itself and was quite a surprise considering I’d sobbed for ages at the book, and was very overtired after reading the book for thirteen hours and the fact that I was subsequently watching the film at 2am. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Gary Oldman’s not Sirius!
Again, there are new characters and creatures to sink the teeth into. Thestrals, strange, flying horse-like creatures which are invisible unless you’ve seen death, gave Harry more reason to mope about the horrors he’d seen, while also providing him with an opportunity to bond with ‘Loony’ Luna Lovegood. She’s had quite a sad life herself and is subjected to bullying and mockery at school, but she’s still friendly and full of hope. Occasionally she’s even the voice of logic, which takes everyone by surprise. Then there’s Dolores Umbridge, the woman I love to hate. It’s great reading about a truly vile character, she must have been so fun to write. She comes across as all sweetness and light, but really she’s full of venom and bile, and completely power-crazed. She sees no problems with breaking the law and inflicting physical harm on her students to achieve her ambitions, in fact she seems to think she’s above the law completely (which is ever changing to give her more power and authority at Hogwarts anyway). She’s truly malicious, and actually seems quite unhinged in the film (although clearly not as unhinged as Bellatrix Lestrange, who was superbly played by Helena Bonham Carter).
If there’s one thing I wasn’t expecting though, it was to end up loving McGonagall quite as much as I did. I’ve always liked her. She might be strict, but she’s fair and very kind in her own way. She’s not the sort of woman you’d want to cross though, and against Umbridge she was a force of nature. I was rooting for her so much, her arguments with Umbridge were so fiery and brilliant, and her put-downs delightfully scathing. I particularly enjoyed Harry’s careers’ advice meeting, I was nearly whooping and cheering for her out loud! It was a bit disappointing that McGonagall didn’t feature in the film much but, considering the longest book was condensed into the shortest film, it was clear there was an awful lot which had to be cut.
Once again, quidditch fell foul of the condensed plot. Not only does this mean we don’t get to see Ron make it onto (and nearly off of) the Gryffindor team, but we also miss out on one of Umbridge’s more vindictive punishments of a lifelong quidditch ban for Harry and the Weasley twins (played by the Phelps brothers, who I’m gradually warming to now that they’ve had a bit of a haircut). There was no mention of Harry clearing his name using Rita Skeeter and the Quibbler, and a few relationships had to be drastically simplified as well. There wasn’t the slightest hint of any kind of fight between Percy and the Weasleys (even though he’s shown supporting the Ministry), and Cho was made out to be the traitor who told Umbridge of the DA. It seems that was easier than trying to portray the fact that Harry and Cho weren’t so well suited after all, that Cedric’s death was too big an obstacle for both of them, and that frankly there’s too much else going on in the world for Harry to be agonising over who he fancies.
Considering the amount that was cut out or simplified, I was surprised that Grawp even made it into the film. To be honest, I’d completely forgotten about Grawp until I’d reached his chapter in the book. I suppose keeping him in the film was necessary to explain how Umbridge was got rid of, although I wasn’t too impressed with the effects used to make him.
It’s quite a mopey film really. I know the book’s mopey too, but in a way that involves an awful lot of shouting (from a lot of people, but mostly Harry), whereas in the film the mopiness is confined to an awful lot of looking pained and terrible attempts to cry. I think I’d have preferred the shouting. It was really quite disappointing, especially after Sirius died. I wanted Harry to smash up Dumbledore’s office and show some forceful emotion, instead of just going quiet and teary. It was nowhere near as effective as the book. If anything, it’s Harry’s fury that makes it all the more heart-wrenching for me, because he absolutely WILL NOT accept that his godfather’s dead, and he WILL make someone pay! Merely looking a bit sad is too accepting and altogether too easy.
I think the main reason why I was disappointed with this film is because it didn’t make me feel emotionally involved in the slightest, whereas the book left me an absolute wreck (but then Sirius was my favourite character). I’d previously only seen this film and the later ones once so I can’t remember them too clearly, but I’m sure it’ll be the same kind of situation with the next film adaptations. I’m actually feeling really apprehensive about the end of this week now, as I know it’s bound to bring about an awful lot more crying (from the books at least).
See also Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, or The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.