I wish I'd have come up with Harry Potter. There
are loads of things I wish I'd thought up: Fabreeze, organized
religion, socks and cartwheels. Of course, there are many things
I did invent: the word "gnarly", prize dwarves, goats with human
lips, a device you attach to a car battery to kill vampires,
and gloves laced with thorns. There are other things I am still
working on: a car that runs on bread, lights with solar panels
that power themselves and goats with human lips and teeth.
The thing is, yes, my ideas are fucking brilliant,
but they haven't made me rich. All they've done is made me a
popular caller on the "Coast to Coast" wildcard line east of
the Rockies. I'm also on a first-name basis with the people
who advertise on television late at night and say they are looking
to help inventors. They're full of horseshit; they're looking
for suckers who will fork over great ideas like my goats, and
give them a pile of cash, too. Fuck that. Nobody should ever
have to pat to bring my great ideas into the world.
Anyway, I get the sense that Harry's creator,
J. K. Rowling, never had to spend her own money convincing people
that Harry Potter was a great idea. Don't get me wrong, I'm
not full of sour grapes, I just wish I thought it up, or that
kids bought as many goats as they did fantasy books.
As hard as it is for me to admit, though, and
as much as I am forced by district court to no longer say I
am, I am not J. K. Rowling. I did not write any Harry Potter
books, and as a result, I am required to stop trying to get
local liquor stores to give me free twelve-packs of Schlitz
under false pretenses. I am Matt, the Filthy Critic, and I write
novels about vampire robots that sit in my drawer, waiting for
my death before they are discovered and cherished. I'm guessing
the The Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer fan fiction will be
Rowling's squeezed seven books out of this Potter
kid, who apparently can do magic. I think more important to
the series' success, though, is that Rowling gave everyone funny
names. I sit around for hours trying to come up with clever
character names and end up with people named Taco John (I just
thought that one up one day while driving down the street) and
Wiener Face. Wiener Face is a good guy, in case you couldn't
tell. But Rowling seems to effortlessly think up names like
Sirius Black, Severus Snape, Dumbledore and Dolores Umbridge.
Second most important to her success is the world she created
for Potter. It is a complete and fully-imagined corner of our
world where magic is both everyday and remarkable. Somewhere
below those two, but above the stupid drawings on the books'
covers is that Rowling is a really good writer.
Rowling's fifth book is now the fifth movie,
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The first
movie was a pretty rote adaptation. The second one was fucking
painful and boring to watch. The third was pretty damn great
and the fourth was pretty damn ehh. This one falls just about
in the middle of the pack. It's okay, sort of boring, loaded
to the nuts with exposition and still slightly confusing to
anyone who hasn't read the books.
Daniel Radcliffe plays Potter, and like the
boy, he's an awkward, gangly teen. He has a limp romance with
Cho Chang (Katie Leung), and a sort of lame friendship with
two other wizards (Emma Watson and Rupert Grint). At the beginning
of the story, Radcliffe is having bad dreams and all sorts of
worries. I read somewhere that this is all supposed to be allegorical
for the pain of adolescence, but we never see the kid having
wet dreams or getting caught jerking off to ads for girdles
in the back of a Ladies Home Journal.
He is introduced to the Order of the Phoenix,
a secret society of wizards who believe him when he says that
Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes--remember, it's pronounced Ralf Fee-en-ess),
the Darth Vader of wizards, has returned. The official government
agency, the Ministry of Magic, doesn't believe him. So, the
Order is trying to fight Fiennes on their own. Apparently, the
dude want's a secret prophecy that only Radcliffe can get.
Meanwhile, to discourage people from panicking,
the Ministry is discouraging anyone from talking about the Dark
Lord. They install a new, humorless director and Radcliffe's
school, Hogswart. Imelda Staunton is the pain in the ass with
all the rules, and she makes life hard for the kids.
Of course, in the end, Radcliffe meets up with
Fiennes and there's another big-ass battle with lots of shit
breaking, flying and lighting up. Staunton gets her comeuppance,
too. That's expected, and perfectly fine. As are the moments
of magic, like a room that reveals itself only to people who
truly need it, or Staunton's collection of Franklin Mint plates
with cats on them that actually meow, the stairs that swing
to and fro as they are needed. But that's the standard stuff.
Where this movie drags is in the subplots that
make little or no sense in the context of the movie. Robbie
Coltrane as Hagrid, the half-giant groundskeeper, is missing
for the first half of the movie and briefly returns, but I don't
understood why he had to be gone. When he does return, he introduces
the kids to his full-giant half-brother, a fucking lame-looking
CGI thing whose purpose or point is also unclear. At one point,
Katie Leung is accused of ratting out the other kids to Staunton,
which makes the others hate her. She is later vindicated, but
just seems to disappear from the movie, so nobody ever even
gets to say sorry to her. There are other dropped stories like
these that stretch the movie out, add a lot of exposition, but
really just stand between the beginning and the end.
The result is that Harry Potter and the Order
of the Phoenix feels like it's trying to cram too many Cliff
Notes of the book in without knowing why. The bits it chooses
to film feel arbitrary. It also feels like a setup for the next
two movies. Actually, the book pretty much is that, but the
movie could be more interesting. Director David Yates could
have used a little more imagination of his own and relied less
This one ain't as dreadful as the second, but
it sure as hell doesn't match up to the third. It's just another
Harry Potter coasting on the charm of the source material.