Posted on Sunday, March 4th, 2007 by Peter Sciretta
Warner Bros held their first test screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in Chicago.
It appears that the film was about 85 percent completed (special effects-wise) and clocks in at two hours and twenty minutes (which is much shorter than expected considering the book is 870 pages in length).
The Reader submitted e-mail review follows after the jump. But here are the important spoiler free clips:
“…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.”
“Yes, there are deep cuts, but the heart of the story is faithfully represented.”
And here is the review:
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.
Update: Another slightly positive review appeared on AICN. Here is a clip below:
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The film was a success in many, in fact most, aspects.
The acting is getting better and better and there were a few parts where Daniel Radcliff actually showed range. There really is no weak acting in the film and the standouts are Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood, and of course Gary Oldman as Sirius Black. Imelda Staunton’s Umbridge is good but wholly annoying. The movie moves along at a good pace until about halfway through and then gets bogged down a bit for most of the rest of the film. It is not horribly slow but it does drag, with the current running time being approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes there is definitely some editing that could be done to make this problem disappear.
Now I am going to get into some of what I marked on the card they ask you to fill out at the end of the screening. I was asked what parts I didn’t like. I put that I found most scenes with Umbridge in them were kind of slow and got tiring very quickly. I also found the scenes with Hagrid’s brother to be incredibly awkward and clunky, which in my opinion should be excised. What parts did I like? I loved the parts where Dumbledore’s Army was training, I really enjoyed the scene where Cho and Harry kiss, and there is a comment made by Ron shortly after that was hilarious and left the entire theater in stitches. Another scene I really liked was toward the end when Dumbledore and Voldemort battle. The effects were nowhere near finished causing this scene to be really awkward, but at a screening like this you have to be able to overlook the unfinished effects, and while the scene was not that long or anything it was done well and will no doubt look great. I love seeing wizards fight. A few other questions were which characters I liked the most which were Ron, Sirius, (which is a no brainer-Oldman is awesome) Luna, (as I understand it a lot of fans of the books were afraid of how her character would come off in the film, and she was my favorite character, so I guess they did something right. She was goofy and odd and a lot of fun and Evanna Lynch is probably the best of the child actors) and lastly Harry Potter. Radcliff seems like he knows what he is doing now and looks comfortable. Harry is not a slouch in this which I really liked because he comes off as being kind of a pussy in the other films even though he is supposed to be really powerful. In The Order of the Phoenix he is not yet some awesome wizard but he is kind of a badass. As I left the theater I initially felt that the film may have been as good as “Goblet” which as I mentioned I think is the best film. However something was bothering me about the film that I couldn’t quite put my finger on and then I realized what it was not much really happened. So yeah, I felt that not a whole lot happened, and this story could possibly have been squeezed into another film. Which is not to say it is boring, and there are some really good parts and it is not entirely unnecessary, I just felt that the lack of anything major knocks it down a bit in the ranks of the films. Another thing that bugged me was and this tells of the climax of the film so do not read the next paragraph if you don’t want to know…
We have yet another Voldemort confrontation at the end where he is not completely defeated. This is getting tiring, I really hope this stops now, I am sick of the main villain showing up at the end and then not being completely defeated only say the same thing can happen again at the end of the next film.
So if you liked the last two films style, you will like this. This film is not much different from the last entries in the series. I really appreciated the depth of Harry’s character in this, they actually give Harry something to do and he deals with some interesting things in a more real and rounded way. The character of Harry Potter is actually interesting in this film which makes up for some of the few mistakes in the film. Nothing was handled poorly in the film with the exception of Hagrid’s brother and possibly Umbridge’s scenes. I know you are not supposed to like her, but my god by ½ way through the film I dreaded seeing her on screen. This is something that could be fixed with editing though, and while I think a big part of the reason Hagrid’s brother played so poorly was because the effects at this point were understandably bad, to the point where there was almost no texturing or layering and no shadowing at all. I still think the film would benefit from doing away with him altogether. While I can’t say whether or not you will hate what they’ve done if you loved the books, I can say overall it was really good and enjoyable, though not necessarily the best in the series (this could possibly change when it is finished being edited and the effects shots are completed.) I am not an avid fan of the series, and I think the subject and mediocre writing of Rowling stops it from ever being an all around amazing series, and the Order of the Phoenix neither made me hate the series nor fall head over heels in love with it, but it was really good. This follows The Goblet of Fire making it the second best of the Potter films, which is saying quite a bit.