Book Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Author: J.K. Rowling
Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Narrator: Jim Dale
Publication Info: Listening Library, 2003

The fifth book in the Harry Potter series is by far the longest novel, and one that may have benefited from judicious editing and abridging.  I think this book has the most pages before Harry and his friends even arrive for their first day at Hogwarts!  Having said that, I have to admit that actually enjoy the novel’s many tangents and subplots. I like reading Hagrid’s long tale of visiting the giants.  And at the conclusion of the novel when Dumbledore finally explains what he’s been trying to do for 15 years, it’s a major information dump, but these are details I’m eager to suck up.

This novel may also capture Harry at his lowest ebb.  Harry is angry and angsty for much of the novel, apropos to teenage behavior.  But Harry has reason to be angry, having witnessed the murder of Cedric, suffered the insults of a Wizarding World that calls him a liar, and seemingly been abandoned by his mentor, Dumbledore.

The formation of Dumbledore’s Army is really a great moment in the development of many characters who have been supporting characters for much of the series but begin to come into their own.  This novel also introduces one of my favorite characters, Luna Lovegood, which is amazing since she’s such a significant person in the series.  But hey, I met some of my closest friends my senior year of college.  I also like that Luna, Ginny, and Neville join Harry, Hermione, and Ron when they go to Ministry of Magic, again really expanding the story beyond just the core 3. The inclusion of Snape’s memory of being bullied by Harry’s father James and his friends is also a signficant addition to the backstory and how Harry understands his place in the Wizarding World.

The book does feature the major heartbreak of the death of Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, a character I feel we never got to know well enough.  I’m also curious why the Ministry of Magic keeps a giant arch that causes people who passes through it to die, because that was just a weird plot element, and something that really confused me about Sirius’ death when I first read this book.

So, yeah, this is a long book that doesn’t exactly flow narratively.  But I enjoy wallowing in a few whirlpools along the way.

Rating: ***1/2

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Title Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Release Date: July 11, 2007
Director: David Yates
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series, and an argument could be made it justified being made into two films much more than The Deathly Hallows. Instead, this film adaptation distills the story into 138 minutes, the shortest of all the films (technically, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is only 130 minutes, but it only covers half of a book).  The story is effectively streamlined, and remains entertaining and compelling, although perhaps someone who’s not read the book would not get the full depth of what’s going on. The film effectively uses montage to condense the storyline, and I particular like the sequences of Filch and Umbridge attempting to catch Dumbeldore’s Army and hanging decrees on the wall.

This is the first film in the series directed by David Yates, who’s prior experience was largely in television.  He’s become something of the house director for the Wizarding World, directing the final 4 Harry Potter movies, and is tapped to direct all 5 of the Fantastic Beasts movies.

This film also introduces some inspired acting choices.  Evanna Lynch perfectly captures Luna Lovegood, wisely playing her as strange and unsettling but not going overboard into “loony.”  Meanwhile, Imelda Staunton may possibly be a perfectly nice human being, but she thoroughly embodies the cruelty of the most hated character in the series, Dolores Umbridge.  Unfortunately, Helena Bonham-Carter seems to be acting as if she’s in a Tim Burton film, and her cartoonishly evil portrayal of Bellatrix Lestrange is out of place.

I think the Order of the Phoenix joins the Prisoner of Azkaban as the best films in the series up to this point.

Rating: ***1/2

Podcasts of the Week Ending September 28

Code Switch :: The Original Blexit

Black Americans have never been fully supported by any political party, but after the Civil War, Black voters typically supported the Party of Lincoln.  Starting in the 1930s, many Black voters began switching their allegiance from Republicans to Democrats, a shift that was thoroughly completed by the 1970s.  Code Switch explains why and how that happened.

1619 Project  

This podcast debuted in August to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in what would become the United States.  The 1619 Project, created by the New York Times and hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones, explores how the legacy of slavery, segregation, and inequality have shaped American history.  There are 4 episodes so far and they are all excellent.

Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances: