Onto the fifth movie and we’re officially over half-way through! The fifth book for me has always been an odd one to place. I love so much about the book; fighting authority, the secret training, and the fight at the Ministry at the end are some of my favourite aspects. I also love, love, love Umbridge as a villain. But HP5 could really be renamed “Harry Potter and the Teenage Angst” and I actually hate his over-dramatic, angry mood throughout the book. I remember the first time I watched the movie I was pretty take-it-or-leave-it about it, so let’s see if it’s changed all these years later.
Just for a change, let’s start with what I think the movie really excels on. Firstly, I think the movie perfectly portrays Harry’s feelings of loneliness and isolation throughout the film. Scenes such as sitting on the empty swing set and going to Hagrid’s cabin when he’s not there, as well as emphasising the glances between other characters around Harry on screen really hammer home how Harry feels. Under all that angst, you can’t help but feel sorry for him. A couple of scenes that I really loved in the movie include anything filmed on the Ministry of Magic set (such a very impressive set, which I’ve walked around!), the Room of Requirement appearing, the Patronus scene, the Weasley twins leaving the school, and the duelling scene between the Order members and Death Eaters. I also really loved the sequence of scenes in which we see Umbridge gain power; Filch nailing up her decrees, and her interviews with the teachers (especially Snape’s!). However, I really think they missed a golden scene by not having Umbrdige interview McGonagall, it was a highlight of the book!
Speaking of Umbridge, how fantastically did they put her character together! There is just something so satisfactory about having a good villain to hate, and I’d put Umbridge on the same tier as Envy and Pride from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, or Prince Deokheung from Faith. Everything from her way of talking, her pink costumes, and even her distributing cat-plate office is perfect. The way she treats the students and the way her punishment is dealt with in the movie is just wonderfully terrifying. They really, really got this character right, and I love that aspect of the movie so much!
I’ll take a second for a quick comment on casting. Imelda Staunton is, in my opinion, the perfect Umbridge. Sure, she doesn’t resemble the physical description of the character in the book, but she certainly plays the character perfectly. So much so that I can’t help but feel instant dislike whenever I see her face, even out of the HP universe… sorry! Evanna Lynch also makes a perfect Luna Lovegood. I also thought that Natalia Tena as Tonks and George Harris as Kingsley Shacklebolt were good choices. However, I really do not like Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange. Here it’s the opposite of Imelda Staunton and Umbridge; although Helena Bonham Carter has the looks for Bellatrix, she doesn’t play the character well. I always thought that Bellatrix was less loopy and more sadistic. She’s supposed to be more in control of herself, and much more terrifying than what she appears in the movie; she’s the cold terror to Voldemort’s hot rage. However, she comes across as being more incompetent in the movies; which isn’t right because she’s the closest the Death Eaters have to a second in command; she often takes charge in the book and orders others around, and she’s meant to be very skillful; arguably the most dangerous Death Eater. The movie doesn’t do her justice.
With that, let’s look at what I didn’t like so much about the fifth movie. Apart from a few trivial issues, which I’ll list in a second, the bulk of what I dislike is limited to a few scenes. Firstly, Sirius’ death scene. I just hate the whole way it was handled. Bellatrix was literally just being chased, and for that matter, seemed to be against someone equal to her, stops out of nowhere, and kills him outright. It happens really randomly and just doesn’t feel right. I also hate that Sirius’ last line is him mistakenly calling Harry by his father’s name. I just feel like it undermines his character so much. I was also pretty underwhelmed by the Dumbledore vs Voldemort duel. The cinematography was cool and all, but is this magic or some sort of weird bending? Finally, I really dislike the whole Voldemort-possessing-Harry sequence. This has nothing to do with the acting, but rather just the way the whole thing is put together. At best, it’s cringe-worthy, at worst, laughable. I also find Harry’s “You’re the weak one. And you’ll never know love,or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.” to be one of the lamest lines I’ve ever heard. But perhaps that’s just me.
Apart from the ones above, the only other issues I had with this movie was either consistency problems or minor grievances. For consistency, the centaurs are a lot more beast-like in this movie compared to the first, Moody shouldn’t be missing his eye in the old photo of the Order members (considering we see him with both eyes in the flashback of the fourth movie), the Marauder’s Map should feature a lot more, and they changed the way that Sirius uses fireplaces to talk to Harry compared to the last movie. Minor grievances; Dudley is at a psychotic level of creepiness at the start of the movie, I really dislike the changed Dementor design, we’ve gone from caring about Muggles seeing wizards in a flying car in the second movie to not caring about them seeing wizards on broomsticks or Thestrals in the fifth, Neville can see Thestrals as well, Tonks’ special ability isn’t given any notice, Percy’s allegiance to Fudge is not touched upon, literally none of the other Death Eaters try to get the prophecy off Harry in the Department of Mysteries, and they sure like to move Hagrid’s hut around a lot. I also think if they had the prophecies talking when breaking, the whole Department of Mysteries scene would have been one hundred times cooler, and I really wish they had included Marietta Edgecombe, Cho Chang’s friend who betrayed Dumbledore’s Army, in the movie. It’s one of the rare times we see how brutal Hermione can be, and the boils spelling ‘sneak’ across her face would have looked pretty cool.
Overall, I enjoyed the fifth movie a lot more than I ever remembered enjoying it. I think this movie is much better than Goblet of Fire, and perhaps also Prisoner of Azkaban. There’s just something about the way they nailed the atmosphere and Umbridge’s character that really makes it, even if we get the not-quite-right Bellatrix and the stupid death scene of Sirius. So far, I’d say this is probably my second favourite of the movies, which is a massive change!