We had our advance screening tickets in hand. We waited in a line for an hour and a half, the day before the movie was released. We paid $5 for our Pibb Xtra, which I proudly snuck past Mel's caffeine sensors. We watched the entire movie in awe, then I sat there feeling robbed. Don't get me wrong, I thought the movie was great and I'm one of the most-biased Harry Potter lovers around, but the movie just felt so... short, to me. It was over two hours long, but as the film version of one of the longest HP books, it just left so much out. I understand this is the case with all book-to-movie translations, but I just couldn't believe how much of the true meat was left out. There are so many huge plot points J.K. Rowling has set up for the final book, whether they are legit, or red herrings, which originated in this book... and none of them made their way to the screen. The prophecy is shortened nearly to the point of being spoiler. Snape is pretty much absent from the film, which is a travesty to one of the book's most complicated characters, and I think, maybe the most important and pivotal when all's said and done.
I have to stress, I thought the movie was great though. It was definitely darker and edgier than the previous films, and not something I would consider taking my nephew to, but it had its moments. That was my biggest empty feeling towards the movie... it felt like the entire story was only meant to grow anticipation for the next film. This is the only installation in the franchise that felt like a stepping stone story. It didn't feel self-contained, and it didn't seem to have closure like the other films. The casual moviegoer who hasn't read the book, I think, would have been pretty lost and it wouldn't be worth their time. The Half Blood Prince was such an amazing book that the entire time I was watching Phoenix, I just felt like it was setting up the future stories, not telling its own. I think the cast is getting better with each film though, as many are taking the "less is more" approach and really nailing the teen angle. Newcomer Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood was pretty spot on with the limited time she had to portray her loony character. I wish I could talk about the performances of the Order themselves, which the name implies was the focus of the story. Sadly, the banded group of wizard warriors known as the Order could have just as easily not been in this movie and nobody would know the difference. I couldn't believe how small a role the order themselves played. I guess I'll have to reread the book to get my Lupin, Kingsley, Tonks and Mad-eye fix.
I acknowledge that the movie could have been 10 hours and die hard fans would still be saying it was too short, but for everything that was left out of the previous films, I never felt that way about the first four. I thought they did a great job of making a stand-alone film. Phoenix, however, eliminated so much of the heart and dichotomy of the story and characters to seemingly focus on the grandest of end scenes, that I think it's the first one to miss the mark a bit for me. I'll definitely be watching it again... and again... but I think the hype of the movie and the final book being released set my expectations way too high on this one. That's my own fault.