Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
My least favourite of the books in Rowling's equally adored and despised series about the boy wizard fated to face down the evil Lord Voldemort has, surprisingly, been made into the second-best film in its franchise. Whereas previous films have been so faithful to the source material as to be dull (take a bow, director Chris Columbus), or too episodic for their own good (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix gets the balance almost perfect.
While not quite the thrill-ride provided by Alfonso Cuaron, the third director in the franchise, the hands of British television director David Yates' on the helm of Order of the Phoenix results in a sombre, sometimes startling film in which Harry takes centre stage, the majority of other cast members reduced to truly supporting roles, save for Imelda Staunton as the truly vile Dolores Umbridge, a sadistic control freak dressed in pink.
More focussed on Harry's sometimes petulant adolescent emotions than flashy effects and quidditch matches, Yates also crafts a film with real heart, in which the stakes at play are made painfully clear. It's darker, yes, but there's also more love visible as well, as shown to us in brief but effective scenes by characters such as the increasingly likeable Neville Longbottom, and Harry's on-again-off-again girlfriend Cho Chang, with whom he shares his first kiss ("How was it?" Harry is asked by best friend Rupert Grint. "Wet," Harry (Daniel Radcliffe replies, underplaying the moment well.) Another character, introduced for the first time, and instantly making an impression, is the wonderfully weird Luna Lovegood, who may or may not be mad as hatter, but either way is an utter delight to experience.
Unlike the book, which cried out for a good editor in its opening third, then raced too quickly to its conclusion, the pacing displayed here is spot on. By turns bleak and stirring, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has re-awoken the delight with which I first encountered the book of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone so many years ago...
Three and a half Nimbus 2001's out of five.