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.


Anonymous said...

I found the movie really boring. But then again book 5 is the bottom of my list.

always good to read another review though :)

Anonymous said...

I wonder why the end credits did not mention who Harry's personal trainer is. I was half wondering if, judging by the state of Harry's prcs, if the next installment sees Harry as the Incredible Hulk.

Sam said...

Hmm - actually, I really enjoyed OOTP the book. Am so glad Imelda Staunton nailed Umbridge in the film.

Anonymous said...

Umbridge was the best thing about it.

OOTP is the only HP book I've read and it was a bit of a drag I have to say. Far too long and probably far too much to cram into a movie, but I think they went a bit too far the other way and the result was bland and obvious.

Things I would've liked to see: two humorous scenes (multiple owls at the beginning & the difficulty in getting onto an invisible Thestral), some hint of the way Umbridge divided the school and an intelligible fight scene at the end.