Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I go about watching these movies with a very unique approach (as I do with most movie-book adaptations). I always watch the movie first, then read the book. Since movies are never as thorough as the books they are based on, I'm able to enjoy the movie for itself, and the book even more. That being said, I can't really write this review based on how the movie stacks up to the book. If someone who has read the book and seen the movie would like to comment, that's more than welcome. I will say, however, that at the time of its release, it was the longest book, yet at just over two hours, it was made into the shortest movie of the series. This clearly indicates much was left out- and it shows. This seems more of a transitional movie, no major revelations, and it ends not very far from where it began.

This movie starts where the previous one leaves off, with the return of the Dark Lord Voldemort, after 14 years of being in hiding. Unfortunately, almost nobody believes Harry, especially those in political positions. The title comes from a group of wizards that had fought Voldermort the first time, and are preparing for his return. They are essentially gearing up for an all out Wizard War. The Order of the Phoenix continues the themes of loneliness and dependence on friendship that have been so prominent in the series- perhaps pushing them even more blatantly than ever before.

One aspect that I really enjoyed about this movie was that it was the first one with a true ensemble cast. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint reprise their roles as the leading triumvirate, but their schoolmates play a much larger role in this movie than they other did before. James and Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Katie Leung, and Matthew Lewis made up a fantastically dynamic cast. Evanna Lynch, in her debut picture, stole the show in the role of Luna Lovegood. Harry becomes a de-facto defense against the dark arts teacher in secret (a role that has been filled by a different teacher every year), when the current teacher proves to be worthless- in that she's actually a mole planted by the corrupt government. The scenes with Harry teaching the other students in a hidden room are some of my favorite.

This is by far the most serious movie of the collection. The fun comedic releases of the first four are nowhere to be found in this one. Even though this one is not quite as action packed or adventurous as the last one, it is deathly serious. There were several groups of little kids in my showing, and I could not help but feel that this was not appropriate for them. I'm not sure if this correlates with the nature of the book, or if David Yates who helmed this installment simply stripped it down to the bare bones plot.

As is to be expected from this franchise, the visuals were stunning, if a bit cheesy at times. It's a fine line to be treading in the fantasy genre between impressive visual effects, and downright corny ones. Phoenix essentially had one foot on each side of the line- combining wonderful and thrilling effects, with others that seemed unnecessary; simply saying "hey, look what we can do."

It's hard for me to make a definitive review without having read the book, so consider this just a look at the movie for the movie's sake. Despite the fact that I don't know what I was missing in the book, it still seemed a little hollow. I realize it was already over two hours, but I think it could have held an audience's attention for longer with more depth (the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie was over three hours). I just felt that the whole plot was a little weak, never really going anywhere- which could be reflective of a transitional novel, or maybe simple because so much was left out. This doesn't hurt the movie unto itself, only when taken into the continuity of the whole series. It's still very enjoyable and entertaining as a self-contained movie. Even though it didn't seem like it had much to say, I still enjoyed myself.

Watch the Trailer

4/5

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

I must say for not being a reader of the series, you have not too bad of a review when it comes to matching up the book to the movie. I totally agree that it could have been longer. Im sure that with the intensity of Harry Potter fans around the world the movie could have been 4 hours long and no one would have noticed.

One thing that contradicts my previous statement is that out of the 3rd-5th movies (which have a different director) this has been THE most accurate of them all, and speaking as a true Harry Potter fan is rather sad. The first two movies were accurate to the core however in the third - fifth there have been point in the movie where they just change the plot completely. I would almost had rather seen them leave it out.
The coolest thing about this movie (and probably why it has the most detail since the 1st and 2nd) is that the characters of the movie series actually got to pick the scenes that were their favorite. These scenes were the ones most focused on in the movie itself.

yeah. Im done :)

PS excellent review