Friday, July 20, 2007

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

It almost seems a little pointless reviewing this
film. After all, if you haven't already seen the first
four Harry Potter films then you almost certainly
aren't going to go and see this one, and, indeed,
you'd be foolish to do so as it would make little or
no sense to you. If, however, you have seen the first
four films, then you're going to go and see this
regardless of what any review says because you're most
likely a Harry Potter fan (like me). Indeed, I'd go as
far as to suggest you've probably already read the
book upon which this film is based, so you know
exactly what's going to happen anyway.

Indeed, the main purposes of any review of a Harry
Potter film seem to be to let fans of the books know
which bits have been left out, and to say if the
people playing the new characters are any good.

The most glaring omission is the visit to St Mungo's,
which means that Neville's backstory must be told in
another way, and so it makes far less of a real impact
upon us. We're also left with very little information
about the origins of the prophecy, and how they relate
to professor Trelawny, which is a shame. Both Luna and
Tonks have much smaller roles in the movie too, which
is understandable as the focus would naturally have to
be on our main trio of heroes, but it also robs us of
some of the novel's highlights.

Of the new additions to the cast, it's Imelda Staunton
as Dolores Umbridge, the Ministry of Magic appointed
Defence Against the Dark Arts mistress, who gets the
most screentime. She is suitably horrid, and every bit
as sadistic and evil as she was in the book. Other new
additions include, as mentioned above, Luna, who is
excellent but underused, and Tonks, who is just as
cool as she is in the books, but sadly hardly present
in the film at all. Helena Bonham-Carter also finally
makes the cast of a Harry Potter film (it was kind of
inevitable...still waiting for Richard E. Grant and
Bill Nighy to make their debuts) as Sirius Black's
deranged Death Eater cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange.
She's good, as is everyone else. The established cast
also put in first rate performances, and all the
younger members of the cast (those playing the
students) prove that if you spend that much of your
time working with the creme de la creme of the British
acting elite then something is bound to rub off.

My only real criticism of Order of the Phoenix would
be the same problem I have with the book - it really
has no real plot. It serves two main purposes,
firstly, it gives us pause to consider what effect the
events of the first four films/books have had on
Harry, and secondly, it sets things up for the last
two books, where everything finally comes to a head.
As such, in and of itself, it's rather unsatisfying,
but, of course, more than any of the rest of the
films/books, this is part of a much larger story, and
should be seen as thus.

Ultimately, this is an excellent film, the spectacular
special effects never overshadow the most important
element of Order of the Phoenix - the growing and
deepening bond between our three main heroes, Harry,
Ron and Hermione. This film is far more about
character development than it is about magic and the
fight between good and evil, and, for me, it's all the
more better for it.

Production has already begun on the sixth film, Harry
Potter and the Half Blood Prince, with the same
director as this film, which is a good sign. With the
final chapter of this saga due to be released in book
form at midnight tonight, Harry Potter fever is at an
all time high. However, don't let talk of
"over-hyping" and rampant commercialism (neither of
which I can see any real evidence of anyway) put you
off. Harry Potter is popular for one reason and one
reason only - it's really very good.

Rating: 9/10

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