Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

See also:
Harry Potter: The Saga (Uncle Cliff)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Uncle Cliff)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Uncle Cliff)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Uncle Cliff)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Uncle Cliff)

Having just finished off the final book in the series only hours before catching the flick I couldnít help but watch proceedings with an extra sense of poignancy as certain characterís final fates were still at the forefront of my mind. Tíwas funny, there were a few moments in Order of the Phoenix that I would have thought were strange inclusions in an adaptation when so much else had been cut Ė but J.K. must have had a quiet word to let them know these moments had to stay in for the last chapter to make sense when it hits screens. I should really shut up about the new book, but honestly it has so far overshadowed me catching this latest instalment of the Potter franchise. Perhaps had the film come at a time when the world was more Potter starved Iíd have looked more favourable upon it. Then again, I also didnít care too much that it didnít impress me, as I was still riding the high of spending two days in bed with Harry. Repeat that last bit out of context to anyone and Iím in trouble.

Order of the Phoenix is probably my least favourite Potter book. It feels more like the saga is treading water and too busy setting up the war thatís to come in the final chapters. Thereís just not a ton happening until the confusingly written end fight. Still what the book is fantastic for is the little details Ė what you canít appreciate as strictly a Potter film goer is how much Rowling brings to life the concept of a year passing at the school in every book. Only the first film has really included these moments, the rest understandably have jettisoned them and resulted in a fast paced action fest that sometimes seem to leave the teen angst and growing pains of these teens as but footnotes.

This is partly why Phoenix was a frustrating film for meĖ whereas in the case of all the other films Iíve (more or less) understood why they have cut out what they have, in this one so much was scraped away that all that was left seemed to be an extended training montage, and then a fantastically portrayed final battle. Many characters were struggling to get screen time Ė but thatís what you get when the universe and page count keeps expanding I suppose.

Iíve read that the kids have all come leaps and bounds every film. Not sure that I agree, but I do love them for the warm sense of familiarity they bring rather than their acting chops. Having said that Radcliffe does succeed in turning up Harryís angst quota up a notch. Emma Watson is as serviceable as ever and Iím sure has creepy thirty-year-old guys crossing their fingers in sweaty anticipation for her first Maxim cover-shoot. Rupert Grint seems bored with his character and mumbles his way through Ė though perhaps this is a reaction to Ronís storyline being almost snipped completely out from the book. Still itís great news indeed that the core three are all on board to see the adventure out.

As the new villainess Umbridge came across excellently Ė I felt the same "crusty old dean" feeling towards her I had when reading the book. Nice twist on an evil character too, making it an uptight down-the-line conservative, and well played. In fact the whole Harry VS the establishment was quite cool, although I would have preferred his outcast status was delves into a bit more.

A major disappointment for me was that the direction was fairly pedestrian, and Iím hoping like hell they go back on their commitment to director David Yates and get someone else on board for Half-Blood Prince. It might have been his tact to focus more on the performances than special effects, but there are quite a few times where youíre all too aware youíre sitting in a darkened room with strangers rather than being drawn into the Potter world. Its like Azkaban jolted the series so much away from the faithful-but-sterile feel of the first two films too much, and the last two have been slowly trying to peg the films back in retaliation to a state where the story is star rather than flashy direction (which some of Azkaban was, as cool as it was). A middle ground badly needs to be reached.

 

At this stage Iíd say Phoenix also stands as my least favourite movie, but having read all the books now I know that that as a part of the puzzle it simply exists to set the stage for the final two, which are essentially one long final adventure. After the re-birth of Voldemort and cemetery fight climax in Goblet you canít help but plunge into Phoenix with loftier expectations, only to find a lot of politics bogging it down, and more bracing for impending battles rather than fighting them.

HmmmÖthere seems to be something of a trend stemming all the way back to Chamber of Secrets. I felt both a bit disappointed by Azkaban and Goblet too at first but warmed to them after multiple viewings. Iíll be seeing Phoenix in IMAX soon to give it a second chance Ė the final 20 minutes or so is in 3D which canít hurt. Most likely Iíll be snapping up the DVD like a good little Potter addict once the fix of this new book has long since worn off.

POSTSCRIPT

Saw Harry in Imax last week. Holy crap. Every film should be watched that way. Unbelievable. The sound and the size alone was scaring me before the last half-an-hour in 3D even came about. Just awesome. Definitely gave me more appreciation for the flick, even if it also showed up the direction and editing as super-patchy, sometimes sloppy, and just plain dull at times.