Saturday, July 14, 2007

He’s still charming, but…

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Robert Hardy, Imelda Staunton, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter

It seems the new director of the Harry Potter franchise, David Yates has taken it for granted that whatever he does, Potter fans will throng the theatres and the producers would get their money’s worth. Otherwise, how do you account for the half-hearted production of the new Harry Potter film, Order of the Phoenix? Or is it because this reviewer has read the book and hence is disappointed to see half of the book’s stories missing, such as Hermione’s movement of free the elves, and the political complexities of the wizard world. The book in question is perhaps the most complex of Rowling’s series and it’s impossible to include everything from the book in the movie. Yet, you expect the film to tell an engaging story and, you are disappointed.
The film begins brilliantly, juxtaposing the wizard world with the muggle world, very much like the parallel universe stories, a Night Watch or a Blade: Harry is attacked by two dementors in broad daylight, a ‘howler’ comes visiting the Dursley household, wizards fly on their broomsticks over the London bridge, all brilliantly photographed. Then the plot begins to meander for the whole length of the film until Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) face each other at the ministry of magic office.
What happens in between is the regular stuff, which actually fails to move you, despite its tremendous potential. The new teacher, ministry of magic right hand, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) takes over the administration of the school for the fear that Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is gathering an army to fight the might of Voldemort (Actually he is, and it’s the Order of the Phoenix). Umbridge soon bans everything that is potential dangerous and discourages students from using magic. A group of defiant students, including Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), along with Jenny and Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) and a new girl called Luna (Evanna Lynch, no acting!) begins to learn magic on their own, secretly. Meanwhile Harry has started seeing visions of Voldemort and he begins to take training under Snipe to block his mind. So much happening, but somehow nothing comes to fruition.
Harry is just worried that he may be turning evil, nothing more. He finds out that father was not actually all that good, but he fails to react. His godfather Sirius Blake dies, still he fails to react. This Harry has grown up and something is wrong with his emotional equilibrium. Only thing he does is to experience his first kiss, with Cho Chang (Katie Leung).
All the young actors now are in their teens and their awkwardness shows. To make the matter worse, this time round the focus is entirely on Harry, sidelining all the other characters, including Hermione and Ron. And this does not work. After all, the story is about all the three friends.
You still care about Harry; yet after a point whatever is happening on the screen fails to invite you to Harry’s world, blame it to a sloppy screenplay and equally sloppy editing. Things just happen without coming to any coherent conclusion. A few new characters are introduced, but they hardly have any roles to play.
The young actors passes muster, but it’s the grown-up ones that steals the show, Oldman as Sirius, Rickman as Snipe and Gambon as Dumbledore and finally Fiennes as the arch villain, still without his nose petals.
A Harry Potter movie means magic, means SFX and, at least you are not disappointed in that department. Another fantastical new creature is introduced, the centaurs return, and there’s also a giant.
And the final showdown is something that you haven’t seen in the Harry Potter movies before, if that can be a consolation.
No, it’s not the best Harry Potter film. That position is held by Prisoner of Azkaban closely followed by Goblet of Fire. This film will come third and it’s better than the first two movies.
And with two more films to come, you may consider Order of the Phoenix as a good starter but not the main course.

Rating *** 1/2

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