HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (2007)
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brenda Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, Jason Isaacs, Katie Leung, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson and Julie Walters.
Screenplay by Michael Goldenberg.
Directed by David Yates.
Distributed by Warner Brothers. 138 minutes. Rated PG-13.
July 2007 is turning out to be the defining month of Potter-mania. The fifth film in the series is being released and a mere week later the final book hits this shelves. People are walking around talking about muggles, Valdemort and Quidditch. Harry Potter has hit a peculiar place in the pop culture zeitgeist in which it is almost everywhere.
Well, deep dark secret time. I’ve never read a Harry Potter book. I did see the first two movies, but missed the last two and haven’t quite gotten around to catching up with them.
This has nothing to do with holier-than-thou-ness on my part, or even a lack of interest. I would like to read the books and see all the films. Someday I suppose I will. However, I am not currently indoctrinated into the cult of Harry.
So what am I doing seeing the fifth installment in the movie series?
Okay, I know I’m not the ideal reviewer of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for just this reason. But, then again, maybe I am, just for the same reason. I don’t have any built up conceptions and beliefs. I can come to it purely and see it just as a film, not as a part of a cultural phenomenon.
I was told by one of the people I saw the movie with, a Potter fan, that Order of the Phoenix is the darkest of the Potter novels. It brings out the shadows and the hues in the brightly drawn universe of JK Rowling.
It does have, however, an intriguing storyline, even if it does suffer from the inevitable middle-act feeling of incompletion, doing dual duty as a bridge for the larger plot and a stand-alone film.
Essentially, the Hogwarts School is taken over by a government shill (Imelda Staunton) who essentially outlaws the use of magic in this venerable Wizard academy. The former head of the school, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), is removed, Professors are fired for no apparent reason, students are heavily punished for insolence. (Some of the political criticism, while certainly valid, feels a little heavy-handed.)
In the meantime Harry has to find his own leadership skills and teach the others magic in secret, while avoiding his nemesis, Valdemort (Ralph Fiennes) — who Hogwart’s new regime insist does not exist.
Some of the earlier characters are given little to do (particularly Rupert Grint’s Ron) and much of the whimsy of the first two films is shorn away, but Order of the Phoenix is a solid addition to the franchise.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 27, 2007.