Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

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Is it possible to recreate the detail of nearly 900 pages of source material in a little over two hours? The fifth installment of Harry Potter seems to point toward "no." New director David Yates and new screenwriter Michael Goldenberg, who have done nothing remotely close to the grandiosity of Potter, faced a terrific challenge adapting the massively detailed Order of the Phoenix into a film enjoyable for both those who have and have not read the book. In trying to make the film exciting, scary, action-packed and never a hint of boring, the two appear to have left out what makes the Potter series special; friendships, adolescent confusion, and multitudes of characters interwoven through shared experiences and fascinating dialogue. The film is so fast paced in its attempt to include as much as possible from the book that it feels like visual Cliff notes. There is considerably less acting compared to other Potter films because scenes are rushed and cut short, but what little acting is left has improved tremendously. As has become expected, Gary Oldman is once again a standout as Sirius Black and Ralph Fiennes is haunting as the dark wizard Lord Voldemort. Surprisingly, Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint all turn in their most funny and touching performances as the big three of the film. Radcliffe finally seems like a true actor, and Grint, despite seeing the least time on film of the three, displays subtlety as the hero's best friend. As in all the films, the most underrated actor in the series, Alan Rickman, is perfectly horrifying as Professor Snape. Newcomers Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood and Imelda Staunton (from Vera Drake) are some of the few spot-on representations of their literary counterparts. Although the film strays from the book more than any of the previous four, this should not count against it; it must be able to stand as its own for those who have not read the book. It's clear that such a fast pace will not recreate the intricate plot lines found in the book, but it also seems that the movie itself does not provide its own narrative reward for the viewer. With almost zero character development, way over-edited dialogue, and quick jumps in storyline, all that is left is dazzling special effects that would look amazing on the IMAX screen. The dramatic climax involving Harry and a close friend seems to pass by without in an instant, but the final fight scene between Professor Dumbledore and Lord Voldemort is massive and one of the most memorable in the film series. So maybe this is what the fifth Harry Potter movie truly is, more of a thrill ride than an art piece.

Good For: Harry Potter fans, fans of action movies

Bad For: those who have not read the book, those who who have not seen all four films

The Gallery
The Film Maker: * *

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