Thursday, 12 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix-Review by Carmody Wilson

Directed by David Yates
Written by Michael Goldenberg
Rated 12A
138 Minutes
Opens July 12

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix stars the usual trio of earnest-faced kids, harrumphing hags and every actor in Britain, and was directed by David Yates. It chronicles the continuing story of Harry’s battle against He Who Must Not Be Named while trying to get closer to Sirius Black, get Cho Chang’s attention, and spar with the added nettling menace of his new instructor, Ministry of Magic grass Dolores Umbrage. Gone away are the quidditch matches and loving scenes involving opening ceremonies. This is Harry Potter Dark.

There’s a lot going on in OOTP, but it all feels only half finished. Gary Oldman is usually the best part of any movie he’s in but in OOTP he wasn’t given much to do, and so floundered in the role of Harry’s foster father. The film, like the book, rendered Sirius Black into a wimpy supporting character, a fate suffered by most of the other cast members. The trouble with the latest film is that we aren’t given any of Harry’s charms, only asked to bear with him his angst, and this isn’t sufficient to make audiences root unyieldingly for the boy wizard. Instead, I found myself cheering for those who come (many times,) to Harry’s aid-the wizened Dumbledore, steadfast Ron, and the barely-seen cabal of witches and wizards belonging to the Order itself. There is too much sturm und drang and too little charismatic magic to capture the loyalty of cinema-goers, a result of Yates cramming as much of Rowling’s book onto the screen as he possibly could without missing any of the main points. Action takes precedence over enchantment, the feeling here being that the characters and situation have been established in the previous films so there is no need to revisit them in OOTP. But this is a mistake. Much of what was appealing of the other films was that they acknowledged that yes, Harry is very special and has his little cross to bear, but that the magic and mystery of Hogwart’s was often enough to counter the doom and gloom of Mr Potter’s pouty prestidigitation. Harry’s friends and supporters, who have admittedly dwindled by this point in the story, are asked time and time again to take one in the teabags for Harry, who has grown more petulant as the series goes on, and it’s hard to see why these folk have chosen to so tirelessly campaign for him. This is partially explained by Harry himself when he tells Dumbledore that he feels angry all the time and finds it difficult to be himself, but this feeling isn’t emphasized enough at the kick-off of the film where it matters. He just seems like a wizard angry about his small wand. Harry’s struggle with himself becomes more apparent in the second half of the film, where rightfully, things really pick up. This goes a long way toward supporting the grumblings that Harry Potter is just Luke Skywalker with better dialogue, with Dumbledore supporting as Obi-Wan and Voldemort as Darth Vader, and it’s not hard to see the parallels, especially when Dumbledore and Voldemort have it out via iridescent crossing streams at the thundering climax of the film.

OOTP does have its thematic copycat moments, but it's actually better done than its Unknown Boy With Special Destiny plotlines predecessors because of all the magical accoutrements-but it could have been better had these not been diminished. There’s very little humour, unlike in the superior Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and OOTP suffers for how seriously it takes itself. Hogwarts was no more than a location, with shots of London affording more magisterial power. And if Daniel Radcliff says one more thing through gritted teeth I’m going to pay for his acting lessons myself. There was less wonderment, innocence and feeling of discovery with this film, and as the story only continues to get darker from this point, I was wishing for some glimpse of the lighter moments.

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