Vulcan’s Peak

HP & the Order of the Phoenix

July 14, 2007 11:12 pm

In the tradition of HP flicks, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is good fun, not great cinema. It isn’t Lord of the Rings a la Peter Jackson, and it isn’t Star Wars in 1977. But as entertainment goes, it’s not bad.

The star-studded adult cast are in fine form, led by Imelda Staunton’s loathsomely perky Professor Umbridge. A vision in pink, she makes a fantastic stand-in for every teacher you ever wanted a centaur herd to trample. Alan Rickman plays the overbearing bat with his usual gusto; McGonagall, Trelawney, and Hagrid are spot-on.

The snake-like face of Ralph Fiennes’s Voldemort appears briefly in a number of dream sequences, but not until the final battle does he get anything that could be called a scene — those who find him utterly hideous don’t have to look at him for long. (And trust me, water and glass and any number of distractions are flying in all directions by the time Voldemort shows up.)

Helena Bonham Carter’s cameo as Bellatrix Lestrange has been well over-publicized, but she chews the scenery nicely.

Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore continues to bother me. The problems with the character are mitigated because this is the book in which Harry can’t figure out why Dumbledore is avoiding him. The flailing and yelling I objected to in the last film aren’t an issue here (perhaps due to the change in directors), but the presence, the voice, and even the costume (not Gambon’s fault, I concede) are all wrong. The half-moon spectacles that are synonymous with the character don’t even put in an appearance — I will need my memory jolted on whether they have been used since the part was re-cast.

I often felt that the dialog was not as sharp or as natural as it looks on the page. Scenes between the three young stars in particular never felt as though we the audience had just happened to stumble in on their conversation. The acting abilities of Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint have occasionally been criticized, but I think more of the problem lies with the scriptwriter in this case.

Actually, I think at least Daniel Radcliffe may grow into quite a good actor. The others we see too little of to judge properly, though I appreciated that Ron was treated as more than just the comic relief this time around. I’d like to see all of them in non-Potter roles — see what else they can do.

(I also appreciated that Harry and the Weasley boys all seem to have gotten a haircut over the summer. They were getting a bit shaggy for my tastes.)

However, the one unforgivable in Order of the Phoenix is it’s last line. I argued in favor of #4’s corny last line, but I won’t do it this time. “At least there’s one thing we’ve got that Lord Voldemort doesn’t have,” says Harry (approximately) as the chums leave Hogwarts for the summer. “We’ve always got each other.” How did anyone think that was a good line? Especially when the previous line was Luna remarking (about her purloined possessions) that things that are lost generally turn up again, if not in ways we expect. Brilliant. Cut it there, Mr. Yates, before we start in with “Kumbaya.”

Overall: B+ (with great respect for the colossal task of trimming over 800 pages to under 2.5 hours)

3 Responses to “HP & the Order of the Phoenix”

Pug wrote a comment on July 14, 2007

I feel like adding that Evanna Lynch portrayed Luna exactly as I always imagined her.

I enjoyed the movie quite a lot myself, from hating Umbridge to seeing the Department of Mysteries in stereoscopic 3D vision courtesy of ILM, Double Negative and Framestore (the special effects houses). (Woo, IMAX 3D)…

Odette wrote a comment on July 15, 2007

Oooh, yes, thank you! I adored Luna.

I think every one of its predecessors has closed with happy, uplifting music and (often) a cheesy generalization about We’ve always got each other, or Everything’s going to change now.

Care to comment?