With the release of the seventh and final book in the series, the Harry Potter mania is still running wild. There had been so many huge blockbusters and big sequals this summer. I almost forgot that the fifth Harry Potter movie was coming out this July. But once I saw the trailer everywhere, I found time in my busy schedule in Taiwan and went to a late night screening with my mom.
Since a Hogwarts student had died in the Triwizard Tournament and the Dark Lord returns, one would think that the magic world would be filled with panic. Instead, many people doubted the wize Dumbledore’s words and suspected that Harry Potter was making up stories to gain more fame, thanks to the propaganda from the Ministry of Magic. To make the matter worse, the new Defense Against Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge, was determined to subdue the rumour of you-know-who’s return, as well as the students’ any attempt to organize themselves to fight. Dumbledore had reformed the Order of the Pheonix in preparation for a second war against Voldemort but kept Harry in the dark about most of its operatios. Frustrated with this situation, Harry and his fellow students practised magic secretly and formed their own army. Meanwhile, the Dark Lord planned to take advantage of his inexplicable connection with Harry to gain control of a weapon he didn’t have the first time he came to power…
Being an adaptation from a 766-page novel, I knew Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix would always be a challenge. Every time a Harry Potter movie comes out, I am looking at how the director cut the story to fit the two-and-a-half-plus-hour running time that is already considered long for most people. The first two movies were textbook copies of the novels, while the Prisoner of Azkaban and the Goblet of Fire were imaginary in their own ways, making them far more entertaining and thus more enjoyable. That’s the secret to making a great Harry Potter movie. However, director David Yates seemed to fall back onto the earlier philosophy and took care of the storytelling rather than experimented with new ideas. Granted, he had done a good job keeping the pacing of the film upbeat, so that we wouldn’t be bored with all the fine details of the story. But it still gave me a "taking-care-of-business" kind of feeling. I couldn’t help but walked out of the theatre feeling unsatisfied.
A bright spot in the Order of the Phoenix was the performance by Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe. While being the target of criticism in previous movies, he had found the grip to play a teenager with angst. He showed his explosive temper and frustration as in the book. On the other hand, it’s too bad that my favourite character, Ron (Rupert Grint), didn’t get much screen time at all. And Rupert’s genuine comedic sense in the previous movies had gone dull. Emma Watson’s Hermoine had become more beautiful with age. As always, her acting was more natural compared to her co-stars.
Umbridge played by Imelda Staunton did not look like a toad like described in the book, but she was sweet and evil at the same time, and she was able to make the audience hate her even more on screen, if that’s possible. I felt like cheering whe the centaurs were dragging her away. And that’s a testament to Staunton’s brilliant performance. Another lovable character was Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch). She was slightly annoying in the novel, but I loved Lynch’s Luna in this movie. Her dreamy voice and breezy attitude were perfect for the role (I didn’t watch any interviews before going to see the film. I later found out that that’s the way she talks in real life, too.). If she was just playing herself, then that’s great casting. Either way, it was a fun character to see in a dark movie like this.
The action sequence at the end of the movie was just average to me. But I guess that’s how magic battles look like. It doesn’t matter that I think that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is inferiour compared to the two previous films in the series. Apparantly, the producers like David Yates, as he is also directing the next movie in line, Hary Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. No, it doesn’t matter at all, because I will still proabably go to see that movie in November, 2008.
NOTE: All photos © 2007 Warner Bros. Pictures