Monday, July 16, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Suitably streamlined, this distillation of J.K. Rowling's mammoth fifth book in the boy wizard series, despite apparent popular opinion, represents a step up from the ghastly hash of Goblet of Fire. There's significantly less action in this chapter than some of the others, but I don't see that as a bad thing; the disinclusion of Quidditch, to me, is only an improvement, and the emphasis on dialogue and character over spectacle provides room to start caring about the fates of these characters (a valuable thing, considering some dire fates are reportedly in store). The lack of flash also allows the mind to consider the emphasis on political turmoil and upheaval in this installment and how that serves to reflect the emotional turmoil experienced by Harry, both due to torment by Voldemort and the mere fact of his being a hormonally whacked-out fifteen-year-old boy. Besides, there's Imelda Staunton's marvelously priggy Dolores Umbridge as compensation -- her grinningly grotesque depiction of cheerful institutional malevolence is far more inspiring than any special effect. When the FX come -- and they do, in a thrilling wizardly battle royale capped off by a duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore -- they're impressive, but it's the human moments (Harry's response to his first kiss, Hermione awkwardly connecting with Hagrid's giant cousin, Ron's ever-increasing facility with Britslang) that are going to stick with me. It's not quite on the level of Alfonso Cuarón's fanciful and fluid Prisoner of Azkaban, but its sense of driving professionalism, accomplished without tipping over into facelessness (i.e. the Columbus films), keeps it compelling.

Grade: B


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