Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter & The Order of The Phoenix - An Alternative Perspective

Books are for losers and reading is dumb. That is why I've never read a single word on a single page of a single book in the Harry Potter anthology. I intend to keep it that way. If God wanted us to read books, why did he invent movies?? Case closed.

That being said, I'm here to give my alternative review of Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix, from the perspective of someone who has not read the source material. This time around, British TV director David Yates has a go in the canvas chair, taking over for HP:4 director Mike Newell. On paper, Yates seems an odd choice to be handed the WB's most lucrative crown jewel, making the precarious leap from Channel 4 mini-series SEX TRAFFIC to a fantasy epic based on a popular kid's book.

In this latest installment, Harry finds himself in all sorts if trouble. First, he's put to trial for using magic outside of Hogwarts. Then there is his incessant night terrors which seem to be forewarning the young wizard of impending tragedies set to befall those closest to him. But Harry's biggest problem this year is the appointment of Dolores Umbridge to the continually revolving post of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Umbridge, constantly cloaked in some arrangement of pink twill, is played with passive aggressive precision by Imelda Staunton; with a kind of Hitler meets Bree Van De Kamp vibe.


Umbridge has quietly been tasked by the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge (played by Robert Hardy) to spearhead a coup de taut at Hogwarts, eventually leading to the firing of several staff members, the removal of Albus Dumbledore (reprised by Michael Gambon) as Head Master, and eventually the institution of a fascistic set of rules and regulations that each student must obediently abide by or face the dire consequences. It's this subplot which is the real driving force within the movie, underlying a subtle political commentary which may perhaps whisper to certain shifts that have taken place in this country over the last six years.

The problem is Yates and screenwriter Michael Goldenberg (also a newbie to the HP franchise), compliment the Umbridge storyline with bits and pieces of plot matter, seemingly excavated from the novel, but not infused with any real connective tissue. The result is a disjointed story arc that meanders about and finally builds to an unsatisfying climax. A choppy edit job does little to service the problem, as well. The casual viewer is left with a veritable stew of plot-point flotsam, including something about a prophetical snow globe and conversations having to do with the disappearance of unnamed and unseen citizens from the wizarding community (the reasons behind or the consequences of, never made quite clear - at least from where I sat).

An additional side effect of adapting a 870 page children's book into a 2 hour film is the complete marginalization of every other character who's first name isn't Harry. Ron and Hermione are left with very little to do in this fifth film. I would hope and assume they served a greater purpose in the novel than to throw an obligatory concerned look in Harry's direction while he tantrums on about this or that. Their biggest moment of character development comes during a montage of meaningful moments the three friends have shared in the prior 4 films!

I did get to see the film in IMAX, in which the last twenty minutes of the film are featured in 3-D. And I will say that it was the best 3-D I've ever seen. Yes, even better than Jaws 3-D! I will give credit to Yates (that is, if he was even aware during principal photography that they were releasing a 3-D IMAX version of the film) for avoiding the stereotypical, cheesy 3-D "tricks". The shots never feel out of place or distracting, a la the classic scene in the aforementioned Jaws 3-D of the paper shark floating into the underwater window and then stopping on a dime. I would definitely recommend, if you can get to an IMAX screen, you spend the extra five bucks to check it out. It truly does take 3-D to a new level.

Overall, much like HP 3 and 4, the film is visually well manufactured. However, Order of the Phoenix is, without a doubt, the weakest of the five films thematically.

The Film: 2 Buckets

The 3-D: 5 Buckets


David said...

Well, we all know Cody Dee Williams is smoking crack using his old colt45 cans...

This Harry Potter is the 2nd best of the 5 films. The best still being the 3rd movie, and the WEAKEST being the 4th movie.

As skeptical as I went into the movie with as bad as the 4th one was, I was shocked, amazed and surprised. Yates, like Cuaron, trimmed the fat, pulled some great casting, and created a wonderful visual style (DP who shot Gattaca)

Yes, there will be downfalls when trying to adapt such a huge book into a short film. But I think this film was as well put together as anyone could do it. And I am now happy to hear Yates will also be directing #6.


Cody Dee Williams said...

But you've read the book, right?

David said...

I have read the books. But it was so long ago, I couldnt begin to remember what was even cut out. And I'm talking major things. So, I just go in watching to enjoy it like everyone else. I can also seperate the movie from the book in my likes and dislikes.