Wednesday, July 11, 2007


This review is brought to you by guest reviewer, Al, who can usually be found here. For BINA's review flip to the end of this review.....

Like many of you, I've followed the Potter franchise through every book and film it has spit out - and with every new installment comes a wave of anticipation and excitement, particularly bigger this time around since the
last film set the bar pretty high.

I'll start off with the good stuff, then work my way down. Imelda Staunton as plays the part of Dolores Umbridge perfectly and hits all the right notes. Aside from Potter himself, the other main characters weren't given much attention and as a result constantly appeared dull and uninteresting. Umbridge, however, was simply a joy to watch, and they certainly managed her character nicely. The special effects were not too shabby, all the wand-waving and so on isn't something we haven't seen in the previous Potter films. The high point when Dumbledore battles Voldermort is executed magnificently (and I found it the most memorable part of the film), and they certainly took the SE opportunities the part of the story handed them.

The biggest problem with the film was its jarring inconsistency: for a large portion of the film the mood continually alternates from good to bad. The lighter, less serious scenes would constantly interrupt whatever sense of suspense or tension that was being developed. Consequently the heavier scenes were undermined and the build-up to the climax was significantly stunted.

The script felt like it was guided by a checklist at times, responsibly including parts of the book that mattered most (without overstuffing), and while this effort is commendable, they could've given more time for certain important parts to completely develop and be part of the story, instead of simply adding to it. Terms like 'Order of The Phoenix' and 'The Prophecy' are introduced impatiently then given skimpy explanations, after which they're repeatedly mentioned and used as a character's motivation.

Compared to previous installments, there's little room given for subplots and the film is largely dedicated to Potter. As a result there are only a handful of scenes without him, and sadly Daniel Radcliffe is incapable of carrying such weight on his shoulders. His acting chops haven't improved much - he seems awkward in the role and has a lot of trouble emoting -e ven a simple smile looks unconvincing - a lot of overacting when he's supposed to look frightened/threatened. Personally I found that Radcliffe's poor acting did a lot of damage to this film.Even with music and special effects attempting to convey a certain scene's darkness, Radcliffe's acting still comes off as distracting and makes the whole thing look plain fatuous.

The characters we've grown to know and love - Potter's two main compatriots, Dumbledore, Trelawney are provided little screen time and simply blend in with the rest of the supporting cast. Even Hagrid appears less than thrice - a shame considering how far previous films had gone to make his character (and few others) likable and essential to Potter's life.

HP&TOOTP is an enjoyable but forgettable follow-up to the last installment, though the ending effectively sets up a solid platform for the next film - establishing a sense of continuity and hopefulness that tells us it's not the end,and however unsatisfying this Potter film may be,the journey's still incomplete and there's more to go on for.

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is on release in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, the USA, Venezuala and Argentina. It opens on the 12th in Germany, Hungary, Malaysia, New Zealand, Portugal, Serbia, Sngapore,Slovakia, South Korea, Thailand and the UK. It opens on the 13th i Colombia, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, Sweden and Turkey. It opens later in July in Egypt, Croatia, Czech Republic, Israel, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. It opens in China and Greece in August.

The late review from Bina007, back from Barbados: There are some things that are always faultless about HARRY POTTER movies. They are based on richly imagined source material and the studio spares no expense in bringing all the wonderful details of J K Rowling's world to the screen. I love the beautiful Hogwarts sets, the eccentric characters with their vivid costumes and the seamless CGI characters such as the House Elfs. The films are also leant a level of authenticity by the rich cast of British character actors.

Having said all this, the films remain a mixed bag. The first two installments, THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE & THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS were directed by hack Christopher Columbus and had zero visual flair. Still, they got the job done. And in those days, the job was easier. The material was mostly light, fun and magical. It was all about buying your first wand and winning the House Cup. The gripping finales were all about solving neat puzzles.

Then came THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, directed by Alfonso Cuaron of Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN fame. He produced a film of rare visual style that followed the book in becoming far darker. The evil manifests itself as dementors - an analogy for depression and a brave theme for Rowling to introduce in what remains a children's book. We also first feel the power of the "real" wizarding world and the Ministry of Magic. Cuaron also made the movie more adult in that it focused more on Harry's emotional life rather than joining the dots of Rowling's increasingly elongated plot-lines. However, this also led to the movie feeling a little disjointed and less emotionally engaging.

The fourth film reverted to director-for-hire Mike Newell and I condemned it as uneven in tone and lacking in visual flair
here. Still, this wasn't so much Newell's fault as a reflection of the fact that books were literally as well as substantively in puberty. The film therefore stumbled from teen rom-com dating angst to seriously scary death scenes as Rowling struggled to balance the maturing and darkening of what began as a children's book.

Which is all a long-winded way of getting to where I wanted to be, at THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. It is, to my mind, THE MOST SATISFYING FILM IN THE FRANCHISE. It has less visual flair than AZKABAN certainly. The dark tone mostly rips off Cuaron and there is some really clumsy colour-correct in the opening play-ground scene. I also think the lead actors are serviceable rather than amazing. Daniel Radcliffe plays it mostly in a stunned stupour - just look at his lack of reaction when he's told about his expulsion. Emily Watson and Rupert Grint also tend to speak so fast that they gobble up their lines.

But the movie has by far the most even emotional tone of the series in that it is unrelentingly dark. No more Quidditch. No more House Cup. Even the first kiss is basically a sombre affair - as Harry says, it was "wet" because the girl was crying. And Imelda Staunton is simply petrifying as Dolores Umbridge. Freed from the boarding school pranks, this movie has the space to simply be an affecting and well-produced tale of friendship under peril. IT IS THE ONLY FILM IN THE FRANCHISE THAT I WOULD HAPPILY WATCH AGAIN.

1 comment:

  1. i really didnt enjoy this movie. at parts when you're supposed to be shocked i laughed. maybe it's just me, don't know why everyone else likes it and i dont! hah