Tuesday, July 17, 2007
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (2007) - David Yates
Films like those in the Harry Potter saga are fairly critic-proof. And as such, it seems fairly pointless to actually share one's views on the films. But hey, this is a place for the opening of debate, so one soldiers on! The fifth Potter movie, Harry Potter And the Order of the Phoenix hit the screen last weekend, and will no doubt bring in millions at the box office. The Order of the Phoenix opens, as with almost all of the Potter films, with Harry at home with the Dursleys, the abhorrent relatives he finds himself living with when not in Hogwarts. He, and the Dursley boy are attacked, and Harry, breaking the Ministrey of Magic's rules, uses a spell to defend himself. Potter is expelled from Hogwarts and brought to trial. He's found not guilty and allowed back into Hogwarts. Unfortunately for everyone at Hogwarts, the facist-leaning Dolores Umbridge, a Ministry stooge is appointed as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and quickly begins to impose her will on the school. She follows party line that Voldermort has not returned to cause havok and therefore she is not willing to teach the students the lessons they need to defend themselves. So Harry gathers some friends and prepares for a confrontation with 'He Who Shall Not Be Named.'
Okay, firstly, I'll admit, I'm no Harry Potter fan. I've watched the films, and heck, even enjoyed one of them. But other than that, I can take or leave the saga. However, I can appreciate how popular they are, and if nothing else, they are pretty great visually. So there'll be something for pretty much everyone in the films. I've always maintained that Alfonso Cuaron's Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban has been the most accomplished of the movies (I don't particularly care what the books are like) and proof that a great director can pretty much make any subject matter interesting. The Goblet of Fire had some great sequences, but was pretty laboured compared to the previous film. But having heard the hype surrounding this film, I was looking forward to what was said by many to be the best of the series. Unfortunately, I think I saw a different movie to everyone else. I cant understand why people think this one is better than either of the previous two (the first two films are not worth mentioning, as they are, well, crap).
First, the good. The central actors, the 'kids,' really have matured in terms of acting talent. It's understandable that Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson were going to be pretty poor actors when thrust into the central roles. But as the films have progressed, so has their talent, and they're pretty good in their roles in this film. They're surrounded by some of the finest actors in the industry, including Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Jason Isaacs and Micheal Gambon. But we barely see any of these actors in action, and here in lies the first fault. The previous films had really interesting adult actors in central roles which really helped the kids. Thewlis in the third and Gleeson in the fourth, but these actors are reduced to cameos. Imelda Staunton has the central adult role in this film as Dolores Umbridge, and is very good in the role. But the character is nothing we haven't seen before and quickly loses any interest. I was pretty much relieved by the time Ralph Fiennes' Voldermort arrived on the screen to spice things up, but again, it's little more than a cameo role in the end.
The major problem with the film is the pacing. I have to say, I was quite bored for three quarters of the film. There's no real focus to the story, and is instead a series of little incidents loosely tied together with a scant plot, as Harry teaches his fellow schoolmates to use their wands while trying to avoid the facist grip of Dolores Umbridge. There's no focusing elements such as a tournament in the previous film and no real threat for most of the proceedings, and I found myself wishing the film would just get on with it. There's the hint that there's going to be a huge confrontation towards the end of the film, but even this just arrives as a damp squib. Yate's direction is adequate for the film, but has none of the flair and trickery of Cuaron's direction. Yates continuously zooms in through newspaper articles, which gets tiresome quickly, and in one scene in particular, mysteriously focuses the camera on the wrong character. I hope he'll tighten up proceedings in the next film, as this film just seems to be a little drawn out. Which is ironic as it's the shortest Harry Potter film so far.
Overall, the film isn't too bad. It's aimed at kids, and will entertain them, and even scare them, as there are plenty of dark moments in the film. But I just found myself waiting for something exciting to happen. Not just the same old special effects rehashes from the previous films. And for an hour and forty five minutes, that's a long time to wait! Not terrible. But not great.