Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Movie Review

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has been touted by many as the best Potter film to-date. The movie has excellent visual effects, good pacing, and some excellent casting. On the downside, it lacks some significant elements.

Measured by word count, Order of the Phoenix is by far the longest Harry Potter book. Naturally some elements must be left out. It must be asked, however, why the longest book in the series was made into the shortest movie? In some cases, elements were omitted that were not needed (exploration and back-story of Grimauld Place, for example). In other cases, references were there, but only someone very familiar with the Potter books would truly notice or understand them.

The most glaring absence, to me, was the lack of student life at Hogwarts. Human nature, especially that of young people, is to go on with ordinary life to the greatest degree possible even in the face of danger. The story flew by with out ever capturing the feel of being in school at Hogwarts. O.W.L.'s were mentioned once at the outset, and virtually ignored until near the end during the grossly underdone exit of Fred and George, when we see the students actually testing. Voldemort notwithstanding, teenagers would be agonizing over such important tests.

Quidditch is completely ignored, despite it being such an important part of student life at Hogwarts. This particular season was significant for Ron's character development, as well as drawing Ginny more into the spotlight, not to mention escalating the conflict with Umbridge and providing impetus for the departure of Fred and George.

One the positive side, the series of minstry decrees is handled with clever and entertaining montages, the sorcerer duels are visually stunning, and the broom flight from Privet Drive to Grimauld Place is also well-done. All the important parts of the main story arcs are intact with important quotes and scenes preserved.

Casting is the movie's greatest strength. Among the new characters, Helena Bonham Carter makes a perfect Bellatrix, Evanna Lynch is excellent as Luna, and Imelda Staunton impeccably captures Umbridge. Though she gets almost no screen time, Natalia Tena makes a great Tonks as well. Michael Gambon continues to be the only real casting clunker, bringing an unwelcome pugnacious quality to the role of the supremely confident, serene Dumbledore.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is an entertaining movie, but be sure to read the book, or you'll miss a great deal.