12 Jul 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Review

Well last night, after a couple of years of waiting, I finally got to see the new Harry Potter. Let me first say that Order of the Phoenix is, after Chamber of Secrets, my least favorite book. It's too long, too dark and contains stretches of unimaginable tedium. Despite this, I was still very much looking forward to the new movie. There's just something magical about having a book you've read transferred into moving images.

The reviews I had read about this latest installment prior to seeing it had been overwhelmingly positive. This got me even more excited about opening day. As I sat down last night to watch the film, it is fair to say that my expectations were high. By the time the movie was over, I experienced that rare feeling of having my expectations not only met, but exceeded.

This was, by far, the best of the HP film adaptations. The achievement by director David Yates of transferring 870 pages of text into 133 minutes (the shortest running time of the series, by the way) was nothing short of monumental. Every major plot point throughout the book was expertly crafted onscreen. The casting (always excellent in the films) was pitch-perfect. The art direction of the film matched the book's tone fabulously. And, finally, the acting of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson was actually, for once, very good - something that had always been a little off-putting for much of the previous films.

How they managed to adapt such a large and cumbersome story into a lean running time is beyond me, but they did. Gone were the largely extraneous scenes of HP in the Order HQ. Gone were the needless extra scenes of Grawp. Retained were the fantastically awful scenes with Umbridge (an unbelievably good Imelda Staunton). As for the final battle at the ministry, a tip o' the chapeau to you, Mr. Yates, for visualizing EXACTLY what I had in mind when I first read the book.

Of the new characters, the aforementioned Ms. Staunton steals the movie, frankly, as she conveys the menace, evil and diabolical characteristics of Umbridge through something as small as a smirk and a squeak. Newcomer Evanna Lynch invests Loony Lovegood with just the right amount of cluelessness and whimsy without resorting to quirkiness. And Helena Bonham-Carter, while only onscreen for a few scenes, is truly horrifying as the deranged Bellatrix Lestrange.

Radcliffe and Gary Oldman as Sirius Black bring heart and truly great performances to the film. The scenes they share are among the best and most heartfelt of the entire series.

In short, then, the best Potter yet and, easily, the best movie of the summer. (Most) highly recommended.


Cam said...

Wow. Finally a new post. Where have you been!?

I'm sure you have already read my review which sounds just the opposite as yours, except that we both agree the acting was superb. I've spoken to a couple of my friends who have not read the books and have just seen the movies, and all of them have said that they were totally lost throughout. The movie just jumped around so much and instead of showing a story, it mostly just told a story. Alas, you are part of the majority of HP fans and critics that enjoyed the movie, so it might just be me.

Cam said...

I guess I forgot to mention that, yes, the film did feel just as dark as the book was, but the story just slugged along that it didn't cause any improvement in my eyes. I still think that Alfonso's PoA is by far the best movie (remember, we're talking about movie making). Of course I understand that you can't fit everything from OotP into a 2.25 hour movie, but somehow CuarĂ³n and Newell were able to do well on their movies, and by no means were those books short (although they were shorter than book 5). This movie just didn't feel like a Harry Potter movie. It's not the fact that a lot of things are missing, it's the fact that those things play a major part in understanding the story, which is why a lot of non-Harry Potter fans have been leaving the theatre totally confused (most reviews by people who have not read the book but like the movies have all said that they had no idea what was going on). Sometimes simplicity works for films, but not this time and not this simplistic. It causes boredom and confusion. I didn't even see Sirius get hit by the final curse. I saw Bellatrix cast it, a green flash, Sirius grab his side, and was like "WTF?". I felt that I could have done a better job directing that P.O.S.

I have also seen quite a bit of movies this summer and here are my reviews in a nutshell: Live Free or Die Hard-***1/2 (fast-paced, awesome action), FF Silver Surfer-no stars (didn't like the first one, second one looked good, but sucked), Transformers-**1/2 (agree on the special effects and sound; the typical summer popcorn action flick), Spider-Man 3-***1/2 (I disagreed with the critics as well! I liked it as much as the other Spidey films), Ocean's 13-*** (much better than the second, retained some respect that I once had for the series), Ratatouille-**** (one of the best Pixar movies of all time). I'm glad we can agree on most of these.

As for SiCKO... I've already watched it. I downloaded it because Michael Moore said that he doesn't like copyright laws. Hey, be happy that I finally did something he said. While I can agree with a lot of the facts that he presented (even though some are single sourced), I still don't agree with the way he does it (like using Mychelle Williams' case just to get the audience's sympathy and presenting it in a false manner; also, making it look like Cuba has better medical facilities than us and a better health care system is laughable) and I don't think he came up with any kind of proper solution that would ever work in this country. It's a lose/lose situation when it comes to health care. In the end, just be happy that I think his facts are a little better in this one, but he's still a deceiving little gremlin. I had to remind a fellow co-worker this as well: it's not the topic that makes me mad. Everyone has the right to present how they feel about something. It's the way that he lies or twists stories and takes advantage of the average unintelligent viewer who believes everything they see/hear.