Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix
Directed by David Yates, 2007
After the excellent HP3 and HP4 I might as well admit it. I was disappointed when I left the cinema after seeing this fifth Harry Potter film.
Film or TV-series?
David Yates is used to directing for
television and it shows. "Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix"
doesn’t feel like a film at all, rather a resume of the book, giving you a
brief and shallow description of what happens in each scene, but you never get
past that. The structure is much too loose, you jump from one scene to another
without explanation and you really miss the insights into and depths of the
characters that should hold the scenes together. It is very peculiar that the
longest of the HP books has been turned into the shortest of the HP films so far
(only 132 minutes), thereby losing almost all of the narrative. It actually
feels as if the film ends before it has begun!
With that said, the film grew on me after having seen it a couple of times and it has become one of my favourites, no thanks to its TV-series feel. For me, what makes this film worth seeing are the scenes with "Dumbledore’s Army" as well as those with the Weasley-twins, but more about that later.
In this episode-based film a lot of the really dark and dangerous stuff has been deleted, but still it has a pretty sinister feel to it. It concentrates on Harry who finds himself troubled and angry in a world that is about to change. Lord Voldemort is back and the old secret society "The Order of The Phoenix" rises again in order to fight him.
However, the incompetent Minister of Magic doesn’t believe in Voldemort’s return, and in the end he replaces Dumbledore as headmaster at Hogwarts with Dolores Umbridge. This "nice" little lady is always giggling and smiling, but underneath her pink facade she’s a Hitler in disguise. She won’t allow Hogwarts students to use magic, instead she tortures them, and in the end some of the students form "Dumbledore’s Army" and have Harry teach them practical defence against the Dark Arts.
The film ends with a big showdown in The Ministry of Magic, where one of the members of the Phoenix order dies a rather silly death and we finally learn that of Harry and Voldemort neither can live if the other survives. Which means a little more than just Harry having to kill Voldemort…
For once I liked the Dursley-intro, which I haven’t done in previous films. Richard Griffith (Uncle Vernon), Fiona Shaw (Aunt Petunia) and Harry Melling (cousin Dudley) all do it so well as the horrid Dursley family this time.
It is nice, too, to see Gary Oldman and David Thewlis back as Phoenix order members Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, and Mark Williams is ever so endearing as Mr. Weasley. I’ve had a soft spot for him since I first saw him play Slade drummer Don Powell in Reeves and Mortimer’s Slade-spoofs!
Of the "newcomers" Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge deserves a mention. Man, she is mean! You feel outright sick from watching her torture the children with a smile. Another good performance is put forth by Evanna Lynch as the slightly loony Luna Lovegood. She really looks like she’s living in a world of her own, but at the same time there’s an ethereal quality about her, making it believable that her weirdness covers a deep insight into things. The last of the "new ladies" I’d like to mention is Helena Bonham Carter as the Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange. Now that’s one seriously disturbed pshycho, and Bonham Carter portrays her so well.
The twins Fred and George Weasley get a lot of exposure in HP5, especially as they save the day, get even with Umbridge and (sadly) leave Hogwarts prematurely. They even have their own theme song - "Fireworks" - a sort of Celtic jig added a wailing electric guitar. And James and Oliver Phelps playing the twins can handle it. They ARE Fred and George. Period.
Furthermore Yates "reverses" their roles, so in HP5 the main focus is on the empathic George, where the brazen Fred got the most exposure in the first four films. It is becoming, I think, as Oliver Phelps playing George has a more mature and expressive face than his twin brother who comes across as a bit of a pretty-boy. Too bad, by the way, that Oliver Phelps has had the gap between his front teeth closed. It gave George that certain ambiguously naughty look!
The film as such does, however, concentrate on Harry Potter and Daniel Radcliffe rises to the occasion. The mature, troubled Harry is so much more interesting than the previous films’ ‘goody two-shoes’ boy wonder. Also Matthew Lewis as Neville does a fine job, showing a lot of facets to his character. This can not be said about Emma Watson as Hermione Granger. She acts worse than ever and unfortunately the film doesn’t make room for Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) to shine. We do however get welcome glimpses of Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley, now lackey of the incompetent Minister of Magic) and Alan Rickman. Rickman’s Professor Snape in the occlumency-scenes is both chilling and pitiful. Especially when we get to see his past, showing that Harry’s dad wasn’t as nice as we’ve been led to believe.
I’ve come to like the film, but still I feel that something is wrong. Although the sinister atmosphere is there, it doesn’t feel "scary" enough. Sure, in the film all of the Hogwarts students get tortured by Umbridge, whereas in the book it was only Harry and the twins’ friend Lee Jordan, but it doesn’t seem half bad, at least not compared to the book. Reading the torture scenes was really creepy, but in the film you go, "Oh, so the kids get a few scratches on their hands, so what?" I mean, Umbridge doesn’t even try to flog the twins! Of course you have to alter scenes like that in order to get a PG 11 rating, but it takes away most of the gloomy, dark and broody feel which is so essential to the story.
And then there’s the much talked about kiss. Yes, Harry Potter gets kissed. And so what?? He’s supposed to be a fifteen year old lad, so it’s about time!! In real life a lad his age would probably not stop there, but Potter being a polite young man does. His love interest is Cho Chang played by Katie Leung, a Chinese girl with a thick Scottish accent, who seems an unlikely and very naive contender for Harry’s heart. Notice by the way, that in the film it is Cho who rats on "Dumbledore’s Army", not her friend like in the book.
Both the kiss and the toning down of the torture scenes are symptoms of what is wrong with this film. Two years have passed since the last HP film, the young cast having matured way past the ages of their characters, and most of them have a hard time passing as fifteen year olds, when in real life they are close to their twenties. The film struggles equally hard to be a film (or TV-series!) for kids, as it is no longer plausible, most of the actors being adults now. So in my humble opinion the powers that be ought to react on this. Scrap the PG 11 rating and go all the way, making the films as sinister as the books. We are way past kiddie-stuff here!
Three out of five stars: ***
@ Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2007