By Kyle | July 14, 2007
AS ENDLESS AS PUBERTY!
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX review by Kyle Smith
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the 59th film in the popular series, brought me straight back to one of the most enduring of childhood feelings: boredom.
It isn’t that the film is bad; it’s predictableÃ‚Â little dramas may seem gripping and full of twists if you’re in the under-six age group, the picturesÃ‚Â looks nice, and the kids are polite and spirited. I suspect they all have excellent bathing habits and solid dental hygiene. But with the addition of Imelda Staunton as Prof. Dolores Umbrage, who comes in to run a one-woman anti-fun Inquisition at Hogwarts, there are now officially more bad guysÃ‚Â than there are members of the New England Patriots. TheÃ‚Â parade ofÃ‚Â subsidiary characters can’t do anything to disguise the stasis of a drawn-out story that is just killing time until the final battle betweenÃ‚Â the plucky Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) andÃ‚Â the noseless Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), which is still two movies off. At a climactic moment in this film, which is the shortest of the series butÃ‚Â the most sluggish, Harry discovers a surprise prophecy that says that neither he nor Voldemort canÃ‚Â survive while the other lives. Wait, you mean the bad guy actually has to be defeated by the good guy, or vice versa?Ã‚Â It took 12 hours worth of the various movies to get us here?Ã‚Â The only list “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”Ã‚Â is going to top is the rundown of the year’s top Rupert Grint films.
If you’ve seen any other Harry PotterÃ‚Â movie, you’ve seen this one. The foster family is mean to him,Ã‚Â Harry is unjustly accused of troublemaking by authorities, there’s someÃ‚Â scary magic where the kids point their wands at stuff in the dark and comedy magic where the kids point wands and make bunnies andÃ‚Â dogsÃ‚Â appear.Ã‚Â The film tells us the legend ofÃ‚Â the Order of the Phoenix, which is an association of the previous generation of magicians whose example Harry hopes to live up to, but it couldn’t be duller if it wereÃ‚Â the Order of the Sacramento.
In the book version of “Phoenix,”Ã‚Â Harry was supposedly becoming more complex and moody but in the movie he’s the same old dull-as-a-student-council-presidentÃ‚Â Harry: though he occasionally loses his temper (inÃ‚Â a mild, Beaver Cleaver way) because he isÃ‚Â being blamed for the death of his friend Cedric and called a liar for saying the evil Voldemort has returned from the dead, he is as usual completely in the right, so it will take the whole movie for the others to acknowledge what we know going in. In the beginning of the movie, Harry is expelled from school, but since we’ve seen why (he used a spell off school grounds, which isÃ‚Â against the rules, but onlyÃ‚Â to save the lives of himself and his cousin Dudley, which makes it okay) and since we know Harry is not goingÃ‚Â to leave Hogwarts to become a carny or take a job sweeping floors at Arby’s, it’s a yawn to watch him undergo accusation and reinstatement. There is some mild interest in the way Voldemort attacks Harry psychologically, by invading his thoughts, but there was something a tad familiar in the way this all-powerful villain tries to seduceÃ‚Â the young orphan into ignoringÃ‚Â good things andÃ‚Â stepping onÃ‚Â over to the Dark Side.Ã‚Â And anÃ‚Â opportunity is lost when Hogwarts becomes corrupted by evil via the influence of the Ministry that controls it. Instead of this being a mystery that the characters tease out, we’re simply told it has happened, and then we watch many, many examples: Prof. Umbrage nailing her nasty prohibitions againstÃ‚Â pleasure on every flat surfaceÃ‚Â and demanding that students rat each other out. For about an hour.Ã‚Â
The pleasure of the books is, I suppose, is in itsÃ‚Â menagerie of wonderfulÃ‚Â characters. But in a 138-minute movie there isn’t space to develop more than seven or eight personalities. Here is a partial list of just the figures who exist to provide Harry counsel, friendshipÃ‚Â and support: Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Dumbledore, Mad-Eye Moody, Sirius Black, Snape, Prof. McGonagall, Lupin, Mrs. Weasley, etc., etc., etc. If you’ve read the books, you may look on allÃ‚Â of these people as old friends. But on film, someÃ‚Â are reduced to giving fly-by performances; a tip of the broomstick and they’re gone.Ã‚Â Bend over to take a sip of your Pepsi, and you’ll miss appearances by three or four Oscar winners. There are soÃ‚Â many characters to squeeze in that Harry gets to have aÃ‚Â love interest, Cho Chang, for exactly one scene. The rest of theÃ‚Â movie Cho loiters in the background doing nothing, except for the last third, whenÃ‚Â she is forgotten entirely. And we’re so overstocked with villains that Helena Bonham Carter, as the evil escaped prisoner Bellatrix LeStrange, appears about 85 percent of the way through the movie, cackles briefly and is done a couple of minutes later. IfÃ‚Â you’ve got Darth Vader, give the audience Darth Vader, not Darth Vader’s assistant’s assistant’s intern. But Volde-vader , as he did in the last film, pops up only for a couple of minutes, then wanders away, which is exactly what you knew was going to happen and exactly what I wanted to do also.