Saturday, July 14, 2007

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF PHOENIX MOVIE REVIEW



















CAST: DANIEL RADCLIFFE, EMMA WATSON, RUPERT GRINT, IMELDA STAUNTON, MICHAEL GAMBON, GARY OLDMAN, HELENA BONHAM CARTER, RALPH FIENNES
DIRECTOR: DAVID YATES
RUNTIME: 138 min.
RATING: **
GENRE: FANTASY, ADVENTURE

First things first, this isn’t a comparison of the book vis-à-vis the movie; I have read none of the books. And second things second, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE is still the best of the series.
Order of the Phoenix, the fifth installment in a series that has already pocketed more than $3.5 billion in worldwide sales is without a shred of doubt the weakest of them all and by a very long margin. What was the point of the whole movie? Was it supposed to be the making of an order, was it a pre-showdown or was it Harry Potter’s coming of age? The movie is neither and the only point it makes is that sequels, especially crass as these exist only to make that $3.5 into $4.5. Artistically, emotionally and dramatically stunted, this film has a lot of special effects but absolutely no magic or even something as trifle as a charm. There was a time not too long ago when we shared the wonder of those cute little kids when they first sat on their brooms, when the owls just filled the room with letters. That was charm you can’t buy with any amounts of money and unfortunately money is the only element on full display here.
Forget the plot; half the world knew the plot even before they started production and the other half, well let us just forget about us. The most important question is- What is the purpose of an adaptation? Is it just to bring the book to life? You don’t need to read the book to realize that all the adaptation involves is sections of what is supposedly an 800 page book welded together into a two hour movie. Forget the film and forget narration, not for a single moment does it appear that the writers or the director have paid any sort of attention to develop a scene. It doesn’t matter if sequences make little or no sense. Harry Potter is brought before the Ministry of Dark Arts for using a “Petronas” (forgive my spelling) charm in the presence of a muggle. Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) speaks some meaningless lines and suddenly Harry is cleared. Then again, when Harry is asked by a bunch of wannabe magic-warriors about proof regarding the return of Lord Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes), he speaks some rubbish and abracadabra, everyone comes up and signs. The biggest, the most glaring sore to the eye is when Arthur Weasely (Mark Williams) is hurt and the makers don’t even have the decency to show Ron Weasely’s (Rupert Grint) reaction. Everyone seems to be so preoccupied with plot that nobody gives even an iota of thought to weaving a story. Making a movie, when it is laden with fantasy is all about how well you tell a story. And telling a story has little to do with following a plot. And on top of that, there is no humor. All this of course is hidden under a reason that is being marketed as the “darkest” tale in the series. Well it is dark because it is frighteningly boring.
I hate movies as these that are emotionally and artistically hollow yet perform cheap tricks to hide them. Why such pretension? The glaring example is a sequence involving Miss McGonagall (Maggie Smith) and Dolores Umbridge where they are caught in an argument while walking over some steps. To show who holds the upper hand, they are made to go up and down the steps. That is cheap, that is really cheap. At every turn, there is a photograph moving or a strange animal cross the path. All these make for great background but here they’re an attempt to cover the shallowness of the movie.
The performances are uniformly crass; I cannot comprehend the inane reason why actors become loud and “dramatic” when it comes to fantasy movies. Emma Thomson in Prisoner of Azkaban, Imelda Staunton here as the wicked Dolores Umbridge, Helena Bonham Carter in her blink and miss turn, oh I even forgot the name of her character. The only two faces that bring any respectability to the proceedings are Gary Oldman and Michael Gambon. As for the three kids, I would like to borrow a line from Hermione Granger; they have got an acting range of a teaspoon. I absolutely loved them in the first two and their cuteness overshadowed their histrionic deficiencies. But here, full grown they are, all their talent is on full display. Daniel Radcliffe, probably the next Macaulay Culkin could do himself tons of favor if he could just rent out a copy of EMPIRE OF THE SUN and see his senior Brit and one time child actor Christian Bale perform and carry the entire movie on his tender shoulders.
As for the director David Yates, all I want to say is I dread at the very thought that he has been hired for the next installment as well.
The climax is awful and this is one problem I guess trickles down from the book. There is absolutely no pay off. All these guys talk about in the whole movie is some prophecy and as it turns out, it is the thing you have known all along. Plus we’re cheated out of some secrets that I guess are supposed to be revealed in the later movies regarding why Harry Potter’s and Voldermort’s fates are intertwined, why Potter survived the attack when he was a baby. The posters put Lord Voldermort and for anybody with any doubts, he isn’t there. Guess he is a marketing gimmick to keep everyone interested for as long as the franchisee runs.

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