Thursday, July 12, 2007

Movie Review: Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixHarry Potter and friends have returned to Hogwarts for their fifth year of study in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This installment is the best of the film series so far and is by far the maturest in terms of film making.

Harry has returned to Hogwarts warning that Voldemort has found a new body and returned. But almost noone believes him. Instead, they believe the propaganda written in the Daily Prophet. The Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, is wilfully ignorant of the truth and installs a new teacher for the Defence Against the Dark Arts classes at Hogwarts - one Dolores Umbridge (brilliantly portrayed by Imelda Staunton). She gradually takes over the school, with the support of the Minister of Magic, restricting the freedom to question ideas, rigid curricula, the outlawing of groups gathering together, and other repressive rules.

In response to the growing threat and because the new teacher will not allow them to talk about it, Dumbledore’s Army is formed, led by Harry who teaches a group of loyal students the magic necessary to deal with Voldemort.

Directed by David Yates, Order of the Phoenix focuses more on the inner emotional development of the characters than on narrative - although that is there too. Harry comes of age in this film (as do Hermione and Ron, to some extent). This episode is more than entertainment and carries with it important themes including the power of love and friendship in overcoming evil and the negative impact of oppressive regimes and how they control individual thinking. It would make George Orwell proud! It’s a great story of good vs evil and is much darker than any of the previous movies.

Because I haven’t read the books, I can’t say how Order of the Phoenix compares. But quite a few reviewers are saying this one is better than the book. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you won’t want to miss this episode!

My Rating: **** (out of 5)

Positive Review
’For all its portentousness, this is the best Harry Potter picture yet. In some ways, it improves on J.K. Rowling’s novel, which is punishingly protracted and builds to a climactic wand-off better seen than read. - David Edelstein/New York Magazine

Negative Review
’Taken as a motion picture, the new "Harry" comes up short. But taken as a visual aid to the experience of reading a book, the new "Harry" does its job. - Mick LaSalle/San Francisco Chronicle

Content Advice
Sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images

USA: PG-13

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