Thursday, July 12, 2007

Is Order of the Phoenix the best HP movie so far?

It may well be, though I've long been allegient to the third: Prisoner of Azkaban, directed by (Alfonso Cuarón).

After being disappointed following Goblet of Fire---since Prisoner of Azkaban was so great and my expectations were, apparently, unrealistically high---I was a bit apprehensive entering this film. But director David Yates and the cast did a wonderful job.

Order of the Phoenix is both intricate and intense. There's a real dynamic feel to all the scenes, and the scene transitions, which I loved so much in POA, were mostly very elegant. Darkness pervades the movie as it does the book, and I believe the film itself was darkened, stylized in the way 300 was (though not as much).

As opposed to GOF, Dumbledore (played by Michael Gambon) was not misplayed in this film, Hermione's (Emma Watson) acting was kept in check---both she and Gambon over-acted in the previous film, in my opinion, which I blame on the previous director---and as all the reviews have said, Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) was played perfectly. I'd love more interaction with the Hogwarts professors, but there's so much going on outside of Hogwarts, and inside of Harry and the other students, that I understand less screentime. Ditto for the actual Order of the Phoenix members. We get a good dose of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), but not enough Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) or everyone's favorite: Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). And almost absent, for all intensive purposes, is Harry's nemesis, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton).

Still, I had no problem with how the book, among my favorites but also the longest and likewise darkest of the series, was condensed and re-ordered to meet on-screen requirements. In fact, I'd say that's one of the highlights. Many other hardcore HP fans cite this as their biggest lament---that it doesn't follow the book more closely. But how, praytell, can it? Realistically, it can't.

Dan Radcliffe, playing Harry, has really turned into a fine young actor, showing a range of emotion and style. Ditto, finally, for Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), though still underutilized. And, given her more natural acting under Yates, Emma Watson shined.

Regarding younger viewers, I'm a bit concerned about taking my 7-year-old to see OOTP, because it is so intense (and sometimes downright scary), but we'll set her up appropriately and hope she fares well.

In sum, Order of the Phoenix is the best movie I've seen this summer (and I loved Pirates of the Caribbean and Ratatouille both). Is it the best of the Harry Potter series? Let me think on that a bit. I'm seeing it again on Saturday morning, so that should help.

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