Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the second best Harry Potter movie ever. David Yates is the only filmmaker to come close to Alfonso Cuaron's masterpiece of pop fantasy. It's got the grit and intensity that all kids movies should have.
Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Opening in the real world, we finally get some reference to the world in which Harry Potter exists. A few shots of the suburbs and a basement cabinet don't count. My biggest problem with the series has been that it all takes place at a school and things that happen in the school. Well, if bad stuff is happening, just stay away from the school. It must be the story of the books has opened up too, but the film definitely exploits it to the fullest.
The grit is apparent right away. Everything seems to have a blue/grey hue. Harry has dreams and flashbacks edited in Natural Born Killers style montages. Detention is brutal, like a magic Saw.
Harry has some real problems in this. First, he gets expelled. That's some sh**. Even if he didn't need Hogwart's to learn to fight Voldemort, missing all his friends would suck. And when that's resolved, there's still the whole Voldemort trying to kill him thing.
He gets really pissed off, rightfully so. Everyone's telling him to do this and do that, but he's got no one really identifying with him. His friends are too simple, Dumbledore's too busy. The past four adventures wore him out, or maybe he's just old enough to understand what he's been through. He's a mack daddy too, which just proves that chicks always like the brooding A-holes, not the nice guys.
There's still a sense of fun. It's not all dour. There are elements of kids playing with toys, particularly the Weasly pranks. The spell practice montage is empowering. Even though it's just a bunch of kids waving sticks around, it's totally engrossing because of what's at stake.
For anyone not into the Potter family tree, like myself, Order of the Phoenix has plenty of real world parallels to make the story meaningful. Mainly, it's about the No Child Left Behind. The government tries to sanitize the classes and standardize tests so that the kids won't actually learn anything threatening. There's also the element of adults trying to "protect" kids from real world hardships, but really just making them impotent to protect themselves.
The film earns a lot of its exposition by opening with lots of action. The dementor attack at the playground and the broomstick ride through London are so rousing that it's okay the next hour or so is pretty talky. The plot scenes breeze through, packing a lot of material in.
There are plenty of visual effects but they're more subtle. Little subversive things that promote authority over individuality, spells that represent character building strengths. There are some set pieces like Weasly pranks and climactic destructions, but this film really uses the effects to serve the story, not vice versa.
If the stories are getting this good, I may have to start reading the books again. I stopped after four, figuring I got the gist and the movies cleaned up the sprawling plot. But my nephew told me that they didn't really take anything out of the book. So 800 pages in two hours, 10 minutes (the shortest Potter yet at that), sounds like the movies have got it right.