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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in 3D Imax - 1 Past The Dark of Midnight - Movie Review

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Directed by David Yates

If you think nothing is going to get cut from J.K. Rowlings original 700+ page tome, get over it. A movie can't be 5 hours long, so a LOT was cut and streamlined. They also assume you've actually read the books and/or watched the previous 4 movies, because there is little time to explain anything or anyone as they jump right into another installment of what is now really just another chapter in a grander story.

The Order of the Phoenix was also the most internal book that slowed the action down and moved the mood from an adventure fantasy into a darker allegory of politics and leadership amongst the many themes. It was deeper and far more dramatic and this is not the Hogwarts we so fondly remembered from The Philosopher's Stone (Sorcerer's Stone for you Americans). Ah, those were the naive simple days.

Now, the rebellion has begun, against the rise of Voldemort, but a new evil is standing in the way. A new evil in a pink outfit played deliciously by Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake). As Dolores Umbridge, Imelda plays a member of the Ministry of Magic who also becomes the new Defence of the Dark Arts teacher and is the Ministry's way of controlling Hogwarts and while she is not as physically ugly as described in the book, she is still as ugly in her actions, and makes a nice antagonistic delusional leader (ring any bells?) in a time of crisis.

The entire cast is mostly there, but again, the primo British veteran actors club is mostly relegated to walk on roles as the film really belongs back to Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, and boy has he grown up. Daniel, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are becoming quite the young thespians, taking on the most dramatic of the films brilliantly.

Since the book has more to do with politics and the set up for the big rebellion, not as much happens action wise, and at times, the films slows down to a pace unfamiliar in Harry Potter territory (Or maybe I was just a wee bit tired at the 12:01am screening). It makes a good drama film, but shifts away from the magical fantasy land we were so used to, as dark realities begin to seep into the world of Harry Potter. My friend didn't think it was dark ENOUGH but I think it hit the frustrations of dealing with Dolores while the hint of Voldemort's return as the right level.

As a whole, not as great as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (which I ranked #2 film of 2005 just behind Brokeback Mountain) but much of it has to do with the fact that the base material book is not as stand alone anymore, and really just the first chapter in the final battle, that will continue in Book 6 and 7, so this film feels like it hasn't really ended yet, and is to be continued, more so than previous Harry Potter films. I enjoyed The Order of the Phoenix but I definitely wanted even MORE, which I guess is a testament to J.K. Rowling.

The IMAX 3D sequence, about 20 minutes near the end, is TOTALLY WORTH PAYING THE EXTRA FOR. HOLY COW that was fun! Or more like... thrilling. By then, you were totally immersed into the movie (literally and 3D physically) and forgot you were watching a movie. Plus, Harry Potter is so big! And 3 dimensional! I. Could. Almost. Just. Reach. Out. And. Touch. Him... Oh wait. He's not 18 until July 23rd. Eww.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix = B or 8/10, or in IMAX 3D = B+ or 8.5/10.

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