Wed, May 22 2013
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has every right to be angry and bitter - Dementors attack him and his generously girthed cousin Dudley, he uses magic to drive them away, the Ministry of Magic wants to expel him from school for doing so, his favourite teacher Dumbledore acts as if Harry doesn't exist, his friends don't answer his letters.
The Ministry calls him a liar for suggesting the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned, and appoints a pink-clad ever-smiling monster named Dolores Umbridge as High Inquisitor at Hogwarts and she make life for students a living hell. This is most of what there is to a story that was extended to the epic length of 870 pages in the source book. After seeing the film I cannot seem to fathom how and why series author JK Rowling devoted so much time and effort for a juncture of the story that turns out to be entirely superfluous.
The structure of the books is repetitive in the extreme, and the Harry Potter films amount to recycling a formula, much as a James Bond film does: beginning of the school years approaches, problems appear on the horizon, a new teacher of Defense Against Dark Arts is appointed, and the evil nemesis Lord Voldemort waits until the end of the school year to launch yet another offensive on the life of the boy-wizard who once inexplicably repelled him. No wonder that each new film of this mammoth franchise is being handed to another director - Alfonso Cuaron or Mike Newell would have hated to do what is in effect the same thing twice. This time around the job of doing a variation on an oh-so-familiar theme is handed to British TV veteran David Yates and he does a truly admirable job, but has the bad luck to work off material that is a poster for the entire series's shortcomings.
Apart from the all too familiar structure, the tone has become more somber and dark, yet the story has by now got too infantile to support all the seriousness and solemnity it seems to want for itself. Not only that, but whereas Harry Potter's teenage angst and complicated interactions with his friends Ron and Hermione are palpable on the books' pages, The Order of the Phoenix makes it finally clear that Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson (Hermione) do not have what it takes to conjure real characters onscreen. Radcliffe huffs and puffs and shouts and squints, but he is no longer a child of 10 and the audience will not be that benevolent to his deficiencies as an actor. Miss Watson too, lovely as she is, acts with the enthusiasm of a girl in a high school stage performance and sadly, with as much panache. Of the three friends that take most of the screen time, it is Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley who displays the most promise as an actor, but ironically his is the least used of the three.
With the shortcomings of the story and its two main stars, director Yates has a real mountain to climb, but he still manages to do miracles with what he has. His film looks as beautiful as any of the previous ones, and he makes wonderful use of the requisite newcomers to the story who easily overshadow the mainstays. Imelda Staunton is so delightfully loathsome as the fanatical Dolores Umbridge that she is easily the highlight of the entire film. Helena Bonham Carter has enormous fun and goes inspiringly over the top as the evil witch Bellatrix Lestrange, while Evanna Lynch, who plays the airhead Luna Lovegood, steals the show from the entire young cast. The film also struggles to manage the traffic of the characters that have been amassed over the years, and the catalogue of British stars has only but a fleeting moment to flaunt their class or build on anything they have done in the previous films.
As the readers of the books know, Rowling started taking care of the problem in this particular juncture of the story - by killing off the odd good guy and showing that the days of joyous wonder have gone for good. Sadly, the kids who embraced the adventures of the boy wizard in 1997 when the first book appeared and who will now be able to appreciate the shift to grown-up seriousness, will also note all the inadequacies of the films and of the series in general, which are by now becoming difficult to ignore.
The Sofia Echo settles in cyberspace.
A fond memoir of the life and times of a certain English-language publication.
Film almost inspired bone-idle journalist to start jogging.
Russia's revolution of the well-fed, well-dressed and well-informed.
Your Facebook friends have more friends than you and other surprising findings from a new Facebook study.