Friday, July 13, 2007
Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix
MORE THAN MEETS THE MAGIC!
By Reymundo Salao
I am not a Harry Potter fan. I've never read a Harry Potter book, numero uno: because the Harry Potter fandom kinda sickened me (specifically, the ignorant yuppies that jump into the bandwagon & claim they’re such Potter geeks too), and numero dos: I hated the first two Harry Potter movies. Now, If you think that's enough reason to make me UN-qualified to critique this new Harry Potter movie, then you are most welcome to stop reading now.
The bad news: My friends who've read the book didn’t enjoy the film. They think it was executed with a mediocre touch. The good news: I LOVED this new Harry Potter movie! It has a very engaging teen storyline about bullies, first kisses, dead parent issues, and student rebellion against autocracy
One could imagine the immense pressure it must have been for director David Yates to take on a film franchise of one of the most popular, most watched over fiction series of modern time. The slightest mistake or failure to make it excellent could upset an entire legion of fans. But Yates didn’t mess up. He simply picks up where the other directors left off and just did what he thinks is best for the franchise. He delivers without falter, nor selling out. Just like the original mood of the book by J.K. Rowling from which it is based on, Yates takes the franchise to a new level, giving it a mature and dark tone.
Don’t bring your children to this movie. No, there's no offensive violence or sexuality. But kids will definitely find this movie awfully boring. Harry Potter has crossed over from its magical surprise, and dispenses with the "Oohhs and Ahhs" of visual eye candy magic. The movie assumes the audience to think "Sure, it's magic... so what?" it doesn’t dilly-dally, and jumps to just the bare storyline. Children will give you a headache complaining how boring it is. But perhaps a more mature audience would love it.
I am told that HARRY POTTER & THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is the longest & densest of the Harry Potter books. That may be one reason why its movie adaptation literally skips some aspects of the book and focuses on the storyline. On the downside, there are areas in the story that are confusing and not given adequate explanation. A non-Harry Potter fan like me have found myself asking questions of Who and Why to a companion who has read the book. And they tell me that indeed the movie lacked the effort for non-Potter fans to grasp the story entirely. In addition to this matter, the beginning of the movie also has a seemingly missing void in between this movie and the last one. Even though if one has watched the last movie (Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire) one may be wondering who the new characters were, or what has transpired in-between this movie and the one before it.
The one area of complaint about this movie is its lack of visual inventiveness. There was nothing visually new, but what can you expect from a franchise movie on its fourth sequel (fifth film)? I must guess that after 4 movies of Ooohhh and Aaahhh, maybe this one needed a change of pace, in which understandably, many found unexpectedly boring and devoid of balance. In my opinion, what was new was a more interesting depth in Harry's character, and in almost many of the characters. We see a vengeful Neville Longbottom, a more sympathetic Severus Snape, a more headstrong McGonagall, and a Dumbledore showing his rebellious side. Many of the important side-characters are given brief but ample time. We see Remus Lupin and Alastor Moody in tiny but unignorable roles, and Emma Thompson as Sybil Trelawney gives a short moment to shine as a pitiful teacher who has dimmed out her worth at Hogwarts. The franchise’s cast is all grown up now, the cast that used to be cute has now become a beautiful cast of young actors and actresses.
New villains are most deliciously welcome to make Potter and his friends' lives more miserable. Helena Bonham Carter's performance as Bellatrix Lestrange is truly fitting with her already insane image; her moments were brief but definitely applaudable. And of course, Imelda Staunton is precious as Dolores Umbridge as she brings to life one of the most hated villains I've seen on film for a long time. But then again, it might be due to the fact that the character of Dolores Umbridge clearly represents each and every self-righteous, autocratic teacher I’ve ever encountered. Having gone through unpleasant Elementary and High School experiences, meeting teachers like this is equal to what was actually normal.
HARRY POTTER & THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is a refreshing tale of mystery, intrigue, and the angst of teen spirit. It may not be your eye candy Harry Potter movie filled with sparks and flashes of CGI creatures and overlong screentime for special effects. This Harry Potter chapter is more character-driven, and I loved it. I’m glad the world of Harry Potter has grown up. We would not want to be stuck in its Disney-like childish image, because the real magic is not all the sparks, but its characters.