Well, my film reviews now move on to the most recent Harry Potter movie to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray, Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix. Now, I haven’t read the novel of this one yet (though it’s entirely possible that I’ll have read it once this review goes up – I’m writing this on July 13th). So, anyway, I’m watching this in preparation for watching Half-Blood Prince when it comes out (and hopefully doing a round-table podcast with Bureau42, which will be up by the time this review goes out). So, it’s time to see what I think of this movie.
The Premise: Following the events of Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire, and the revival of Voldemort and the death of Cedric Diggory, Harry has been traumatized to say the least, and returning to the Durstleys isn’t helping things, and neither is the smear campaign being done by the Ministry of Magic against Harry & Dumbledore, one that would impress even William Randoph Hurst. In the midst of all this, Dementors attack Harry & Dudley, forcing Harry to leave home for the safety of his family and hole up in the Black estate, the current base of the Order of the Phoenix, the group working to take down Voldemort once again. Further, when Harry goes to Hogwarts, he faces a new Defense Against The Dark Arts instructor, Dolores Umbridge, who is working to take control of Hogwarts – and then there are those disturbing dreams Harry’s got.
The Good: One of the things I worry about, on occasion, with Harry Potter films is that one of the new actors being introduced in this movie will go all kid’s film, in terms of not just overacting, but overacting in a condesending fashion (“I’m not just angry, I’m going overact how angry I am because I can’t trust the audience to pick up that I’m angry”). This doesn’t happen often in Harry Poter Films, but the risk is there. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen here. Imelda Stanton (who plays Umbridge), at first glance, appears to do this – but as the film goes on, it becomes clear that this isn’t a trait of the actor’s performance – it’s a trait of the character – one which I feel makes the character more threatening.
In general, while I doubt the plot of the film is meant to be any direct commentary on McCarthyism, or any war on terror (be it the modern war or The Troubles), or on Hurst or Rupert Murdoch, the similarities are there, and to be honest, I don’t mind seeing them. It is my opinion that young adult novels should not be afraid to engage in social commentary, and I applaud any author who chooses to engage in such commentary. I will not necessarily agree with the opinions the author chooses to express or endorse (though, in this case, I agree with Rowling), and I might even fervently disagree, but I do encourage writers to not underestimate the intelligence of their readers.
The Bad: I haven’t read the book, but as far as the movie is concerned, the Cho Chang/Harry Potter relationship could have done with a bit more screen time, and if they was any ground work meant to be laid here for the later Ginny/Harry relationship, I couldn’t see it thus it probably wouldn’t have hurt to add that as well. Also, it isn’t made too clear which Death Eaters are arrested in the fight at the Department of Mysteries – which is actually kind of important – as one of the Death Eaters who is arrested is Lucius Malfoy (I used Wikipedia for some research).
The Ugly: While the Durstleys (specifically – the parents) get minimal screen time here, they still get screen time, which is significant, as, in my opinion, the Durstleys are more repulsive than the worst character ever created by Roald Dahl (in terms of villain figures). Thus far, based on their conduct, the only way they could recieve an appropriate level of Karmic backlash for their actions would have to involve a giant peach. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but every prior attempt to read the books has run into the brick wall of the Durstleys, and I nearly ran into the same thing here. Other than that, the main problem I ran into is a bit of suspension of disbelief – how a Nazi like Umbridge could hold so much clout in the Ministry of Magic. I would have thought that the Ministry would have undergone some serious de-nazification following Voldemort’s last go-round, and Umbridge certainly would fail any test regarding covering up her views about wizard “genetic purity”.
It is my hope by the end of the series that Umbridge ends up dead, and it’s not a “heat of battle death”, it needs to be an execution – she needs to see it coming and know why she’s dying (she’s a Nazi, she’s siding with Voldemort, and she’s aiding and abetting attempts at genocide.
The Verdict: Despite my criticisms, I enjoyed the movie, though I had to trudge through it early on. I can’t reccomend a purchase though, unless you’re a major Harry Potter fan (in which case you own the movie already), I can reccomend a rental, or a visit to your local library though.
Oh, and if you’re expecting a review of Half-Blood Prince, I wouldn’t be reviewing that here, because I took part in the first Bureau42 Podcast, on which we discussed the film, so you can get my thoughts there.