Sunday, 26 June 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 10 - Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix

#91 - Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix

Yep, that’s right, you caught me. I’m a Potter-maniac, a Pot-head if you will. Anyway I always enjoyed the films (except maybe the third one, shudder) and I am a minority in the rare species of people who don’t care if stuff gets cut out (so I wasn’t in the picket line of people protesting against Hermione’s pink dress). I felt that I had to include one film in here, considering it’s been one of the biggest cultural phenomenon in the last ten years. And out of all the seven films (so far) I feel this was the best of them.

Okay, the plot picks up from the end of Goblet of Fire with Harry stuck at his aunt and uncle’s bored and cut off from the wizarding world. Things pick up when two Dementors suddenly arrive to attack him and his cousin, then the rest of the wizards decide it’s time to whisk him away back into their world. Unfortunately for Harry, the Ministry of Magic has ignored his and Dumbledore’s warnings about Voldemort returning so now the majority of the wizarding world believes him to be a liar. Things don’t get much better when he returns to Hogwarts as the Ministry has appointed a spy as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher – the sadistic and vindictive Dolores Umbridge. Oh and Harry has also been having nightmares about a room in the Ministry, as well as a budding relationship with Cho Chang.

Sounds like a plot overload? Well it was the longest Harry Potter book, ironically condensed into the shortest Potter film. That being said, the earlier scenes in the film are pretty rushed but it does settle down once they get to Hogwarts. Our golden trio are on form – Daniel Radcliffe clearly learned a good lesson about subtlety after millions of viewers had to cringe watching him try to act angry in the third film, and his acting during the death scene at the end is truly heartbreaking. Throughout the whole film, he’s able to convey how cut-off and isolated Harry feels with barely any lines. This film was definitely the best example of his acting across the whole series – Half Blood Prince and Goblet of Fire gave us good specific scenes but here his performance across the whole thing is great to watch. Also in comparison to her chewing the scenery in Goblet of Fire, Emma Watson is much calmer and much more Hermione-ish. She looks pretty hot with the blonde hair too. The big standout from the trio is definitely Rupert Grint. To be honest, I never thought much of this guy in the previous films; he was pretty much just there since he didn’t seem to have a lot to do. Here he got plenty of screen time as well as a chance to show Ron as more than comic relief while also toning down Hermione a bit. Take the scene in Umbridge’s office – Hermione just stands there while Ron tries to escape and similarly in the Death Chamber. 

Of course the biggest star out of the younger actors would be Evanna Lynch who plays the eccentric Luna Lovegood. Ms Lynch joined the cast as a fan of the books and it definitely shows – she is Luna, there is very little else to say about it. Mathew Lewis, Katie Leung and Bonnie Wright do well with the little screen time they get. Out of the older actors, Gary Oldman delivers a better performance than in his previous two Potter films (the fourth one just being a complete waste of his talent), doing a great job as Harry’s only parent figure, making his eventual death scene all the more tragic. Of course Helena Bonham Carter, in her few minutes of screen time, is so badass as Bellatrix Lestrange. The “how’s mum and dad?” line was so cool, and I’m glad she got more screen time in the next two films. And another one scene wonder would be Natalia Tena, playing Tonks. The costume, the mannerisms and the acting just make her just as cool as her book counterpart.

And finally if you are talking about performances in this film, a big pat on the back has to go to Imelda Staunton. I absolutely hated Umbridge in the books (I was supposed to, she’s a villain isn’t she?) but I couldn’t get enough of her in this film. Staunton is just perfect in every sense of the word as the sugary pink overdosed lady who is a deeply sadistic and terrifying tyrant. Emma Thompson, Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes and Michael Gambon are also equally solid in their performances. 

Now we get to the scenes; this would of course be the first Potter film to feature some full on fighting scenes. I guess fighting with wands could look a bit hokey and cheesy in a film but they managed to make it work. The battle in the Ministry is really exciting to watch and it’s just a shame it got cut down in the editing. The climactic duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore is just breathtaking. That scene alone qualified this film for an award for SFX.
On the other end of the spectrum, we also get a charming scene where Harry and Cho finally kiss. Sadly for Cho, she’s pretty much forgotten about and only appears in three scenes afterwards (with no lines) – unfortunate implications much? The scene where Umbridge gets carried off by the centaurs is hilarious with poor Dolores screaming “I am senior undersecretary Dolores Jane Umbridge! Let me goooooo!” echoing into the forest. My absolute favourite scene is where Harry teaches the class how to conjure a Patronus – the effects and the music make for a really nice scene. And the possession scene in the book looked almost impossible to translate to a film, but they pulled it off and I think it came together really well.

Okay, I do have a few criticisms although it is really a lot of nitpicking. I have issues with the flying scene at the start – Harry gets expelled for using magic in front of his cousin (these wizards are big on secrecy) but then the Order fly past a cruise ship in full view of the public, not even trying to stay hidden. I guess we can handwave it with the simple Rule of Cool. I also have a bit of an issue with how the scenes at the Ministry went; I feel they could have been a bit longer because they felt really rushed and more time could have made them a bit more exciting. And I didn’t like the design of the centaurs – they just looked like bad CGI. And as a fan of Bonnie Wright, I feel they could have given here more lines considering she was playing the hero’s future wife. I think she has about seven lines in total in the film.

So, in conclusion, I feel this is the best film to represent the Harry Potter franchise on my list. It’s a flawed film, but what film isn’t? It has my favourite cast out of all the films and I can’t find a single person to complain about in terms of acting (even the disappointing Tom Felton wasn’t awful). It isn’t too rushed and it’s filled with some excellent scenes. I’m glad David Yates stayed on to direct the last three films because...well the films speak for themselves. Later, taters and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

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