Thursday, December 20, 2007


No wizard left behind

By Edward Copeland
I've never read a Harry Potter book and I've never seen one in a theater, but the quality control of the film series has amazed me. I caught up with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and, while I think it slips a little from previous films, it's still good and it may contain the best performance in the entire series from Imelda Staunton.

Staunton is a true hoot as Dolores Umbridge, the new professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts and the teacher from hell, inflicting strict discipline with a smile and a giggle, as she tries to change Hogwarts in the name of "educational reform."

This film continues the series' trend of growing darker with each new installment, but it doesn't quite connect emotionally the way it should, especially when a beloved friend of Harry's bites the dust. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was much better at interspersing the dark dealings with burgeoning adolescence than Order of the Phoenix does.

The rest of the cast is solid as always and Daniel Radcliffe seems to grow in talent with each new appearance as Harry. His cohorts Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint, Emma Watson) don't get as much to do in this outing, but the rest of the cast of British adults shine as always, especially Michael Gambon as Dumbledore.

If Order of the Phoenix didn't quite wow me as much the earlier films, especially the last two, it may be that they've condensed what is a large novel so much that something is lost in the translation.

Director David Yates' pacing is fine, but he doesn't bring the flair to the series that Mike Newell or Alfonso Cuaron did, though he certainly betters Chris Columbus' start. We should all be grateful Columbus didn't keep directing the films, because I fear the quality would have suffered in his hands.

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This one improved upon a second viewing, although I agree with you that the strain of condensation is more apparent than in the previous two films (and it takes longer to really get going). I also agree with you that Staunton is fucking brilliant. In my fantasy, she would be nominated for an Oscar, but this a Harry Potter film. Consequently, they'll give one to that mean little girl in Atonement instead (yawn).
I'm in full agreement on Staunton. This was my favorite book of the series, and while Staunton looks nothing like what I pictured her character would, she's great at projecting menace disguised as a smiley face. She's really scary!

Even if there were no mean little girl from Atonement, the Academy still wouldn't nominate Staunton. They'd put your pal John Revolta in this category before her! I hope somebody campaigns for her to get nominated.
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