Latest ‘Potter’ is out of ‘Order’
The fifth installment of the Harry Potter franchise, “The Order of the Phoenix” cannot be recommended for children. Or their parents, for that matter. It’s not that the latest film adapted from the enormously famous J.K. Rowling novels contains inappropriate material– although it certainly is the darkest of the lot. No, the downfall of this adaptation is far worse than that, and will cause kids and parents alike to squirm in their seat.
With apologies to the book lovers, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is dull. With a script heavy on exposition almost completely devoid of sustained action sequences, Harry’s latest is long on spiel and short on spells.
You would think that the opportunity to create a screenplay from an 800-plus page book would afford new-to-the-series writer Michael Goldenberg a treasure trove of fresh ideas. But “Order of the Phoenix” is less an action/adventure film than it is a psychological examination of Harry’s anxieties, and much of plot feels repetitive to the previous films.
As he begins his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Wizardry, Harry combats the disbelief of his personal witness of villain Valdemort’s return. Creating more difficulty is the arrival of Prof. Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), who is sent by a paranoid Ministry of Defense to neutralize both Hogwarts’ Headmaster Dumbledore, and Harry in particular. There are a few nice visual effects, and the film’s best scenes involve Harry forming a new secret club of budding wizards who, under his tutelage, learn to hone their magic powers. (Something Umbridge has strictly prohibited.) And of course, Harry’s first kiss is one of the lone memorable moments in a film that parades its beloved characters out and does very little with them.
Consider poor Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), each of whom is aging nicely. Neither is given much of significance to do other than appear as Harry’s sideshow stooges. If there is intrigue amongst this trio, none of it transfers to the big screen. Umbridge has her moments, but her essentially non-threatening character gets far too much screen time, and Dumbledore’s lack of charisma is readily apparent in every scene. This is never more evident than in one of the film’s most dramatic moments when he explains why he has essentially ignored Harry; it’s a scene that rings awkwardly cold.
It bears repeating that the enjoyment of a film should not depend on experience with its novel of origin. Was it necessary to have read Baum’s novel in order to appreciate “The Wizard of Oz?” Although Tolkien’s books were popular, was it necessary to have read “The Lord of the Rings” series to appreciate (arguably) the most successful trilogy in movie history?
Only hardcore Potter bibliophiles will appreciate the emotional drama of “Order of the Phoenix.” (In anticipation of e-mails from angered supporters: Maybe you can explain why “He whose name can’t be spoken” is mentioned so often?)
The new book may deserve its long lines of adoring fans, but the latest installment in the film series does not. It’s a snooze-fest with little that is worth waiting for.
Rated PG-13 for violence and frightening images