Wednesday, July 15, 2009
REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA: Rated PG-13
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire director Mike Newell, turned down the offer to direct this film. After some digging around, Warner Bros. finally settled on director David Yates. Steve Kloves, the screenwriter of the first four Harry Potter films, had other commitments which resulted in Michael Goldenberg writing the script for this film. In February, Helen McCrory was cast as Bellatrix Lestrange, but ended up giving the part to Helena Bonham Carter because McCrory was was three months pregnant.
After returning to Hogwarts to begin his fifth year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) discovers that much of the wizarding world, including the Ministry of Magic, is in denial about Lord Voldemort's return. The Order of the Phoenix, a group sworn against Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), is using its vast array of wizards and witches magical abilities to combat Voldemort. Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy), Minister for Magic, suspects that Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is using these claims of The Dark Lord's return as a means to over-throw Fudge as Minister. In retaliation, a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher is appointed by the Ministry in order to keep an eye on Hogwarts. This new teacher, Professor Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), implies strict new teachings and rules, forcing a group of students, under the tutelage of Harry, to form a club, by the name of Dumbledore's Army.
Just like with the Goblet of Fire, the Order of the Phoenix is another Harry Potter book I never got a chance to read. I read online that this movie stays somewhat faithful to the book, but definitely has alot of changes. The producers were given the chance to do almost whatever they wanted to do with this film because author J. K. Rowling just wanted to see a good movie. The story in the Order of the Phoenix isn't as exciting and grand as the ones were for the previous films. Its still good, but ultimately feels like its missing that special magical touch the 4 films before it, had. The film is also heavily dialogue driven with hardly any action scenes. I appreciate that the film has a ton of character development which is mostly credited to director David Yates's style of filming, but without much action going on, it can tend to get alittle tedious. I'm loving the fact that the characters are maturing nicely because the performances are getting alot better in the process. Scene transitions are boring and un-interesting when compared especially to the Prisoner of Azkaban. I like the quick edits and Voldemort references that director David Yates implants because it really adds to the creepy vibe the movie tends to unleash here and their. The special effects are top notch, but whats the point when the atmosphere isn't as creepy or fulfilling as was the film before it. The ending was pretty cool and mostly satisfying.
Daniel Radcliffe returns once more as Harry Potter and delivers another solid performance. Radcliffe is becoming more of a fine actor with each passing film. He exhibits a good range of emotions that's really interesting to see. His character seems to be getting paranoid and always appears in constant fear, which Radcliffe nicely shows. Rupert Grint also returns as Ron Weasley and delivers a solid performance. Hes still the only guy mostly delivering the jokes to break away the tension, but it seems with each new film, that's becoming less and less of an important factor. Many of his exciting scenes were mostly cut to make run for the films run time. Its a shame really since in the book, he had a ton of scenes. Emma Watson is the third person to return to her character of Hermione Granger. Watson is just as beautiful as she was in the previous films, but she hardly gets enough screen time. Her character is very much their, but feels more like a distant cousin rather than a strong family member. Ralph Fiennes returns as the dark lord, Voldemort. Hes just as creepy and sadistic as he was in the previous film. I really think Fiennes was born to play this role because hes just so damn good in it. His role still feels limited in terms of scope, but at least we finally got to see him use some of his dark powers.
The special effects are easily the best one yet. While the film doesn't contain much action when compared to the previous films, what is their looks mighty damn impressive. The CGI is alot more focused and fluid. The end sequence was plain awesome and worth the wait. Transfer wise, the Order of the Phoenix is simply flawless. The films source is an excellent condition and I notice no film grain. The image was buttery smooth and free of artifacts. Colors still had that muted look to them, but was alot more vibrant than the Goblet of Fire. Black levels are inky and very strong. You don't lose any picture quality even in the darkest scenes. Flesh tones are spot on perfect and natural the way it was meant to be. Detail is simply outstanding and the film is easily the best looking one I've seen yet. Close up shots show an impressive amount of detail and clarity in the image. You can literally see the pores on the actor's faces. Ever little thing also tends to stand out more. The Order of the Phoenix definitely has one of the best transfers I have seen yet.
The soundtrack in the Order of the Phoenix kicks it out of the ball park. Composer John Williams who scored the first three Harry Potter films and composer Patrick Doyle who scored the fourth movie, both opted not to return. Instead, we have Nicholas Hooper scoring this film. While I thought the soundtrack for the fourth film was disappointing and I would have loved for John Williams to return, the music we get here is fine on its own merit. Hooper does a dam good job of keeping the music very exciting and blends it well with the films story. We still get the traditional Harry Potter theme, but it isn't used enough. Bass is spectacular and easily one of the best I have heard. Even though the film is mostly dialogue driven, we still get some action scenes and these sound simply amazing. The bass is alot more dynamic and is hardly focused on the center. Rear channels get alot of action and the music definitely makes for pure reference material.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix doesn't quite deliver like the previous films, but its still a very good movie with an engrossing story. Theirs tons of character development and the story is alot more interesting. Even though the film is mostly dialogue driven, it still has its share of fun action scenes which look pretty incredible. The cast is great with the main stars returning once more to give out enjoyable performances. The special effects are top notch and the best the series has ever produced. The transfer of the disc is simply flawless and looks phenomenal. The soundtrack is also another one I really really liked. I thought the previous film had a weak soundtrack when compared to the previous 3 films, but this film definitely brings the series back on top at least in terms of music. I cant say I loved the Order of the Phoenix, but id be pretty childish to not admit that its a finely crafted film. Its definitely a slower pace film in terms of action, but its still engrossing and moves the story forward.