The fifth Harry Potter flick is much the same mixture as before: a boring prologue to show how unhappy he is with his step-family of muggles, followed by another term at school, during which dozens of characters cross paths but very little happens to advance the meagre story. With the supremely evil Valdemort having put in an appearance at the end of the previous film, you might think it would be time to circle the wagons and start planning some defensive strategies, what with it literally being a matter of life and death, but you would be wrong. Instead, the plot, such as it is, is all about denial: the powers-that-be refuse to believe in the return of the dreaded monster, so they insist on business as usual, even placing one of their lackeys in charge of Hogwarts, to keep a lid on things. That’s right: instead of a fearsome fantasy-adventure about a confrontation with a deadly enemy, this is a comedy what a drag it is being a student at a school with a bitch for a headmistress.
As if that were not bad enough, poor Harry seems doomed to be surrounded by adults who refuse to divulge necessary information, not for any believable reason but just to keep some surprise for later in the story. Conversations go nowhere as the crucial topic is avoided in favor of acting as if nothing has happened. The result is a very frustrating two-plus-hours that serves mostly as one long delaying tactic, putting off the inevitable confrontation with Valdemort until the very end (which of course goes unresolved, so that there will be something to do in the sixth and seventh movies). We all know there need to be some loose threads for subsequent installments to tie up, but even daytime soap operas (notorious for padding out episodes as much as possible) advance their story-lines faster than this.
Some minor interest is generated by the fact that the young cast is maturing into puberty and adolescence. Thanks to the dawning maturity, this is not a “kids” movie anymore, and you actually feel some sympathy for characters leaving their childhood behind as they advance into an adult world that is not only much more frightening but also fraught with personal conflicts (and even hints of romance) that may change the nature of their established friendships.
This element yields a few nice character bits and some clever lines of dialogue, where for brief moments the film comes alive, but those scenes are soon pushed aside by the misguided plotting and the over-done special effects razzle-dazzle. Despite all the computer-generated imagery, the only true magic occurs when Harry gets his first kiss, but the movie then abandons his blooming love interest faster than a Bond movie killing off Jill Masterton. Oh, that Harry – love ‘em and leave ‘em.
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (2007). Directed by David Yates. Screenplay by Michael Goldenberg, based on the novel by J. K. Rowling. Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Fiona Shaw, Helana Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes.
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