More noise than signal

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com

You’ll have to pardon my laziness, but I’m not going to spend any effort on an introduction to this. Speccy teenage wizard, global phenomenon, fifth film in the series, so on, so forth. You’ll have read much the same words in slightly different orders four times before and another two times in the future, so let’s skip the pleasantries and get down to business.

As with most of the later entries in the series, this comes from a book that extends to around forty thousand pages (estimated), of which a fair amount but far from all is filler. Of the lot of them, this is perhaps the only instalment where the length is not only justified but necessary. After witnessing the return of Darth Vader at the tail end of Goblet of Fire, Harry and Obi-Wan find themselves not only unable to convince the Senate of this seemingly obvious fact but instead left to the tender mercies of a smear campaign to discredit them. To this end, Hazza finds himself increasingly ostra.. ostre.. ostrich-sized (between 1.8 m and 2.7 m, with a land speed of up to 40 mph), dismissed as a attention seeking crackpot. The essential story of this instalment hinges on Harry’s resolve and unwavering commitment to the truth in the face of baffling adversity until cracks appear in the bizarre ‘offical’ story of what’s going down in Wizardtown and the truth is revealed to all in the climatic climax at the climax of the film’s climax. To the max.

Odd then, that at 138 minutes this is the shortest film of the lot, including the largely content-free first two. More importantly than the actual time one’s actual buttocks are in contact with actual cinema seats is that there’s never much of a sense of time passing at any point in the film. In fact, the whole thing feels as if it might have played out over the course of a week rather than a year. This is somewhat important, as without this time elapsing it rather dilutes the stress Harry’s supposed to be feeling and renders much of the intended drama somewhat toothless.

That, essentially is the weak spot which is hit for massive damage. The rest of it is pretty much business as usual, with Radcliffe happily continuing to grow less awful with each instalment and the supporting cast pulling their weight to the best of their ability, which if the supporting cast happens to include Alan Rickman is a very good thing indeed. The CG’s mostly adequate, with the possible exception of a somewhat ropey giant. The previously alluded to climatic mage battle inside the Death Star seems to imply that such battles revolve largely around turning into big swirly vapour things and flying around willy nilly, in complete disregard for (as far as I remember) what all of the source material and prior adaptations have shown such thing to be. Ah well, at least it looks impressive. What? It looks a bit.., well, bobbins? Oh.

I’m glad to see I’m not the only one that reckons the entire peg on which this story hangs, that the Senate stick their heads firmly up their own collective anus and arbitrarily decide that Obi-Wan is really trying to wrest power for himself on the basis of no reason whatsoever is a shaky one indeed, if the derisive laughter once the penny finally drops is anything to go by. Why whine about believability? It’s a kids film about wizards, who cares right? Fair enough, if you don’t think your kids are good enough to deserve stories with any sort of internal logic or consistency. Kudos! You’re raising you child to be a moron! Well done.

I tire of this pi?ata, and regardless of what I say it’s going to be ludicrously lucrative anyway, so let’s bring this to a thankful close. Order of the Phoenix does the barest minimum required to pottedly recap enough of the book to enable the rest of them to be made, and isn’t entirely boring while doing so, and that’s about as kind as my words can get about it. Lord knows the Potter books aren’t exactly renowned for their subtlety, nuance and emotional impact but even these slender qualities are stripped away in this adaptation. I’m left wondering who’s completely misunderstood the point of the novel, me or the combo of screenwriter Michael Goldenberg and director David Yates. I’m pretty sure it’s them. Bring back Alfonso Cuar?n, I say. Your kids will love it, but, respectfully, what do your kids know?

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