Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

In the interest of fairness, I should point out going in that this movie had little chance with me. I saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and was not amused. It may have been the company I was with at the time, I don't know...but I later tried to watch a second Harry Potter movie and could not make it through it. So I am not a fan of the franchise. However, we were on vacation and the person I was with really, really was looking forward to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) so we went to see it and I assured myself I would keep an open mind.

It starts off with a battle between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and a couple of spirits called Dementors. The battle is short but entertaining. It leads to a mildly entertaining courtroom scene where the obvious "I would have died had I not used my magic" defense oddly never arises.

Thus ends the entertaining portion of the movie for quite some time. Potter then goes into quite unlikable mode. He rejects the friendly advances of his friends, reacts churlishly to the new instructor in Defense against the Dark Arts, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), who herself seems to be a master of the dark arts.

She plays the role of fun-killer and representative of the Ministry who, throughout the movie, seem to act as a malicious Big Brother type presence more interested in retaining power through subjugating the students and staff of the school than anything else.

Finally, once Harry has come around and become friendly with his friends again (and started a bizarre and short-lived romance with Cho Chang (Katie Leung) which makes no sense whatsoever, particularly in light of the "natural", in movie terms, romance that SHOULD but never does take place with Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), he and his allies battle the evil Lord Voldemart (Ralph Fiennes). The battle is actually pretty entertaining. It just isn't good enough to make up for the 2 hours of boredom preceding it. As one person pointed out, they took a pretty good half hour after school special and made a terrible 2-1/2 hour movie out of it. Thanks for nothing, David Yates, J.K. Rowling and Michael Goldenberg.

Perhaps the most egregarious portion of the movie was the bare bones plot device. Some monstrous giant who is the secret brother of some other un-named character (no doubt Potter fans will know who the hairy Huntsman is) is shown to Harry and his friends. Okay, fair enough. Then, when Harry and his students are supposed to reveal the whereabouts of their secret (and non-existent) anti-Ministry army they lead Umbridge to this cave where she single handed defeats an army of centaurs until this giant plucks her away and disappears. No explanation. No reappearance. No real role in the movie except to pluck her away.

Now, I understand the need for plot devices. The One Ring in the Lord of the Ring series is little more than a plot device to allow encounters with the Nazgul, allow Bilbo and Frodo to escape seemingly impossible situations, and so forth. However, it is well do not think "Oh, the ring, plot device so thus and such will happen" or "plot device. Just there to solve this one particular problem." It is a great plot device.

This giant, on the other hand, is completely pointless. He is not interesting on his own, is not a 3-dimensional character...his only point in existing is to get rid of Umbridge, thus solving the problems at the school without needing to have Harry and his friends come up with a solution. It was a role that could have been taken by a sign saying, "Due to mismanagement and torture of students we have removed Umbridge and all traces of her presence from this movie. We now move you to the next scheduled scene." In fact, that would have made more sense.

I thought maybe it was just me not being a Potter fan that made this movie all but unwatchable for me. However, the Potter fan I was with was quite upset and did not enjoy it, thinking it was by far the worst one, boring and with unlikable characters. Oh, well, many other people have loved it.

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