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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

DVD Review: Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix

I feel the need to start off my review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with the disclaimer that I have never read any of the books. As good as the movies are, I'm sure they will probably never fully capture the magic of the novels. That being said, the fifth film installment of Harry Potter was a little hard for me to follow. I understand the book was the longest written; however, the movie was the shortest made.

The movie takes me back to Hogwarts for year 5, and so begins a much darker time for Harry and the rest of the wizarding world. A war is brewing between good and evil, and the need to take a side is growing imminent. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is reunited with his best friends and sidekicks Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), but the brooding teenager has never felt more alone.

As the only good wizard who can confirm Lord Voldemort’s return, Harry is constantly faced with opposition from his peers, the particularly awful new Professor Umbridge, and the Ministry of Magic. Umbridge and the Ministry have teamed up to prove that Harry is a fraud and will stop at nothing to assure that all is well at Hogwarts and in the world of magic. Unfortunately, the school begins to crumble under Umbridge’s nauseatingly negligent care while Harry is forced to confront his own inner demons as he struggles to make sense of the connection between himself and the Dark Lord.

The best things about The Order of the Phoenix are the visual effects and the acting. The young actors only get better as they age, and I was particularly impressed with Imelda Staunton as Umbridge and Helena Bonham Carter as the frightening Bellatrix Lestrange. The cinematography is stunning, and the world director David Yates created is almost unimaginable. The magical action sequences are a lot of fun, and there were enough flashes and fireworks to keep me entertained throughout.

My biggest problem with the film is its lack of emotional depth, although Yates tries his hardest to pack as much teenage angst into Harry as he possibly can. There’s just so much plot to get through that I had little time to feel connected Harry's problems. The movie barely scratches the surface of his complicated situation and I couldn’t help but feel a little empty inside, even despite the dazzling visuals. However, I realize the movie is intended to be suitable for kids which means making light of heavier issues, and it does a great job in this category, even injecting a fair amount of comedy into a story that is often very grim.

I have grown to love Harry in the films and will always appreciate a good reason to take a two-hour escape into Harry’s whimsical world.

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