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2.0 out of 5 stars 'Harry Potter - dispel the magic', 5 Mar 2011
This review is from: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
It's time for Harry Potter to hit adolescence with a bang - angst, girls, rebelling against authority figures, the feeling that no one understands, and the lesser-known inadvertent reading of your arch-enemy's thoughts. Now in his fifth year at Hogwarts, Harry has to trudge down this sad and lonely path against the backdrop of a wizarding world that just does not want to admit that once more it faces the evil of Lord Voldemort and his retinue of like-minded cronies.

Readers of the book will remember being truly frustrated at the injustice the prissy Dolores Umbridge brings to the school and its students, and the thrill of seeing Harry, with the help of just a few close & loyal friends, taking action against it throughout the book.

It is the longest instalment in J.K. Rowling's series, all for the good of capturing the struggles and schemes the characters find themselves immersed in, and delicately breaking into some of the darker consequences of the developing story.

The film adaptation sees the introduction of David Yates in the director's chair, and he makes an immediate impact.

Death eaters inexplicably fly through the air like swirling drops of ink in water, the entire picture is soaked in an apparently greyscale colour scheme, the central characters' line counts are cut in half, the music is as bland as cheap vanilla yoghurt, brand new `action-packed' scenes arrive to steal time from actual plot development, and the room of requirement (the secret room that is, importantly, impossible to force open) is blasted open by an intruder.

Imelda Staunton's top-notch performance as Umbridge has to take a back seat as the many bewildering changes & choices continually disappoint anyone who enjoyed the original story.

The actors playing Harry, Hermione & Ron do seem to be getting better & better all the time, but hardly have a chance to show it in this film, with so much of the dialogue & development the characters have in the book completely cut out & replaced with seemingly endless kitschy montages.

The best moments of the film come, unsurprisingly, when the original intent of the book is followed; like Harry's awkwardness as he tries to approach Cho Chang, or the visually spectacular duel between two powerful wizards towards the end (though even here, the writers can't stop themselves from summarising a dark & challenging moment with a saccharine & ineffective new line)
Many fans defend the film, reasonably suggesting the impossibility of including everything in the book - but really, there is no excuse for replacing so much source material with irrelevant extra scenes and morphing the story to an extent that it ruins any continuity with the following (& previous!) books & films.

The Lord of the Rings films, for example, whilst by no means perfect, do not seem to have this problem, despite being significantly more intricate in their original scope & detail.

Just note how many brand new characters have to appear in a 5 minute slot at the beginning of the new (7th) Harry Potter film due to the failure of the writers to introduce them earlier on in the series. Anyone not familiar with the books will just not be able to register who they are or why they are suddenly appearing on screen in significant roles.

Because the books are so well read & loved, fans might be able to piece together something enjoyable from The Order of the Phoenix, if only from seeing scenes they've imagined come to (sort of) life, but in truth, it is an awful attempt at an adaptation - I have no doubt that in years to come this will be everyone's reluctant opinion. It is unlikely to bear up to repeated watching once the Potter craze has died down, which is really a shame, as it could all have been so good!

I am sad to give this such a low rating, but sadder still that a book & series I love has been taken down the path of high budgets & low quality.
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L. Bailey
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Location: England

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