Just when I thought all was lost this Summer, Harry Potter waves the magic wand and all is good again. I saw Harry Potter and the Order Of The Phoenix this past Friday night and it was great. Not the best, but for the fifth movie in the franchise, really damn good. I am amazed that this franchise has held up as well as it has. Harry Potter has survived four different directors including Chris Columbus twice and yet they have stayed true to the characters, the look and the tone and you don't feel that the directors are having to compromise to stay true to this. Everyone fits nicely within the fold. The acting is also there, as is the writing, and the special effects. Nothing has faltered.
In this episode, Harry is under scrutiny because no one believes that Lord Voldemort is truly alive and kicking. The Ministry Of Magic is not prepared to accept that they have to face their greatest nemesis once again and Harry spends the first part of the movie trying to clear his name. Once it is suspected that Dumbledore too believes that Lord Voldemort is back, the Ministry tightens the grip on Hogwarts by sending in Dolores Umbridge, played wonderfully in bright pink by Imelda Staunton. She is both funny and terrifying within seconds of each other and her inclusion is a shining example of how far this franchise has come. Gone are the days of cute magic and quirky characters. Dolores Umbridge is a character developed for the older clan with much more depth and substance. The most amazing scene is the first exposure to Dolores' office. Plates with pictures of cats on them, fill her walls. And because this is a Harry Potter movie, all the cats are alive within the plates purring and licking themselves and even going in and out of little kitty doors within the plates. As Dolores enforces her strict policies on the children, fluffy white cats 'meow' in the background. It's as funny as it is creepy.
Dolores stops teaching actual spells to use as defense against the dark arts altogether and Harry and the crew begin to get restless. As Harry begins to make believers out of the students, they all band together and begin to learn spells from Harry, since Harry has actually faced the Dark Lord twice now and has lived to tell about it. It's here that you really feel that Harry is 'the chosen one' as he motivates the young troops and begins to teach them. I appreciated how this was handled, unlike something like Matrix where we are reminded every 5 minutes that we are among 'the chosen one'.
What I am most impressed with is how each of these movies have reflected the age and experience of the characters. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was very sweet and fun because we were just discovering this magical world. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire did a very good job of capturing the awkwardness of the teen years. It was darker, but yet there was still an innocence about it. Well, those days are gone because innocence is lost. The teen years are in full effect and the great battle between good and evil looms. There is no place in this movie for 'wow, magic sure is neato' and thankfully is was missing.
The battle at the end between Lord Voldemort and Dumbledore is the stuff Summer Blockbusters are made of. Walls shake and windows break as spell after spell is cast. You feel the true power of both these wizards and it's cool as hell.
If I had complaints it would be that the movie feels a bit rushed in places. New characters are introduced and not really explored. The character Nymphadora Tonks is a good example of this. On the surface she seems interesting, but her part is very small and other than the fact she has colored hair, I didn't really get much sense of her. We may learn more in the next movie. I myself know nothing of her because I have not read any of the books. And while Hermione and Ron were central to the plot in the past, they feel tacked on in places. This is a bit disappointing especially since the theme of this one is 'you can't do everything alone Harry'. But those complaints are nit-picky in the grand scheme of things.
So I say let the rest of the summer suck, for I have seen the blockbuster to beat them all. And isn't it a bit interesting that in order for me to enjoy the magic of summer movies, I actually need to see a movie about magic. Thanks Harry. This summer isn't a wash after all.