Andy Bockelman: ‘Harry Potter’ another dose of movie magic
Craig — Everyone’s favorite boy wizard is back for his fifth feature film, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
After witnessing the return of the malevolent Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), teenaged wizard-in-training Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) spends yet another terrible summer with his oppressive relatives, the Dursleys.
Harry knows that he is in more danger than usual when a pair of dementors attack him and his cousin Dudley (Harry Mellin), but members of the Order of the Phoenix – a secret society working against Voldemort’s forces – bring Harry back to the wizarding world.
Harry learns that The Daily Prophet, the newspaper for wizards, has been spreading lies about him for the entire summer, maintaining that his claims of Voldemort’s reemergence are shameless attempts to undermine the power of Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy).
Once Harry and best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) go back to wizard school Hogwarts, it is apparent that the school year will be more difficult than usual thanks to new professor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), a Ministry employee who is determined to change things at Hogwarts whether the students and her fellow teachers like it or not.
Radcliffe fares well as Harry, a character whose complexity develops in leaps and bounds in this portion of the “Harry Potter” epic.
Grint and Watson are quite all right, even though they are given much less to do than they have in the past.
As Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, Michael Gambon improves a bit, reining in some of the unnecessary intensity that he has displayed before. Still, he just cannot compare to the first Dumbledore, the late Richard Harris.
Fiennes is effectively sinister as Voldemort, one of the most formidable villains in literature and film alike. Staunton almost upstages the entire cast as Umbridge, whose sweet disposition masks a disturbing agenda.
The majority of the impressive cast is back, including Gary Oldman as Harry’s godfather Sirius Black, Robbie Coltrane as half-giant Rubeus Hagrid, Alan Rickman as spiteful Severus Snape, Emma Thompson as unfocused prognosticator Sybil Trelawney, Maggie Smith as Dumbledore’s second-in-command Minerva McGonagall and a whole slew of others.
As the longest book of the series, “The Order of the Phoenix” is the most grueling to adapt. Even more challenging is the fact that the film is the shortest “Harry Potter” yet.
Nonetheless, director David Yates and screenwriter Michael Goldenberg pull it off with great results.
They manage to trim the fat from the story (quite a task, considering the countless subplots) and still stay as faithful as possible to J.K. Rowling.
Admittedly, some of the characters are given different levels of priority, particularly loopy Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) a Hogwarts student whose unusual outlook on life provides Harry with some comfort during this trying point in his life. Even more impressive is that Lynch is new to the screen.
Although not all the changes in emphasis have quite the same effect as this, the film as a whole is spectacular. Avid “Harry Potter” readers might miss some of the material that got cut, but keeping the story exactly the same would at least double the film’s length, making it undeniably tedious.
A viewer who has never picked up a “Harry Potter” book might not have the same perspective as someone who knows each book by heart, but even they should be able to appreciate the magic of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” now playing at the West Theatre.
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