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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Review Written by: Emma Crouch
Film Rating: B+

Directed by: David Yates
Written by: Michael Goldenberg
Based on the book by: J.K. Rowling
Produced by: David Barron and David Heyman
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Bonnie Wright, Imelda Staunton, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith
Studio: Warner Brothers Pictures

After his fourth traumatic year at Hogwarts that ended with a showdown with the franchise's very own Mr Bad, Lord Voldemort, it doesn't seem too much for Harry Potter to be asking for a peaceful summer. However, he doesn't get such a wish from the opening scene in which Harry and his despised cousin Dudley have close encounters of the life-threatening kind with two dementors in an underground passage, it is clear that Voldemort has unfinished business with the scarred lad and that he has every intention of finishing it. Plus, nearly everyone in Harry's school believe him to be a liar, Professor Dumbledore refuses to look him in the eye, his friends don't understand him and, on top of that, Harry must grapple with the skills required in mastering his first kiss. My, my, aren't teenage lives complicated?!

A word of warning. This is not a film for the uninitiated. If "patronum", "Avada Kedavra" and "Ministry of Magic" sound like code to you, then best avoid watching this. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix makes no attempt to guide the newbies along the story (and rightly so, because any attempt at that would detract from the film and patronize its viewers). To fully comprehend the plot, you must have seen the four previous films as well as read the book from which this film is based.

The film itself is a wonderful jumble of goods, bads and uglies. There is plenty to enjoy here, starting with the flawless turn from Imelda Staunton as the sadistic Dolores Umbridge. The woman who we are so used to seeing in roles as the sweet old lady, whether it be in Shakespeare in Love or her Oscar-nominated turn in Vera Drake, her performance here is a shock and a half. Kitted out from head to toe in pink and sporting a sugary air, we soon find that Umbridge, whose methods of punishment include using quills that protract blood on her students, is anything but sweet. Staunton captures Umbridge's ruthless oiliness perfectly; never before has evil been such fun to watch.

Rupert Grint is also a joy. His ginger hair, large blue eyes, bumbling demeanour and spot-on comedy timing make him the true star of the show and every scene that he features in benefits as a result of his appearance. Simply put, he is Godly. Sadly, the other two teen stars are nowhere near as good as Grint; Radcliffe, who gave an adequate performance in the West End's Equus, is back to his shoddy self here with an array of overreaching facial expressions and laughable deliveries of his lines. He is most embarrassing of all in the lead-up to kissing Cho Chang, in which everyone in my cinema was collapsing with laughter at his "performance." But it gets even worst, for Emma Watson, aspiring Cambridge student, World Peace Representative (probably) and general object of annoyance to average, frumpy teenage girls such as myself, gave a performance that was so awful, it damn near lost me the will to live. She just couldn't portray any of her emotions convincingly and just settled for saying the lines that were written for her. Whereas Hermione was one of my favourite characters in the book due to her kindness, knowledge and appreciation for others' feelings, Emma's presentation of Hermione makes her insufferable and punch-worthy. It ain't good.

The two "actors" aside, my main other foible with this film was how it cut/altered some very important details of the book. For example, in the book, it is Kreacher who betrays Sirius and puts him in danger. The appearance of Snape's past as a hated and bullied student is also poorly put together and left to linger rather than properly dealt with. The Cho Chang storyline is pitiful, whereas in the book, we had been led to see that she wasn't all that she had cracked up to be as a person, in the film, she is the sketchiest of sketches and written off practically before she has begun. In terms of 2007 releases, only Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End had more plot holes than this.

That said, I had a huge amount of fun in the two and a half hours that this film played, with three newcomers to this movie, Yates (director), Michael Goldenberg (screenwriter) and Hooper (composer). The direction was apt, not perfect, but acceptable. The score was acceptable. The visual effects were stunning, especially in the climactic finale between Dumbeldore's Army and Voldemort's Deatheaters, led by Jason Isaacs, where an entire storeroom containing shelved globes containing prophecies, one of which concerns Harry. It is here that Helena Bonham Carter emerges as Bellatrix Lestrange, one of the final and greatest joys of the film. Laughing manically and sporting long hair greasier than a Professor Snape-Cristiano Ronaldo mixup, she makes the most of her limited screen time to deliver one of the best performances in all the Harry Potter movies. Utterly haunting.

Thus, verily I say, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a worthwhile outing. If you can put up with the abomination commonly known as "Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson trying to act", as well as the slightly pretentious over-editing of Harry's dream sequences, not to mention the ten thousand odd plot holes, then you should venture out to the cinema to see this. Not capital film-making, but, as I'm yet to see Ratatouille and The Simpsons movie, it's about as good as you'll get this summer from the cinema.

The young heroes of the Harry Potter franchise.
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