Thursday, July 12, 2007

Holy Harry, Batman!

I saw "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" last night... Ho-ly cow! I personally think it was the best one yet.

Daniel Radcliffe turned in a powerful performance - particularly at the very end. I was utterly amazed at the talent this kid showed. This was actually the first flick in the series that brought tears to my eyes.

The rest of the cast was just as good. Imelda Staunton, as Prof. Umbridge, is so flawless in her performance it's hard to look at her and not cower in fear. I don't think I will be able to look at anything pink for quite sometime. Instead of playing Umbridge in an over the top manner, Staunton restraints her performance while keeping a constant fire of tension and hunger for power in her character choices. It was absolutely terrifying but she made it impossible to look away.

As much as I love(d) Richard Harris, I believe casting Michael Gambon as Dumbledore was a superb movie. No other actor could quite embody the calm intelligence while retaining the edge of craziness that is the Hogwart's Headmaster. The character of Dumbledore, as an active rather than passive participant, in the series really comes out in this movie and Gambon delivers a fantastic interpretation.

The new director took risks with the camera (more aerial and wide-angled shots), that I believe paid off. The book was all about the isolation Harry feels and the blocking and shot choices the director made really echoed this. Even when he was in a room full of people, Harry came across as alone and detached, fighting his own battle. The director was really able to maintain the essence of the this book, which was the frustration Harry felt with everyone around him.

The physical look of this movie is also much darker than the previous films. The color palette, even in the lighter moments, still retains dark and earthy tones that were not pervasive in the previous films. Also, kudos to the set design team. The Ministry of Magic is a wonder to behold.

I did have a few problems with this movie. First, and the one that jumped out at me the most, was just how much Ron was sidelined. I adore Ron and he should have played a more pivotal role. Poor Rupert Grint could have tap danced in a scene and no one would have noticed. Second, the musical themes introduced in the previous films were almost nonexistent in this movie. I'm addicted to movie scores and was disappointed that not only were the old themes pushed to the side, but no new ones seemed to be introduced. I have the soundtrack waiting to be listened to at home, so maybe, after a spin, I will change my opinion. Thirdly and finally, there was no Weasly Swamp. Boo. Hiss. But Flitwick does get a fist pump in there - and it is awesome.

A funny thing about this screening... I saw no kids in the audience. Intriguing.

Also, a word of caution to purists: Unless you can separate the movies and the books, and keep in mind that they are individual entities of entertainment, you will not like this film. It streamlines the book and focuses only on the Return of Voldemort plotline. All of the fun side stories (like S.P.E.W. and quidditch) and world building are left out of this movie. While the decision may anger some, I found it to be the ideal decision to make cinematically. This movie was very episodic in its telling but, at the same times, does not pause to let the audience breath. It creates tension from the very first scene that only builds as the movie progresses.

Speaking of tension, our viewing was rudely interrupted as our fearless heroes entered the Department of Mysteries. The film jumped off the reel. Oh boy was the audience not happy. No one threw a violent fit, but the entire theatre was unhappy. We were hot under the collar to begin with (because the A.C. was broken) but no one cared... until the film stopped aburptly. Never mess with a bunch of Potter fans on opening night. They were able to fix the film and start right where it jumped off, but the tension never came back to level it was before the film stopped.

Joyously, as we were leaving, the handed everyone a comp ticket to see a free movie in any Regal Theatre. Awesome. Now I really don't feel so bad about spending $11.25 on my ticket.

The movie really pumped me up for the release of the book. More on that.... later.

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