Monday, July 16, 2007

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" -- * * *

Except for the first, I have not read the “Harry Potter” books. Apparently, gives me zero credibility when it comes to evaluating the movies, at least evidenced by the woman next to me’s “tsk” when I commented I was only familiar with the film versions.

So, purely as films, I tend to enjoy them; in turn, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is the third best of the films (behind Alfonso Cuaron’s brilliant “Prisoner of Azkaban” and Mike Newell’s supremely entertaining “Goblet of Fire” but ahead of Chris Columbus’ dull-and-childish first two) and one of the only two so far that carves out its own identity as a film and doesn’t just feel like another film in a series/assembly line. This is especially impressive since every Potter aficionado I know has told me that “Order” is the worst of the books and most exposition-filled.

A big part of why the film is so entertaining is David Yates’s direction and Imelda Staunton’s fascinating (and very funny) performance as the cheerfully despicable new professor of the dark arts, Dolores Umbridge. A lot of great British actors are underused here (I always seem to want more of Alan Rickman’s Snape), but it is nice to see that the gang is all here. Yates keeps “Order” the shortest of all the “Potter” movies, and this audience member was especially grateful. None of the films except Cuaron’s “Prisoner” has really taken the series up a notch into greatness, but it’s a fairly consistent and enjoyable series, and “Order” follows in that line.

If you can, at all costs, see the movie on the IMAX; the big battle in the last 20 minutes in 3-D is breathtaking.


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