Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

We went out with a bunch of friends Friday night to see the latest Harry Potter film (thanks, Lou, for getting there early to buy tickets!) at the Spectrum, Albany's finest cinema. Movies like this are best with a group of like-minded friends, and we all had been anticipating its release with excitement.

While no film ever quite matches up to the source book, there's the notorious difficulty with Rowling's books of having to chop down some 800 or so pages to a two hour or so film. A lot has to go. But the latest film is no exception, but with one or two quibbles, it does so with some success. Like the books, each film has been darker than its predecessor. The last film ended with Harry face to face with death, and he begins here with no one believing the horror he had to face. I recall that in the book that the teen-age angst and hormones added a lot to the tension (the usual life in peril, evil adversaries and emotional upheavals) and there's a bit of it here, but it's not as developed as the book (of course). The primary actors continue to mature, which a handful of flashbacks bring sharply to mind (they look so tiny!). If there's a major problem, it's that we have so many characters (and brilliant actors playing them) that we don't get enough time with any one of them (more Maggie Smith!). Cho and Hagrid especially should have had a wrap-up by the end.

Yet we also have new characters: Evanna Lynch is absolutely delightful as Luna (AKA "Looney") Lovegood, capturing the dreamy otherness of Harry's new friend. Of course the real triumph is the always wonderful Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge who makes pink the new fascism. Or as the magazine Political Affairs writes,

Most of the latter [i.e. wit] springs from Umbridge's quintessential portrayal by the diminutive pink-clad Imelda Staunton,successfully combining shades of Mary Whitehouse, Margaret Thatcher and the shark from Jaws. Staunton packs more threat into her tight-lipped smile than all the roars of Hellraiser as she justifies the torture of students to achieve precious order.

It's worth it for that alone, but also the big "shoot out" in the Ministry of Magic at the end. Another worthy entry in the Potter series -- and the last book out this week! What will Rowling do next? Probably just roll around on a big pile of money (mmmm).

Afterward, in what is quickly becoming a habit, we went to the Fountain for some cheesy pizza and for Gene to try to make beer come out of our noses from laughing. There was even a little dixieland band there which was quite good. If only movie nights were always that satisfying (Fantastic Four, I'm looking in your direction).

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