Saturday, August 18, 2007

Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix

Finally, finally, some prospect of combat!

Four films have past with only a hint of the real danger, but not now. The nameless enemy, or rather He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, is no longer just a whispered legend wreaking havoc by proxy, but up and about the world of wizards bringing death.

A pity Harry Potter is still not up to the task in combating the now fully corporeal Lord Voldemort but that is to be expected. He is a boy after all, and like all beings he must earn his “spurs” as they say, before he can ever be called a match for the top bad guy. Besides what would the much publicized 7th installment be for if he marches for the big fight just now.

But for this particular installment Harry’s struggle seemed especially hard; to be honest he seemed a little shell shocked after his first face to face encounter with Voldemort in the last sequel, The Goblet of Fire. He may have survived but he did not go unscathed: he was cut, he was surprised, he was scared, and the worst of all a friend died protecting him.

The Ministry of Magic proved no comfort as they scoff at the idea that the Dark Lord is back even with the dead Cedric as evidence.

In a traumatizing time, friends would have helped but unfortunately they came in short supply without Ministry virtually calling him a liar. Thankfully the Order of the Phoenix was there for Harry, partly because Sirius Black and Dumbledore being members.

Emotionally the movie gave me a sort of anticipation with side amassing forces to counter the other. However, without the Ministry the Order, or the good guys, were handicapped; forced to recruit clandestinely. I liked the almost ‘spy thriller’ appeal to it, meeting secret places, using codenames, and all that.

For Harry this proved an important stage. In the first sequel he had an almost messianic reputation, but because of humble (actually abusive beginnings) he didn’t have the sense of entitlement or confidence needed to be a ‘chosen one’. He wanted to be alone at some points in this film not because he thinks he can but because he though no one else could get hurt. The resolution in the end was that he learned to lead, as all heroes should.

Daniel Radcliffe, unfortunately, has not improved in his acting; but the ensemble and the way this whole franchise was created seemed to have masked that fact. I always get the ‘suspension of disbelief’ as I believe they call it, and eagerly watch what happens next to our boy wizard Harry.

Gary Oldman remains a gem of an actor. I liked him the best of the entire supporting cast who were all great seasoned actors. I miss the old Dumbledore Richard Harris; his voice and looks are far better than Michael Gambon - plus watching gave me a sense of calling him the new guy.

I have heard many comments that this Harry Potter sequel proved inadequate, but then most of them are ardent fans that have followed not only the movie but the book. Maybe if I were in the same shoes or if I have read all books – especially the Order of the Phoenix – then I would feel the same. Experience has taught me that books are always better than their movie adaptations.

My glee comes from the opinion that the other four sequels were lacking in danger. Sure Harry had his enemies and threats in the previous sequels but with all this talk of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named always gives me a feeling that it’s missing something. The other four feels like practice or a field trip into a world of wizards.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix gave me some if not all of what I have been craving in this franchise: danger, deceit, conflict, battles, and end-of-the-world consequences. It leaves you hanging in the end, but hey, that’s why they call it a sequel.

But don’t worry; if the reputation of Deathly Hallows can be captured accurately on screen, then you wouldn’t want to miss this step, sequel number 5, of what has proven to be a truly magical story.