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Sunday, July 15, 2007
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
After a string of disappointing movie sequels, the new Harry Potter movie finally delivers something entertaining. We continue the adventures of our angsty hero Harry Potter and his friends for another year at Hogwarts where he will yet again have another confrontation with his arch-nemesis, Voldemort. As usual, this review is rather spoilerish so you probably want to stop reading if you haven't seen it or read the book.
This time around, news of the return of Voldemort finally hits the wizarding community and the Ministry of Magic is in denial over the alleged rumours. To keep things "under control" at Hogwarts, the Ministry despatches a very quirkily evil woman named Dolores Umbridge who takes over as the Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, and promptly takes over the school and makes all kinds of new rules while trying her best to indoctrinate the students with her own brand of "education".
Umbridge throws her weight around, acts like a boss to other teachers (even Dumbledore), imparts cruel and unusual punishments on students and makes up new rules all the time just to make life miserable for the kids. She introduces a watered-down "ministry approved" syllabus to the students which offer no practical lessons in magical self defense, in the name of protecting student welfare. Umbridge isn't evil in the same category as Voldemort, but nevertheless she seems to enjoy being a cruel and sadistic witch (whom she is, in the literal sense too). Think of her as lawful evil compared to Voldemort's chaotic evil. Imelda Staunton does a fine job of portraying a believably nasty (if over-the-top) character.
At the same time Harry learns about a secret organisation known as the Order of the Phoenix which was founded back when Voldemort first caused chaos and mayhem back in the day when Harry was a baby. Voldemort is building up his forces again and it will be up to the Order of the Phoenix to stop him, again.
Back at school Harry creates a clandestine student group called Dumbledore's Army and starts training other kids on the stuff he's learned after all his encounters with Voldemort. Ultimately the kids will have to stand on their own against Voldemort's Death Eaters, and by the end of the movie the kids are frantically waving wands against dangerous foes.
I don't know how well the adaptation of the story was done in comparison to the book, as I haven't read it yet. As usual book fans will probably be upset that things are left out or changed, but I myself found this movie to be well-paced, fun and enjoyable. The visuals are pretty neat, with lots of gratuitous flying shots and wand effects.
On the downside, I feel that the overall storyline is getting kind of draggy. This felt like yet another confrontation with Voldemort which ends in yet another stalemate. It's a good thing J.K. Rowling has finally ended the saga with her latest book, because the story feels like it's desperately seeking a resolution.