Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Movie #242: Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix is the fifth movie in the series, but you'll notice it's the fourth movie in my progression. That's because I don't own Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire. We did watch it recently, though, because Michelle had never seen it, and I though maybe it wasn't as bad I remembered. I was wrong; it was.

Briefly, because it may become relevant: Goblet of Fire was bad not because of the massive amount of stuff cut from the book. The book is huge, and whole subplots had to go in order to make the movie make sense. The movie was bad because a) it focuses entirely on the angsty, awkward, teens-in-British-school bits and not nearly enough on the holy-shit-there-is-magic-happening bits. We don't have any connection to the Tri-Wizard Tournament. There's no reason to care. It's obviously a set-up, from the very beginning. And then Cedric (Robert Pattinson) dies, and we're supposed to react in a way other than "well, yeah, if Dumbledore had just said 'this is obviously a set-up', then we could have ignored it." It does, however, introduce Brandon Gleeson as Alastor Moody and David Tennant as Barty Crouch, Jr., and so the casting remains, as always, spot-on.

Anyway, Order of the Phoenix opens with Harry getting confronted by his big stupid cousin, Dudley (Harry Melling), and then them both getting attacked by dementors. Harry drives them off, but then promptly gets expelled for doing magic outside of school. He has a hearing at the Ministry of Magic, and the Minister Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) seems bound and determined to expel Harry, and refuses to believe that Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) could possibly have returned.

Let me pause, here. One of the huge plot holes in the Potterverse is that there exist multiple ways to verify that Harry is, in fact, telling the truth. In fact, at least three of them show up in this movie. There's a potion that forces you to tell the truth. There's legilomancy (mind reading). There's the fucking pensieve, which allows others to relieve your memories. Even if Fudge is dead-set on ignoring what's going on, there was a whole room full of wizards and witches who seemed open to the possibility. Anyway.

So Harry goes to Hogwarts, but Dumbledore acts like a total tool and brushes him off. And he has bigger issues anyway; there's a secret Order of the Phoenix, consisting of some badass wizards. Some we know (Lupin, Sirius, Moody, Dumbledore, Arthur Weasley, and Snape, of all people) and some we just meet, including Tonks (Natalia Tena) and Kingsley Shacklebolt (George Harris). Harry wants to go and fight; they tell him that's a bad idea and clearly something else is going on, but they won't tell him what. So he goes back to school, and meets the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher...the worst fucking person in the Potterverse. Dolores Umbrige (Imelda Staunton).

Umbrige is someone I particularly hate because she's the kind of mindless bureaucratic zealot that would love standardized testing. She infantilizes the students, sucks up to the higher-ups, and basically takes over the school. Meanwhile, Harry and company form a club they call Dumbledore's Army, where Harry gets to teach his classmates about defending against real dark magic...which it turns out he's pretty good at.

Into the mix, though, he's having these weird dreams where he's a snake killing people at Voldemort's behest, and Dumbledore responds by having Snape try and teach him the art of shielding his mind from intrusion. It doesn't help, there's a huge battle at the Ministry of Magic after Voldemort lures Harry there, Sirius dies fighting Death-Eaters (murdered by Bellatrix Lestrange, played by Helena Bonham Carter, because when you're casting "crazy witch" why not go for the best choice?), and Harry discovers a prophecy that indicates that only he or Voldemort can survive; one must kill the other.

I like this movie a lot. I don't like it as much as Azkaban, I don't think, but at this point that might be because I'm such a fan of Cuaron. But this one has a lot to recommend it - the fear of a looming threat is well-established, the magic is present and vibrant and awesome to watch, and although Harry does flounce a bit, he also grapple with the (perfectly natural) anger and loss he's feeling in a believable way. Unlike Goblet, this one spreads its focus out, flows nicely from one point to the next, and doesn't have a fucking five-minute bathtub scene.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch Value: Medium-low

Next up: Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince