Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Reviews
For all the action -- and there's plenty of it, even if it's only a portion of what was crammed into Rowling's 870 pages -- the most important stuff is what takes place in Harry's head.
And so the Harry Potter saga continues. It's essentially deeply conservative, with battles, and crashes, and giants and explosions and is shaping up to be an extraordinary real-time experiment for Daniel Radcliffe.
[The filmmakers] have transformed J.K. Rowling's garrulous storytelling into something leaner, moodier and more compelling, that ticks with metronomic purpose as the story flits between psychological darkness and cartoonish slapstick.
This series is growing up with moody blockbuster urgency. More emotionally wracked with each new entry, the Potter franchise has become a mainstream fantasy metaphor for adolescent crisis. It's Rebel Without a Curse.
To their credit, new director David Yates and new screenwriter Michael Goldenberg never lose the heart of the tale. Even in the midst of an incredibly thrilling magical battle of whippeting wands, flashing light and furor, they focus on Harry's inner war.
Truth be told, it's the lad's many onscreen allies that prove the film franchise's richest draws. (Thank you, Alan Rickman, for your wonderfully embittered turn as Severus Snape.)
Did I mention that, for all its portentousness, this is the best Harry Potter picture yet? In some ways, it improves on J. K. Rowling's novel, which is punishingly protracted and builds to a climactic wand-off better seen than read.
The most striking aspect of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is its contrast between the hormonally and supernaturally tormented teenager at its center and the modestly well-made and easygoing picture unfolding all around him.
This is the bleakest Potter installment to date, and under David Yates's choppy direction, Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson, and David Thewlis have little more than walk-ons.
While the film doesn't have the imaginative magic of The Prisoner of Azkaban or the chummy warmth of The Goblet of Fire, it's a serviceable bridge to the story's final chapters.
Yates is wise not to stuff too many characters into this yarn, and plays everybody well, if sparingly. He can't offer a sense of completion -- more movies to come, you know -- but he offers a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting transition.
This movie feels less like a plot-point checklist than the last one did, and there's enough visual razzle-dazzle to entertain those who haven't read the book and might miss a twist here or a turn there.
The metaphors are all implicit and have a lot to do with just growing up and facing unpleasant realities, but they increasingly contribute to the feeling of nervousness and unease creeping into the series.