Not everything’s in order
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ( M) National release
THE fifth of the mega- successful Harry Potter books to reach cinemas, is also the shortest, despite being adapted from the longest of the books. This may give fans pause for thought and perhaps explain why the film leaves a strong sense of disappointment.
It’s not only that many of the most interesting details and subtleties of the book have been discarded for the film, including, for example, the description of the prefect system at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and why Harry Potter ( Daniel Radcliffe) is not chosen for this position, unlike his closest friends Hermione Granger ( Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley ( Rupert Grint).
It’s also that, despite the encroaching darkness of the series, there’s little genuine suspense or even danger for Harry and his friends.
By now even non- fans will be aware that Harry is a young wizard who, though the star pupil at Hogwarts, an educational establishment located above a pristine loch in the Scottish Highlands, is constantly under pressure from hostile students ( though there’s little of this in the new film) and from the knowledge that the dreaded Lord Voldemort ( Ralph Fiennes), who was temporarily defeated by Harry at the end of the previous film, is awaiting his chance to return. Harry also has enemies among members of the establishment.
Britain’s Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge ( Robert Hardy), charges Harry with the crime of performing magic in the presence of a Muggle ( that is, a non- wizard).
Harry was defending himself and his unpleasant cousin Dudley Dursley ( Harry Melling), the Muggle in question, against a surprise attack by a couple of Dementors. Thanks to the intervention of Hogwarts’ headmaster Albus Dumbledore ( Michael Gambon), he is successful in defending the charges.
Nevertheless, he starts his fifth term at Hogwarts in a rather depressed state, and his troubles are increased by an addition to the staff, foisted on the faculty by Fudge.
She is Dolores Umbridge ( Imelda Staunton), a diminutive yet formidable virago in pink who
The Order of the Phoenix institutes a host of unwelcome regulations and refuses to allow the fifth- formers to learn defensive magic. ( In the book, her interference also affects the traditional Hogwarts sport, quidditch, but this element, too, is missing from the film.)
The regular cast members, apart from the teenage leads, get fairly short shrift. Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall, Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, David Thewlis as Remus Lupin and Brendan Gleeson as Alastor MadEye’’ Moody are all present and accounted for, but they are under- used.
It’s good that this American- financed series is giving continuous work to some of Britain’s best actors ( add to the list Helena Bonham- Carter, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Fiona Shaw and Richard Griffiths), but it would be even better if they had a little more to do. Gary Oldman has a more substantial role as Harry’s haunted godfather, Sirius Black.
The young leads continue to grow up in interesting ways. We assumed at the beginning of the series that Hermione was keen on Harry, but now they’re just good friends and she seems closer to Ron.
Harry gets a kiss from the lovely Cho Chang ( Katie Leung), but Ron’s sister Ginny ( Bonnie Wright) seems smitten with the young hero,
‘‘ judging from the way she looks at him. And there’s also newcomer Luna Lovegood ( Evanna Lynch), a blonde bombshell in the making.
The Harry Potter films are consistently the most inventive and compellingly beautiful of the blockbuster franchises, and this one looks as magical as ever.
The first two were directed by Chris Columbus, a middle- of- the- road Hollywood journeyman who turned them into comfortable family entertainments. Talented Mexican Alfonso Cuaron tackled the third film, which was much darker and edgier than its predecessors, and the almost equally talented Briton Mike Newell made the fourth, continuing the mood established by Cuaron.
The Order of the Phoenix is directed by David Yates, a name not many filmgoers will know. He has distinguished himself in British television but made only one feature before this, The Tichborne Claimant ( 1998), which, as far as I know, wasn’t released in Australia.
It was a risk for the producers to hire him and I’m not sure the risk has paid off. On the other hand, perhaps Yates isn’t to blame entirely for the decisions that resulted in a surprisingly bloodless film. Yates is set to direct the next in the series, so we must hope for the best.
He’s back: Ralph Fiennes as Harry Potter’s nemesis- inchief, the dreaded Lord Voldemort
Growing pains: Daniel Radcliffe as the film’s eponymous hero