Not ev­ery­thing’s in or­der

Harry Pot­ter and the Or­der of the Phoenix ( M) Na­tional re­lease

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - David Stratton

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

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