With the movie premiere of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight, we are about to embark on a two-week period (at least) of Extreme Harry Potter Mania, capped off with the release of the seventh and final Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, on July 21. Like many Potter fans, I’m both thrilled to see the film and read the book and saddened that the series is nearly over.
Thankfully, Order of the Phoenix is only the fifth installment, so there are two movies to look forward to after this one. In Phoenix, Harry and his friends are in their fifth year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Harry is suffering from some bad publicity (to say the least) after the death of his classmate Cedric in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to believe that Lord Voldemort has returned, and Harry’s attempts to convince them fall on largely deaf ears. Stymied by bureacratic red tape, he begins training his classmates to fight against the dark arts, forming a secret extracurricular group called Dumbledore’s Army.
The reviews of the movie have been pouring in all week, and so far it’s getting generally positive reviews. Here’s what some of them have to say:
According to the Village Voice: "The director, David Yates, brings an energy and efficiency to Potter Land — this is the series’ fastest-moving (and, at a mere 139 minutes, shortest) installment — and infuses the heretofore storybook atmosphere with a grittiness that’s as startling to our senses as it is to young Mr. Potter’s." The Voice also detects a whiff of allegory in the film: "This is, after all, a movie in which ineffectual bureaucrats refuse to acknowledge an imminent threat to their people — and their power. Make of that what you will."
USA Today, like nearly all of the film’s reviews, gushes about
British actress Imelda Staunton, who plays Professor Dolores Umbridge: "Staunton brings her own disquieting flourishes to the part, as well as superb comic timing."
Rolling Stone praises the director, "the lesser known David Yates, behind such British TV dramas as Sex Traffic and State of Play, who truly raises the bar with this fifth installment. There’s a new humanity to the story now."
Rolling Stone also gives props to the young actors: "One of the joys of this film is watching Daniel Radcliffe, 17, grow so impressively into the role of Harry. …
Among Harry’s core group, Emma Watson paints a striking portrait of emerging womanhood as Hermoine Granger. And blimey if Rupert Grint doesn’t storm the barricades of boyishness to find something emergent, touching and vital in Ron Weasley."
The New York Times calls it "a sleek, swift and exciting adaptation" and "a tense and twisty political thriller," but says that it still doesn’t compare to the books themselves: "Perhaps by design, the films never quite live up to the books. This one proves to be absorbing but not transporting, a collection of interesting moments rather than a fully integrated dramatic experience."
In one of the less positive reviews, Roger Ebert bemoans the growing adulthood of the series: "My hope, as we plow onward through ‘Potters’ Nos. 6-7, is that the series will not grow darker still. Yet I suppose even at the beginning, with those cute little mail-owls, we knew the whimsy was too good to last."
Personally, I enjoyed the whimsy of the earlier books but have also really enjoyed the growing darkness of the series; the drama and intrigue are part of what makes the Harry Potter series so memorable and re-readable.
I’m also taking the next two weeks as an excuse to fully engage in all the Pottermania I care to. That’s right, maybe I’ll even read some Hermione fan fiction! To get me started, I recently took The Ultimate Harry Potter Personality Quiz, which I have mixed feelings about. It’s fun and slick and full of flash, but it also seems to be written by teenage boys with an Asian fetish. Nonetheless, I persevered and the results actually made me feel pretty good: I’m Ginny Weasley!
Last but not least, here’s a behind-the-scenes video about making the film:
What do you think about Order of the Phoenix? Are you seeing it tonight or this weekend? And how many other Ginny Weasleys are out there?