Harry Potter has eluded me. I've never been one for ogres and fairies and magic and more. It seemed to me that anything involving magic was a cop out, as any problem could be solved by saying "Thank God we have the magical ______!"
That said, I have heard over and over again how wonderful this series is. So I'm watching all the HP movies and critiquing them leading up to the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1."
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter 5
“Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix” opens on a playground on yet another washed out, grainy, day in the potterverse as Harry Potter swings by lonesome contemplating the fact that someone died at the hands of Voldemort. It's very “Terminator 2”. Eventually Harry notices a tubby kid picking on some little kids and Harry threatens the tubby kid with his wand, who laughs, thus making Tubby my favorite character in the films. The clouds begin to darken, the tubby fellow looks sufficiently freaked out, as does Harry, so they start running. From clouds. This movie is now “Twister”. So they hide from the darkening clouds under a tunnel only to have yet another creature suck essence, or life force, or something, from Harry Potter. Tubby is also attacked by one of these creatures, who obviously doesn't care about trans fat.
According to wikipedia these creatures are the same Dementors from the third movie, but look totally different. I'm sure fans will tell me these new Dementors look more like the ones from the books, but I'd gladly sacrifice fan service to have them look the same throughout the films. Harry casts some sort of magical spell that zaps the Dementors away from Harry and Tubby and then some random old woman shows up and helps them make it home.
Here's an odd thing. If you're going to make a movie about a wizarding world and the real world, the director needs to use everything in his power to make the real world realistic looking. Here, the establishing shot of the street Harry lives on with his aunt and uncle is gothic, and eschewed a bit, and gives off a weird Tim Burtonesque vibe. As a result, I didn't know if the characters were back in the fantasy world or not.
Harry and Tubby arrive at his aunt and uncle's house. Tubby is actually Harry's cousin Dudley (I called him Augustus) from the first three movies. It would have been nice to know that. An owl arrives with a message exclaiming Harry Potter has been expelled from Hogwarts for using magic underage, as the ministry of magic detected it. Considering there are 3 movies left, I somehow doubt this expulsion will stick.
Eventually The robotic eye dude, professor Moody, shows up with another girl, who gets a good chunk of screen time. I've been told she is named Tonks. She doesn't have really any dialog, but strikes me as one of those hip, alternative girls with an attitude, because she wears boots, and has dyed hair. Sorry. Magically dyed hair. I think we're in “X-men 3” territory again, as the director is just putting characters in to appease fans. So these people come to whisk Harry away on broom sticks. In the middle of London. Which, I believe, constitutes using more magic. But hey, what's a plot hole among many?
They all arrive at a magical hidden apartment flat. There's some exposition about this secret society of wizards Dumbledore has founded, called the Order of the Pheonix. This secret society of wizards conveniently contains almost every supporting character of the past four movies.
Here's another example of stupid magic. While The Order of The Phoenix is having this little meeting, the main characters manage to conjure up a real ear, and lower it down via a rope in an attempt to eavesdrop on the proceedings. This is literally 45 seconds after Ron's brothers showed they were capable of turning invisible. Wouldn't have been just as easy to have one of them hold the ear, turn invisible, and hang out next to the door?
Anyway, the point of this whole series of scenes is to let us know that no one outside of the good guys believes Harry when he says Voldemort is back. Oh, it also turns out Harry is not expelled, but actually has a hearing among the ministry of magic. Did I miss that part or was it just conveniently glossed over. I report, you decide.
So Harry and Ron's dad hit up the local subway and head to the hearing, and Ron's dad, ha ha, has trouble with the subway turnstyle. Doesn't Ron's dad study humans? Doesn't he want to know all there is to know about them, yet he's having difficulty at a subway turn-style? Either that's great writing to show the kind of absent minded nature of the Weasley Family, or just stupid.
Here's the defining difference between this set of movies (3-7) and the first two films. In the next scene Harry Potter and Ron's Dad take a phone booth down to what I assume is a magical courthouse. Everything is gray and dim. The music makes us think our blood should start pumping a bit more. We should feel a little nervous about this place we're entering. There's posters and magical fireplaces that let wizards come in, moving signs and magic, and it's all played as a mysterious, possibly scary place.
Yet in the first two movies this place would be alive and warm and fun and jolly and we'd be taking in the sights. Like the scene where Harry goes to the marketplace with Hagrid in the first movie, or when they're planting the mandrake in Chamber of Secrets. Both those scenes were played as light and comedic, with a sense of wonder and amazement that I enjoy in small doses. I'm not saying Harry has to go all “I love magic”, but it felt like a missed opportunity.
So there's a hearing, Harry's let back into school thanks to testimony from Dumbledore and that old woman who helped him and Tubby get home in the early part of the picture, and we're back on the Hogwarts express which I bet is getting blown to pieces by the end of the series.
Getting off the train, Malfoy Jr, says that Harry should be in prison, and Harry tries to attack him. Harry Potter has anger management problems. This is not the type of threat I would think Harry would deem violence worthy, but there he is, about to blast off and Ron has to physically hold him back. In the second movie he uses magic he isn't supposed to. In the third he blows his aunt up like a balloon. In this movie he threatens Augustus with magic, which I imagine is also a no-no. For a character who spends a good deal of time looking freaked out, the rare moments in which he acts (Instead of being acted upon) depict either sloppy writing or a possible mean streak.
Also, why are the Malfoys so one note? Why? I mean, it was revealed Malfoy Sr. was a follower of Voldemort. At one point he tried to kill Harry Potter in the Chamber of Secrets, ridiculed him in front of a crowd in the same movie, and in general has been a jerk to everyone the entire series without any kind of depth or want or need to this character. And the same goes for Malfoy jr. What's the point?
So a ton of other stuff happens, the school gets taken over by a woman from the ministry of magic that starts as a sort of interesting satire on school administration interfering with education and ends with her being carried away by half horse, half human creatures presumably to be tortured and killed.
Harry shows some backbone and takes an active role in things, amazing an army of children to fight the most dangerous wizard the world has ever seen. Though to be honest it's mostly Hermione doing all the nudging and Harry going along with it because, well, she's a cute girl or something.
We do get a bit of romance between Harry and Cho (whom have said roughly 5 words to each other this entire series), who kiss under a magically growing mistletoe, because, why not. The climax takes place in what looks like the world's most dusty science lab supply store.
We get a big showdown between all the good wizards and all the evil wizards playing a glorified version of cops and robbers (“I got you!” “Nuh uh!”) as they point sticks at one another and attempt to look menacing. Dumbledore and Voldemort go at it, and at the end of the movie everyone finally believes Harry that Voldemort back. Woo.
I mean, of the five movies I've now seen, this one is the most concrete as a film. I will give it that. But the thing is that since these films are directed by different people, written by different people things get changed and tucked away and glossed over. The films don't feel like a series, they don't feel like a vision, and they need to. I liked that Harry realizes he has friends and that's the difference between he and Voldemort. I like Neville, I think that Dolores Umbridge was the best villain in the series thus far. She had personality and charm and was evil, untouchable, knew it, and was in charge. It's a shame she's gone.
It sounds like I hated this movie, and I didn't. But just like with all the other movies except the third one, I wasn't compelled. I was watching because I had to. I wanted to like this series, too. I wanted to sit down to watch the first movie and just be blown away by the plot and the characters and the fun and excitement. I haven't been. I've been waiting for things to ramp up, and they have been, but for movies that supposedly leave so much out, there just doesn't seem to be a lot in them.
Film 1 – 'Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone'
Film 2 – 'Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets'
Film 3 – 'Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban'
Film 4- 'Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire'