Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a perfectly decent film, but it’s probably the lowpoint in the film series. As the least cinematic of the novels — at least until its amazing climax — it must have been a tough book to adapt, but the screenplay by Michael Goldenberg does a nice job of cutting the source material. Credit must also be given to editor Mark Day, as it feels like half the movie is told via (very well done) montage.
I made a point of catching the flick in the IMAX format, which features that climax in 3D. As much as I enjoyed the film, I am sorry to report the 3D format is a bust. While there are a few “Wow!” moments, for the most part they are not worth the loss in image clarity that results from it. I found that the process of converting the traditional cinematography into 3D is hardly perfect, as many times we see images that do not resolve correctly using the polarized 3D glasses (often there is a bit of a double vision effect).
That’s a shame because I otherwise enjoyed seeing the movie in the larger IMAX format, which uses a recent method of converting normal 35mm film to the special IMAX 70mm format. This means you can blow a normal movie up to be projected on the gigantic IMAX screens and it looks quite good. There are some quality issues with this — the film had a sort of digitally sharpened feel to it, as though somebody had pushed the unsharp mask filter in Photoshop a little too far — but I think the spectacle of seeing movies so large is probably worth the quality trade offs. Of course, if the studios would just shoot their movies in 70mm to begin with, we could avoid much of the issue.
Getting back to the movie itself, there isn’t too much more I have to say. The movie lacks the headstrong energy and sense of style that was so delightful in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), when the studio let director Alfonso Cuaron really run wild. David Yates, who has directorial duties this time around, has mostly experience with British television, and seems to have been hired mainly to bring the film in exactly as expected.
As I predicted back in our summer movie preview in Episode 31, Yates seems to be mainly a traffic director, as the cast and crew certainly know their roles and the movie feels consistent with the others in the series. This is to say it’s fun but not truly dazzling, and I imagine those who aren’t fans of the books probably don’t have too much to be interested in.
That’s actually worth a special note — while I mostly liked the screenplay, the lack of explanation for the film’s central MacGuffin here is baffling. If you go into this movie without already knowing the story, I have to imagine you will come out and immediately rush to Wikipedia to have some idea of what was going on. I am not really sure why the climax and denouement in the novel are given such short shrift, especially because they are so vital to setting up the events in books six and (presumably) seven.
Anyway, if you’re a Potter fan, you’ll be able to see the movie and enjoy it, but don’t expect anything too spectacular. If you’re not a fan, just go read the books already.
P.S. If you want to comment, you should do so now, as I am liable to close comments on this thread the instant the calendar rolls over to July 21 and possibly sooner. All of those who have at least an Acceptable on their OWLs can surmise why.