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WGUC Reviews

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Warner Brothers
Rated PG-13
Now Showing at: most major theaters. In IMAX 3-D at Showcase Cinema in Springdale
Review by: Larry Thomas

There seems to be a Harry Potter feeding frenzy this summer. The fifth movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, opened to huge box office numbers. And it almost seemed as if the film were a mega-expensive promo for the book launch this weekend of the newest Potter adventure penned by J.K. Rowling. Fans lined up to reserve their copies of the book, and Harry Potter parties are planned all over the country, with costumes and book readings.

The film may be ok for the avid readers of this inordinately successful literary and cinematic series, but that's about the extent of the appeal.

Quite frankly, the cliché "if you've seen one, you've seen them all" aptly applies to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry's foster family constantly grimaces and is incredibly stupid. Harry returns to Hogwart's School of Sorcery for another year of studies. Harry and friends Hermione and Ron Weasley find themselves in a plot, a scheme, an adventure of some sort, involving sinister characters and "things." The other Hogwartians join in coming to the rescue, and then everyone goes home for another break.

In between, there's the usual set of chases, critters, scowling, and wizardly posturing with wands.

The young stars, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Emma Watson as Hermione, and Rupert Grint as Ron, are all decent performers and do what they can with the characters as they age on screen with each passing film. The supporting players are a veritable who's who of British cinema: Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman and Julie Walters. They don't have much to do other than lend their presence. The one bright spot is Imelda Staunton as the treacherous headmistress Delores Umbrage, the kind of screen villain audiences love to hate. The character also seems to be a political allegory, as Ms. Umbrage uses the guise of security as an excuse for suspending all rights and privileges, as well as sanctioning torture to extract information.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in addition to being at every possible available theatre, is also being shown in selected locations around the country in IMAX, the spectacular large-screen format, with scenes in 3-D. Other Potters have gone the IMAX route, but this is the first one with the added attraction of 3-D. Given that the film is so dark and murky in its visuals, as have been the others in the series, the expansion of the image to the giant IMAX screen really doesn't make much difference. The 3-D is the same process used in Sperman Returns --a digital conversion that looks fuzzy and not always effective. Real IMAX 3-D, filmed entirely in that process, is truly spectacular. But waving a wand to make a 15-minute segment seem like 3-D is just a gimmick…and an excuse to charge extra for tickets.

Granted, it uses the highest of available filmmaking technologies, has an immense cast, and was blessed by having wads of cash invested in its production. But there's more imagination, thrills, and excitement in one 80-minute Ray Harryhausen stop-motion animation film, than in all the bloated, expensive, CGI, IMAX, and 3-D Harry Potters put together.


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