Friday, February 14, 2014

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011, Movie Review)

       Ten years, eight movies, one incredible franchise, when 2011 came around, I couldn’t believe it, the HP movies are actually concluding. Whether you’re a fan of the Harry Potter franchise or not, you still can’t deny that it’s a classic series of films that will be remembered for years to come. It left a huge impact on my childhood, it lasted throughout my teenage years and finished at the beginning of my young adult years, and I feel so lucky to have been a part of the generation that grew up with this saga. Now at last, we reach “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”, the eighth and final film in the series, and I’m so pleased to say that the franchise closes on a very, VERY high note. If it wasn’t for “Chamber of Secrets”, this film would have been my absolute favorite. As it is, “Deathly Hallows Part 2” is a very close second favorite and should be immortalized as one of the best final chapters of all time.

     Following up immediately after the events of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”, Harry and his friends find themselves back on their quest to find and destroy Voldemorts seven items in order to defeat him once and for all. This leads to another thrilling sequence where the gang sneaks into the wizard bank, collect another item and make a daring escape on a fire breathing dragon, it’s just an awesome scene and it gets things started with a kick. After words, they find themselves back at Hogwarts, where they seek the final items to destroy and later find themselves defending the castle from Voldemorts invading army of dark wizards. It’s actually a very simple premise, but everything is done so well. The action/ adventure sequences are thrilling, the performances are powerful, the visuals are dazzling, all the characters are given the proper amount of attention, the films message regarding sacrifice is effective without feeling preachy and despite the constant violence and dark concepts, everything still feels magical. This is something that the last film just couldn’t accomplish.

       Also, unlike “Part 1” of “The Deathly Hallows”, this film gives the supporting characters plenty of attention. Everyone gets their shining moments, mellow dramatic scenes and they all have a charismatic sense of hummer to boot. The comedy in this film is very subtle and they all hit bull’s-eye’s. I also find myself cheering for the cast more then I have in any of the previous films, Harry Potter in particular makes the big sacrifice move by giving his life for the good of his friends. The characters are also given a significant amount of development, and Professor Snap gets an incredible back story that ties everything together so well. Seriously, the scene when Snaps story is revealed to Harry was absolutely electrifying and could have won its own little academy award. 

      Many people have compared this film to “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and to be fare, both films are very similar. Both plots revolve around a battle on castle grounds, which involves an army of monstrous creatures and a hero who has to destroy evil objects that with vanquish the main villain. Personally, I never liked “The Return of the King” that much and I felt that “Deathly Hallows Part 2” improved on every one of that films short comings. The battle of Hogwarts is a thrilling spectacle with statues that come to life, lots of destruction, lots of wand duels and a busy environment, however, it’s mostly in the background of the film, while all the attention still goes to our hero’s. Personally, I felt that “The Return of the King” spent way too much time on its battle and making it a larger than life spectacle out of it, while the characters were all moved to the sidelines. Also, the passing is much better in “Deathly Hallows Part 2”, it’s the kind of fast pace that never feels dull but it also doesn’t come off a rushed, it still gives the characters enough time to breath. The final battle between Harry and Voldemort is the stuff of legend, and is worthy to go along other classic confrontations of good vs. evil like Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker.

      My only criticism toured this film is the final scene with the trio after the climax. When the battle concludes, Harry, Ron and Herminie share one last scene together on a bridge and all they do is discus who Voldemorts wand properly belongs to. That sucks, this is our final scene with these characters, this is the moment when they should be reflecting on how much they’ve experienced over the years, how they’ve prevailed against so many odds, how their friendship has only gotten stronger, what they plan to do with their lives now that all the dark times have passed, etc. Bottom line, I feel like there could have been a really nice bonding moment between these three characters in their final scene and it was all wasted. Thankfully, the film redeems itself with a nice little epilog that takes place 19 years in the future. We see that our hero’s are all married, they have kids and Harry sends his son off to school, so it’s like everything has come full circle from where Harries journey first began. I love how simple, pleasant and to the point this scene is, unlike the stupidity of “The Return of the King” which had to beat you over the head with an ending that just wouldn’t end.  

     To some things up, I couldn’t have asked for a better send off to a beloved film series. It’s magical, epic, action packed, powerfully acted and ties all loose ends together so nicely. It's actually on par with "Star Wars 6: Return of the Jedi" as one of my favorite final chapters of all time. I realize that this was a relatively small review, especially in comparison to all my previous Harry Potter posts, but I can’t think of anything else that needs to be addressed, just see the movie for yourself because I can’t do it justice. If you’re a big fan of the Harry Potter series, I think you’ll be perfectly satisfied with this epic, powerful, emotional, magical and all around stunning conclusion to the timeless Harry Potter series.

                   I give “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” a perfect 5 stars out of 5. 

I suppose, if I were to rank all eight of the Harry Potter movies from favorite to least favorite, the list would go like this......

                                 1st Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)  
                                 2nd Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)
                                 3rd Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
                                 4th Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
                                 5th Harry Potter and the sorcerer's stone (2001)
                                 6th Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
                                 7th Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)
                                 8th Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010, Movie Review)

      Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” was the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter book series, however, that novel was so long and so full, that director David Yates decided to split its movie counterpart into two movies. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” would premier in 2010, while the follow-up titled “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” would be released in 2011. I think this was a very smart decision that paid off very well, and it was also a nice treat to get one more installment in the Harry Potter series then we were expecting. However, while I really like that they split this book into two movies, I think they could have done a better job with “Part 1” of “the Deathly Hallows”. Actually, this film gave me the exact opposite reaction I had with the last HP movie. In my review of “The Half-Blood Prince”, I described how I hated that film when I first saw it in the theater, but then I grew to like it more and more with repeated viewings. Now I think it’s pretty good, unfortunately, I had the opposite effect with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”. When I saw this movie in the theater, I loved it and praised it, but then after several home viewings, I find myself liking this one less and less every time I watch it. Now it’s come to the point where I think it’s a good movie, but only at the very low end of good.

     (Spoilers) In the last movie titled “Half-Blood Prince”, Harry Potter learned that his enemy Voldemort could be defeated once and for all by destroying seven items that contain part of his sole. Unfortunately, his head master Dumbledore was killed by Professor Snap, who apparently has allied himself with the enemy. Now Voldemort rules the wizarding world with an iron fist, he has his death eaters running the ministry of magic and he appoints Snap as the new head master of Hogwarts. With nowhere else to go, Harry along with his two best friends Ron and Herminie set off on a quest to find and destroy all seven items in an effort to defeat this tyrant and bring peace back to their world. Along the way they travel to various locations and lots of action scenes happen along the way. On the face of it, this sounds like an awesome premise, our heroes are embarking on an adventure rather than spending another year at school and the stakes are higher than ever. It’s almost like the Percy Jackson books, with lots of exploring and lots of thrilling encounters, except where that group was actually fun to go adventuring with, the Harry Potter characters sadly aren’t as fun in a situation like this.

     I’d go so far as to say that the first thirty minutes of their journey was fantastic, it starts with a lot of energy, they need to get off the streets, find a safe place to stay and the situations they get in are a lot of fun. There’s an especially exciting sequence when our heroes disguise themselves as adult wizards in an effort to sneak into a highly secured building, and retrieve one of the seven items that’s being held by their old foe Dolores Umbridge. This leads to some thrilling action and it makes for a fun, covert, highest scene. Unfortunately, once our hero’s hit the forest and set up camp, things go downhill fast. You’d think this would be where the adventure really starts to liven up, but the characters waist so much time doing very little. The passing also gets really uneven at this point, sometimes the movie rushes through scenes that should be crucial or interesting, then other times it moves at a snail’s pass through moments that feel like time filler. There are several parts that feature our characters just sitting around, not saying anything, not doing anything and the only thing missing are the sounds of crickets going “Chirp Chirp”. Also, nothing feels magical about this experience, I actually find myself forgetting that this film takes place in a magical Kingdome, because for the most, all we see in this film are colorless landscape and the ugly interiors of a grey tent.

    This leads me to the next big problem with this film, the tone is just too cynical, intense and very unpleasant. Now I have no problem with drama or dark material in a movie. In fact, I usually love when dark elements are present in a film, because when your hero’s face intense obstacles and go through hard times, it makes us care a lot more about the situation at hand and it also makes the resolution feel so much stronger. However, there’s usually a balance in the Harry Potter films, and this particular movie isn’t just dark, it’s intensely dark. There’s characters getting killed off left and right, our three heroes have some really heated arguments, the villains murder people without mercy, there’s an especially intense scene where Herminie gets tortured, there’s lots of blood (at least by Harry Potter standards) and just to push this movies adult content, we have a brief seen with two of our main characters naked and getting awfully close. Granted, it’s only a vision sequence and it doesn’t show anything too inappropriate, but still, this film likes it’s dark, intense and adult content way too much.  

     Usually, the Harry Potter movies have some upbeat and magical elements to help balance out the darkness, but not here, it’s just pathos all the way through. Then when you combine this films joyless tone with its uneven passing, it just makes the whole experience feel dull and even a little depressing. The music is sorely lacking but the cinematography is actually quite impressive. Even though the scenery has little color, the locations themselves are still really cool to look at. Many of the dramatic elements in this film do work and at the very least, there are some really good moments that keep the film from being a complete downer. There’s a nice little scene where Harry visits his parents graves, and this moment dose a good job playing to our emotional sides. The most cheerful scene in the film is a little dance number between Harry and Herminie and while the whole scene ends with no payoff and is mostly pointless, it’s still the only moment that actually gets me to smile. Plus, it’s just genuinely nice to see Harry and Herminie have a positive bonding scene together.

     Even though I like the three main characters a lot, the movie just doesn’t know how to utilizes it’s time with them. This will be their last adventure together, let’s see them talk with each other a little more, let’s see them bond over their past experience and what they should do in the present but there’s only a hand full of scenes with them developing as individuals. It’s also annoying that the movie never bothers to cut to any of the other characters in the series. I think it would have really helped the pass of this movie if we’d get occasional scenes of what other characters like Hagrid, Ginny or Snap are doing, instead, where stuck with the three main characters like their the last people on earth. The climax takes place under the mercy of the wicked witch, Bellatrix Lestrange, played once again by Helena Bonham Carter. Now she’s always been a sinister adversary, but in this film, she goes bat shit crazy, attacking her own goons, torturing people without mercy and even murdering another one of our favorite characters. The final fight itself is short but effective enough, and the ending leaves audiences excited to see what happens next.  

      The action scenes in this movie are hit and miss, some of them go by way to fast and there’s one particular chase in the woods that suffers from way to much shaky camera. But when the action gets good, things can get really exciting. The best action segment by far is the sky battle in the beginning of the film. This started things off on a very high note, as all the characters are flying through the air while under attack by multiple adversaries, there’s vehicle destruction, high speed maneuvering and it easily stands as one of the most exciting battles in the entire series. Another high point of the film involves Ron, as he attempts to destroy one of Voldemorts seven objects. In this scene, Ron battles his personal demons in the form of sinister apparitions of his best friends, it’s intense and the visual effects are really cool. Plus, it’s very satisfying to see Ron finally confront his greatest fears and doubts in a figurative and physical confrontation. 

     Now wait a second, what about those Deathly Hallows that are right there in the title of our movie? Well, they really have nothing to do with the plot, have no connection to Voldemorts seven soul items and aren’t even discussed until the very end of the film. Yet, the Deathly Hallows are actually more interesting than anything else in this film. The series finally takes a moment to explore myths and legends in the Harry Potter universe and I really wish the plot was all about this instead. Where given an incredible backstory of “The Tail of the Peverell Brothers”, which is a story told through stunning animation, impressive visuals that are very reminiscent of Tim Burton’s art work and it’s all livened up with a strong atmosphere and cryptic narration. The scene itself is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series and the concept of the Deathly Hallows has so much potential to elevate this films shallow plot into something really good. We learn that the Deathly Hallows are three magical items that joined together make an individual master of death. Unfortunately, the movie never does anything with this premise, they never collect all three, they never get joined together and they’ll never have any bearing on the plot. So really, why bother making the legend of these Hollows so interesting and so detailed if they won’t amount to anything?

    Despite that, how do I feel about this movie as a whole? Well, there’s no denying that this film has some serious flaws, the passing is a mess, it can be really dull, uneventful and incredibly cynical at times, but I still don’t think it’s a terrible movie, I don’t even think it’s bad. It has exciting sequences that make it worthwhile, I do like the films premise, even if it could have been done better, and there’s still a lot of scenes that I do still enjoy a lot. It certainly isn’t on par with the other really good films in the series but it could have been worse. If you can get past this films constantly intense and down beat tone, then you might still have fun with all the action and technical wizardry that the film provides. 

                                         I give “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” 3 stars out of 5.                            

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009, Movie Review)

       So now where up to film sixth in the Harry Potter series titled “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and this time, my feelings are really mixed. When I first saw this movie for its opening night back in 2009, I didn’t like it at all. However, unlike “Goblet of Fire”, this film has actually grown on me over the years, and I find myself liking it a little more every time I watch it. As of now, I consider “Half-Blood Prince” to be a good movie in the series, I don’t think it’s great, but definitely good.

       Before I talk about the contexts of movie, I do want to say that the opening to this film is awesome, in fact I think it’s the coolest opening sequence to any of the Harry Potter movies. I love how it starts with quick flashbacks on the events from the last film, then the title shows up in the most epic title screen of the series and then where treated to this awesome opening scene with evil apparitions in flight, attacking the city and destroying a bridge. The scene is complete with camera shots zooming through ales and crashing through walls, it’s almost like a simulated theme park ride and it starts things off on a very high note. Also, the music composed and conducted by Nicholas Hooper is fantastic. He also did a really good job with the music in the last movie “Order of the Phoenix”, but in this film, he really nails the score, making it sound both beautiful and haunting all at once. Regrettably “Order of the Phoenix” and “Half-Blood Prince” are the only Harry Potter movies that involved Nicholas Hooper’s musical talents. Compared to John Williams, Hooper is definitely the next best composer for the series. 

     The premise for the film goes like this, dark forces are stirring in the wizard word and Harry Potter prepares to fight his greatest enemy by learning as much about the evil wizard Voldemort as possible. So with the help of his head master Dumbledore, he explores the dark wizards past in an effort to learn how to defeat him in the present. On the side lines, Harry, along with his best friends attend classes for their sixth year at Hogwarts School and honestly, that’s really all that happens in this film. There’s a subplot involving Harries rival Draco as he’s up to some mysterious task, plus Professor Snap has some secrets of his own that will change his character throughout the series, and there’s a phew other little things that I’ll go into more detail on, but not much. It’s mostly just Harry and company having a regular, laid back year at school, there’s no mystery that needs to be solved, no curse attacking the castle that needs to be stopped, no magical adventure to embark on, and no enemy that needs to be defeated, at least until the end. Voldemort never even makes an appearance, with the exception of his younger self that’s seen in flashbacks and by that premise, you can probably tell why my feelings toured this film are mixed.

      On the down side, there really isn’t a whole lot going on in this film, the plot doesn’t amount to much, there are hardly any elements of action or adventure, Harry only learns one vital thing about his enemy over the cores of the film and when the movie concludes, it just leaves you feeling like there should have been more to it. Now on the plus side, it’s actually kind of refreshing to just have a simple, quiet year with our hero’s. The following two movies won’t take place during a school year and the characters certainly won’t be having any fun, so this is really our last chance to have a good time with these characters that we’ve really grown to enjoy. It’s like a calm before the storm, and in this regard, the films great. While there isn’t much going on in the plot, there are still plenty of fun things happening on screen. I think this film really nails the friendship between the three main characters and their simple interactions are wonderful. There’s also a lot of comedy in this movie, more than any other film is the series, and for the most part, it’s actually quite funny, and the actors are clearly having a lot of fun in this film. 

    Daniel Radcliffe delivers his liveliest performance in the role of Harry Potter yet and completely steals the show. He’s full of energy and he’s enjoying every second he has on screen and that fun transcends on to the audience so nicely. Draco Malfoy gets a lot more attention in this movie then he has in many of the previous films, and his story arch is surprisingly complex. Well, it feels complex because Tom Felton is incredible in the role, bringing the character to life with natural, nerves energy. The always terrific Jim Broadbent joins the cast as a new potions teacher named Horace Slughorn, this is another character that I really liked and the scenes he shares with Harry come off as very genuine. But the biggest surprise was Michal Gambon in the role of Dumbledore. Now, I’ve complained about his performance in some of my earlier reviews, particularly with regards to “Goblet of Fire”, but he completely redeems himself in this film. Not only does he bring the character to life with charisma and genuine humbleness but he also has a subtle sense of hummer that was really welcome.

      The one thing that I still have a lot of problems with is the new lovers relationship between Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley. I wasn’t too pleased with how suddenly Harry broke up with his first girl friend in the last movie and now the film acts like Harry and Ginny have had some relationship building over the series, when they really haven’t. Sure, Harry rescued her in one of the early films, but they never shared a single scene together before this film, they never bonded over anything before, they don't have any real chemistry and their relationship in this film doesn’t amount to much. Nothing ever happens between these two that makes us care, they really don’t say anything to each other, they don’t do anything together, and when they do interact with one another, the film resorts to the most typical, romantic teen movie clich├ęs you’ll ever see. Seriously, this is all they do in the film, Ginny feeds him a cupcake, she ties Harries loose shoelace and it all feels like one big, missed opportunity. I would love to see Harry develop a real relationship with her because I like these characters and on some general level it’s pleasant to see them together, and Bonnie Wright is actually a sweet young actress. Unfortunately, the series never makes this relationship anything special, it’s just average and could have been so much nicer than this.

       The tone of the movie is mostly upbeat and pleasant but the look of the film is completely depressing. Actually the cinematography is very good and the sets are really impressive spectacles but there’s just no color in this film at all. Everything is shot in this really ugly, murky lighting and it diminishes the novelty of being submersed in this magical universe. I like the passing of the film, nothing feels rushed, but nothing feels that exciting either. There really aren’t any action scenes in the film and the movie doesn’t even have much of a climax. There’s a lot of build up involving a plot to sneak Draco Malfoy’s evil aunt Bellatrix, (who’s played very well again by Helena Bonham Carter) and a small team of Death Eaters into the castle but it amounts to very little. One of the main characters tragically dies, but then the villains just leave and our main cast of hero’s have nothing to do but morn their fallen teacher.     

      Overall, “Half-Blood Prince” is kind of like the black sheep of the Harry Potter series. It certainly isn’t a terrible movie, it’s still fun to watch, it’s great to spend time with this cast of characters in a way that’s mostly positive and the film ultimately leaves me feeling good in the end. It’s just not a film that excites me or thrills me like many of the others do. It feels less like a magical journey film and more like a romantic teen comedy, but that still has its place. If you want a Harry Potter movie that’s either more magical or more action packed, this probably isn’t the film for you but if a simple, sweet time with these characters is enough for your taste, then this film won’t disappoint.

                              I give “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” 3 ½ stars out of 5.                            

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007, movie review)

       So, my last review of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” wasn’t all that positive and for a while, I thought I was done with the Harry Potter series. Maybe I just didn’t like the new direction these films were going in, maybe I had two much fondness for the first three movies that I wouldn’t except change, either way, I had little expectations for the further films in the franchise. Then in 2007 came the release of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”, and that movie surprised the hell out of me. Not only did it surpass my expectations and give me new found hope for the rest of the series, but it also stands as one of my three favorite entries in this franchise. The movie delivers everything that I thought was missing in the last film. The passing is great, the story is excellent, the action scenes are thrilling, the new characters are wonderful, the moral is deep and our main characters are more mature but in a way that doesn’t feel empty and mean spirited. 

       Unlike its predecessor, this movie is absolutely a story of good versus evil, but it’s not entirely about defeating a physical threat, instead it’s more about concurring the darkness within before defeating your enemy and that’s a conflict that thrills me more than any physical challenge a hero may encounter. After the events of “Goblet of Fire”, Harries greatest enemy Voldemort has returned and is secretly building an army of followers. Harry tries his best to warn everyone of the danger, but the ministry of magic and even his fellow classmates refuse to believe him. Everyone is so twisted and warped by fear, that even the magical minister deludes himself into believing that Harry Potter and his head master Dumbledore are conspiring against him. It’s a rather convincing and even haunting depiction of how a society can crumble when fear dominates one’s life. Enter a new villain by the name of Dolores Umbridge who takes advantage of the ministry’s fear in an effort to gain power, and ultimately takes over the whole school of Hogwarts. Now with the school under the tyranny of Umbridge, it’s up to Harry to regain his friends, battle the darkness that corrupts his soul, teach his fellow classmates everything he’s experienced over the years and lead them in a rebellion against their oppressors.  

        This is a premise that just gets everything right, there’s a story arch of a fallen hero trying to fit back into a community, we have the students forming their own club, they gather in a secret location to train themselves better than any teacher ever has and lots of adventures involving usurping teachers and evil wizards ensue along the way. I think this film especially nails that delicate balance between heated conflicts and warm feel good moments. There are a lot of scenes in which the characters are angry, bitter, going through hardships and dealing with some really dark material, but this time the arguments never come off as childishly immature, the same way I felt they did in the last film. Plus, there’s still so much joy and excitement that comes from seeing these characters build themselves, grow closer together as a family and the movies whole theme of unity is so stirring, without ever diving into cheesy territory. I love that our trio of hero’s are both maturing and breaking out of their common character traits. Ron is less of a joke, Herminie uses her physical strengths, as well as her brain and Harry really stands tall as the hero we want to cheer for.  It’s an especially nice treat to see Harry bond with other students outside of his usual trio. Not just one off girl friends but other individuals that he’s had the privilege of knowing at the school and that helps make this world feel all the more lively and real when even the secondary characters get a little more attention.  

      The newest addition to Harries group of friends is a young girl named Luna Lovegood who’s played beautifully by Evanna Lynch. I love this character, she has her own unique personality that separates her from the others, she can relate to Harry in this film because there both regarded as outcasts and she contributes to the group by acting as the moral compass. While Luna never becomes a member of Harries trio, she becomes a main stay from this point on and will remain one of Harries closest friends. Michael Gambon is back as Albus Dumbledore, and to my amazement, he’s actually doing a serviceable job in the role now. Gambon still isn’t quite as humble and warm as the first Dumbledore but he’s actually kind of a bad ass. No joke, this is a bad ass Dumbledore, he’s calm and collective but when he does something awesome, its hard core awesome. I’ll always remember that scene when Dumbledore is about to be taken away to prison, only to makes a quick escape by grabbing onto the tail of the Phoenix and disappearing in a large fiery eruption, Oh yes, Dumbledore certainly has style.     

      If I was to mention one big problem I had with this movie, it would be Harries discarded relationship with Cho Chang. This is the cute little Asian girl who was featured in the last movie, now she’s back and Harry finds himself getting much closer to her, like girl friend territory. I’ll be honest, I think these two make a really cute couple, they do have chemistry, they look great together and there’s a subtle bit of conflict in their relationship. It’s established that she was in a relationship with the student who died in the last film and while her feelings toured Harry are genuine, she can’t help but feel she’s betraying the first man she loved. On the opposite side of that coin, Harry was there when that other guy died and the last thing he wants is to make his death seem more empty, but he just can’t dyne how strong his feelings are toured her either. This is the kind of beautiful but conflicting relationship that I’d love to see explored further throughout the series, unfortunately, they have an off screen breakup. No joke, after several scenes establishing an interesting relationship between these two, they break up off screen, it’s not even made clear why they break up, they don’t talk to each other again and Cho Change just disappears from the series like she never existed. It’s just a week excuse for Harry to start a relationship with that one red head girl and honestly, this is one case in which I really wish the movie didn’t follow the book. Seriously, it’s good to make changes, keeping Cho as Harries girl friend would have been an excellent change that readers wouldn’t expect and it would be so much better then what they do in the next film.

     Thankfully, the real heart of this movie is Harries relationship with his godfather, Sirius Black. After getting little screen time in the previous films, Gary Oldman is finally given the chance to shine in this role. He’s strong and supportive but he’s also stubborn and a bit of risk taker and that makes the character all the more likable. He just has so much enthusiasm, joy for life, and moral values to convey to our hero. Now, spoiler alert for anyone not familiar with the story, because something happens at the end that I feel needs to be mentioned. During the climax, Sirius Black dies while fighting alongside Harry and I honestly think that this is the most effective and heart breaking death in the series. Unlike that student from the last film, this was a character that we knew very well and liked a lot. Plus, he was the only real family that Harry had left, so now it’s like he’s been orphaned all over again.  

     Not only are the hero’s great, the film also out does itself with the villains. Ralph Fiennes finally elevates his performance as Voldemort with actual scares and sheer sense of menace. Jason Isaacs gets one last chance to shine as Lucius Malfoy before his character gets shamefully demoted. Voldemorts evil followers called the death eaters make their mark on the series, even though they were seen briefly in the last film, they really stand out here as intimidating soldiers of darkness. Popular actress Helena Bonham Carter joins the cast as the sinister witch named Bellatrix Lestrange. Her part in this film is short but she becomes a main stay villain from this point on and quickly proves to be one of the deadlist foes that Harry has ever faced. Finally, the villain who steals the show with every scene she’s in is Dolores Umbridge. Actress Imelda Staunton delivers a deliciously wicked performance in the role and in many ways, I think she’s more interesting then the series main antagonist. This is a very unique villain because unlike Voldermort who gains power through force, Umbridge attacks through influence and a promise to make the world a better place. It’s a rare case in which Harry can’t just fight back and she’s just so despicably full of herself that it makes her a lot of fun to hate.

      The visual effects as usual are awesome to look at and the set pieces are all very detailed. One thing that does get a little excessive is the constant blue lighting. Seriously, just about every shot in this film has some kind of blue look to it, there’s blue lit rooms, blue lit storm clouds, blue lit forests, the entire climax takes place in this area that’s all blue, the poster of the movie is blue, heck, even the cover of the book is blue. Whenever I think of the “Order of the Phoenix”, I immediately think of the color blue. The action sequences in this film are some of the best to be featured in the whole series, this time we get really acrobatic wizard battles. The climax especially delivers a powerhouse, action packed spectacle, with lots of wand duels, lots of energy and a really active environment. It’s also a real treat to see so many characters involved, usually it’s just Harry and the trio but now other school friends and other wizards from the series all join in on this finally. The highlight is the final one on one dual between Voldermort and Dumbledore, the big showdown between the two mightiest wizards in the Harry Potter universe. I love that it’s not just a single collision of spells, it’s actually like a battle of the elements, Voldermort summons fire, Dumbledore summons water, there’s shadow energy, shattered glass and it’s just thrilling to watch.  

       When all the action is said and done, we then segue into my favorite part of the movie and personally, my favorite scene in the whole series. The moment when Harry gets possessed by Voldemort is arguably the darkest part of the film and may even disturb some people, but it’s also a very powerful scene as Harry conquers both his enemy and the darkness within himself all at once. The visuals are tense, the music is powerful, Harries final message to Voldemort is very effective and the whole scene just leaves me with chills every time. On a side note, when Voldemort inters Harries mind, we get a montage of clips from all the films and it’s kind of a rare treat to look back on the past films like this.  

      To some things up, “Order of the Phoenix” is easily my favorite of the later day Harry Potter films. The story stays consistently engaging, and the action scenes are thrilling without ever overshadowing any of the films substance. The level of enjoyment and dark elements are balanced out flawlessly, the characters are more mature, the third act is a powerhouse romp and everything comes together so nicely in the end. Sure there’s that one little problem I mentioned earlier but it’s so small and everything else is so good that it hardly matters. Someone looking for a more action packed plot and lots of over the top visual effects may be a little bored with a lot of this film, but for my money, the films exciting premise, and livelier themes are enough to make this one of the best.

                                          I give “Order of the Phoenix” 4 ½ stars out of 5.