Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Hype is one thing. A world-wide phenomenon is quite another. Timing the release of the fifth Harry Potter film ten days before the release of the seventh and final Harry Potter book could confuse some who aren’t die-hard fans of the wizarding book series, but Warner Bros is crazy like a fox and is counting on Harry-mania to propel Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to record box office receipts in the wake of the world-wide buzz over the final installment of the fictional series’ book release.

They are counting all the way to the bank.

Harry Potter movies are almost review-proof. It is pretty much for certain that you are either going to see a Harry Potter film or you won’t. I can’t imagine anyone who will be convinced or dissuaded from seeing one by a review. You are either a fan or you’re not. For my own part, my interest in Harry Potter lies more in the films than in the books, but even there it is more because of the pop-culture phenomenon than any great cinematic contribution they have made.

I don’t think anyone who goes to see a Harry Potter film is going in expecting a great cinematic achievement, nor are they going specifically for one. I don’t expect anyone thinks a Harry Potter film will ever be nominated for Best Picture or Daniel Radcliffe (who plays Harry) will ever be nominated for Best Actor (although he has come a long way). But, all that being said, even this snobby stick-in-the-mud will acknowledge that the franchise certainly does boast some of the finest (if not seamless) visual effects in use today and can lay claim to one incredibly distinguished fact. I can comfortably say that there has been no greater collection of English-language actors in one series of films than have been featured in these five films. Just look at some of the actors who have appeared in the Harry Potter films: Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, John Hurt, John Cleese, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Michael Gambon, Emma Thompson, Julie Christie, Julie Walters, Kenneth Branagh, Ralph Fiennes, Imelda Staunton, and Helena Bonham Carter. That’s quite a gathering of classically-trained actors for a so-called children’s series of films.

It would be unwise to underestimate the cinematic value of the Harry Potter films, certainly. The art direction is unequaled. As I mentioned, the visual effects are excellent. The story and characters are obviously fleshed out and engrossing and hold your interest from start to finish. The Harry Potter phenomenon carries through to the films and the films have successfully captured the essence of the books’ popularity on screen, making them certainly worthwhile, even if you are just a casual fan of the books.

If, however, you’ve never cracked a single page of a Harry Potter book, I’m not sure the art direction and visual effects and acting chops of the assorted peripheral characters will keep you engrossed enough for two hours. You must be prepared to bring your inner child into the theatre with you….the one that believes in dragons and spells and….magic. Once you can do that, these films will take you away. You’ll forget about the stilted acting of the main characters. You’ll be able to overlook the somewhat forced dialogue and simplistic plot devices. These films are about engaging your imagination—if you’re not ready to go with it, stay home. If you are, you’re in for the broom ride of your life.