Harry Potter Boxset Books
The Complete Collection
by J.K. Rowling
(Discounted Hardcover from Amazon)
Advancing one of the most successful pieces of imaginative fiction adapted for the screen is this fifth installment of the Harry Potter saga. By now, (a few days before its opening) most fans and interested inquirers have heard of its darkness, which will receive no disagreement here. It is dark, it is more grown up, and its approaching end can be felt.
The visual tonality of the film is decidedly shadowy and low key but the real darkness that pervades is the evil in the form of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) who is in the process of returning to wreak havoc on the good, with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) his appointed enemy.
In the opening prologue, Harry and his inane cousin are attacked in a tunnel by a pair of dementors who set about to suck the life force out of them. Harry manages to put an end to the ambush with the Patronus Charm, a fatal bit of magic forbidden outside the walls of Hogwarts.
Failing to consider the self-survival aspect of Harry's desperate action, Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy), lord of the Ministry of Magic, holds an inquisitional hearing in an attempt to condemn Harry, giving no credence to Harry's warning that Voldemort has returned. In a grand demonstration of getting official decision-making entirely wrong, Fudge's invective against his poor accused, backed by a chorus of his sycophants, blindly seeks to destroy Harry. Until Professor Dumbledore (long-bearded Michael Gambon) steps in to argue the case and save his ward from unreasoned antagonism.
Though Harry wins the case, the ministerial judge isn't one to back off in his unexplainable acrimony. Not liking what he sees as Hogwart's free-wheeling liberties, he appoints one of his most ardent sycophants to straighten out the mess. Enter Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), a round ball of officiousness in pink who will transform the school into a zone of radical limitations and restrictive rules whose framed edicts soon cover so much of a wall in the corridor that her handyman needs a ladder to add more. She rules in the name of the pompous elite who govern not unlike, say, Saddam Hussein.
Her vise-like grip over the institution is immediately felt when she cancels any further training in wizard power. No power is to ever compete with her own. But Harry finds support in his unquestioned loyalties of buddies Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and the comely Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). Sometimes ignored by Harry as he wrestles with his black forebodings about the dark lord, this pair ultimately convinces him that he is a leader with a bigger following than he suspects and is the one who can conduct secret training sessions in wizardry. With their backing, he names his rebel band, "Dumbledore's Army."
But, despite setbacks in controlling her prisoners... er, that is, errant wards, Umbridge is finally able to locate the rebel army's hidden cloister causing Dumbledore, despite cutting off direct contact with Harry, to assign Professor Sevirus Snape (Alan Rickman) to prepare the wayward insurrectionist for the battle to come. Snape is quick to express his disdain at the tiresome task but, in Snape fashion, does his best to condition Harry's mind control for the mental combat that will be the essential factor in any confrontation with Voldemort.
The creeping presence of Mr. V, accompanied by his malevolent henchman Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) casts the big shadow over the story and in Harry's dreams with dire foreboding. The inevitable rendezvous with destiny is held off until the last act when the dark lord unleashes Sirius' pestilant cousin Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) from Azkaban prison in order to aid him against Harry. On the other side of the good/evil nexus is faithful Rubeus Hagrid (Bobby Coltrane) and his very big bro' who seems a CGI creation from the fecund mind of the extraordinary author of this visionary cornucopia, J.K. Rowling. David Yates directed.
Gone from the story stockpile are the youthful tests of superiority and internacine Hogwarts competitions that provided much of the tense zippiness in the early going. As teenagers and young adults, the scenario now takes on a more mature grappling with destinies and adult-level of dealing with injustices. As the actors have matured, so too has their diction become more trained, making the dialogue and, therefore the story, more understandable than in prior episodes.
Productions value are up to the series' standards in all departments and the cast duly embodies the extraordinary Rowlings treasury of characters and concepts. With Emma Watson growing up, her Hermione is quickly becoming downright sexy. Grint is improving as a lumbering but lovable presence, adding more to the ensemble than he has before. The actor who does the most with the least is the exquisitely amusing Alan Rickman whose timing of a single word or sentence should be enshrined in our memories, if not in more hallowed halls of career recognition.
The somber and sober tones seem to girdle the dramatic potentialities of "Phoenix," lacing up the extremes of violence and exhilaration into a manageable plotline. Unfortunately, that restraint, possibly unintended by the moviemakers, doesn't make this one of the better chapters in the Harry Potter film chronicles and, to some, it might be disappointing. Despite that, I'll bet my prognostication wand that it'll receive ample rewards at the world boxoffice. It's far too embedded into the global entertainment consciousness for a disappearance act.
~~ Jules BrennerLinks to reviews of prior episodes:
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"
"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"
"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"