[Contains draconian edicts and SPOILERS!!!]
The first time I blogged about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), I was writing from the perspective of an impatient Helena Bonham Carter fan, rather than an attentive and versed viewer… but now I can better appreciate how it breaks from the frustrating Harry Potter Film Formula. This time around the standard Secretly Evil “Defence Against the Dark Arts” Professor has been replaced by the blatantly and gleefully evil ‘Dolores Umbridge’ (played by Imelda Staunton)… and because she was appointed/planted directly by the Ministry of Magic, rather than being hired directly by Dumbledore, it removes the recurring question of how he can be so slapdash when screening new staff members. Meanwhile, her slide towards full-tilt fascism drove the students underground (or rather sideways, into the elusive “Room of Requirement”), meaning that they effectively ended up teaching themselves how to survive the upcoming war, thus removing any pretence that the extended faculty ever served any discernible function at all! Tee hee.
This instalment also saw the introduction of several awesome new witches: Bat-crap-crazy ‘Bellatrix Lestrange’ (HBC)… adorably out-there ‘Luna Lovegood’ (Evanna Lynch)… and punky animal-impersonator ‘Nymphadora Tonks’ (Natalia Tena). Hurrah! Although I greatly admire these three magick-chicks (and could happily watch a solo spin-off centred around any one of them!), the downside to their inclusion is that previously established members of the supporting cast got very short shrift here. ‘Padma & Parvati Patil’ (Afshan Azad and Shefali Chowdhury) went back to being little more than featured extras, and even Harry’s short-lived romance with ‘Cho Chang’ (Katie Leung) seemed like a half-hearted obligation, rather than a fully fleshed-out relationship. I was particularly disappointed that there wasn’t any sort of reconciliation between them, despite Snape kindly explaining that she only betrayed Harry’s merry band of rebels after being dosed with a Veritaserum potion (by a known child-torturer, no less… so I’m not really sure why the boy who supposedly had feelings for her hadn’t assumed something like that to begin with!). Not that I really care about seeing them together as a couple, of course… it just might have given Leung something more to do on-screen than cry and kiss!
By the same token, despite her prominence on the front cover, Emma Watson gets sod all to do as Hermione… beyond a rather sweet scene where she plays with a bicycle bell to amuse a “learning impaired” giant (who Hagrid had inexplicably tied to a tree in the dark, dangerous forest, and left to fend for himself, scavenging whatever food he could, rather than actually, y’know, caring for him… this film series is a catalogue of neglect and abuse by “goodies” and “baddies” alike!), and her fantastically patronising surprise at Ron coming up with a half-way clever idea. Bless. Apparently there was a sub-plot in the book involving Hermione and sneaky reporter ‘Rita Skeeter’… but sadly that was cut before ever reaching the screen.
We’re past the halfway mark now, but I still can’t say I’m particularly invested in Harry’s feud with Voldemort… there’s something about the way everyone is related, that makes it seem like such a piddly, inconsequential conflict… but I’m still enjoying the jokes, and the Fantasy FX, and the performances, so I’ll be happy to see it through to the end. Not that I have much choice, now that I’ve bought all the DVDs…
Note: Not many extras on the second disc… although fans of Emma Thompson will probably get a kick out of the deleted/extended ‘Sybill Trelawney’ scenes… and there’s also a fun behind-the-scenes featurette, presented by Tena (in her Tonks costume and wig!). It’s clearly aimed at younger viewers, but you do get to see her singing a bluesy Xmas song she wrote while busking back in the day, and practising her wand choreography, so that’s kinda cool.