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Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) returns for his fifth year at Hogwarts to discover his integrity in question. Worse, the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy), has appointed a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, the unforgiving, dictatorial Professor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), whose 'Ministry-approved' course of defensive magic is all theory, no practicals. Harry fears this will leave them unprepared to defend themselves against Lord Voldermort's (Ralph Fiennes) Dark forces gathering, so at the prompting of his friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), Harry takes matters into his own hands, leading a small, secret group of students calling themselves Dumbledore's Army. Harry teaches them defence techniques against the Dark Arts, preparing the young wizards for the extraordinary battle that lies ahead.

Review by Louise Keller:
It's long and the plot's confusing, but Harry Potter fans won't mind one little bit. In this fifth chapter of the phenomenally successful franchise spawned from J.R. Rowling's novels, evil hovers provocatively in the lead up to the spectacular confrontation between Daniel Radcliffe's Harry and Ralph Fiennes' Lord Voldermort, but the clarity and effectiveness of the storyline suffers by too many subplots. This is my least favourite of the series, despite the fact that the exquisite reality and detailed production design is as intricate and marvellous as ever. The delights of the fantasy world of the young wizard are intact, yet the freshness is diminished with a dark and occasionally dull colour palette, and the novelty value is considerably depleted.

Screenwriter Steve Kloves who adapted the previous four films, seemed to have great empathy with Rowling's work, but his successor Michael Goldenberg has found it tough to condense the novel succinctly and capture its essence. The creativity of Alfonso Cuarón and Mike Newell in the Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire respectively is sorely missed under the helm of television director David Yates whose direction is adequate, but less than inspiring.

Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson) and all our favourite characters are back, although they have little to do of any significance. It is Imelda Staunton’s new dark arts defense teacher Dolores Umbridge, who takes centre stage, and delivers a larger-than-life character wearing a pink bouclé suit and an overbearing manner. Her performance is faultless, yet I have reservations about the way in which she is directed, when characters like Dumbledore, Snape, Hagrid and even Voldermort share a credible reality, she seem to be in a different film. There are some lovely touches, like the cats that come to life on the plates hanging on Dolores’ wall, and there is a spectacular broomstick ride past London’s illuminated Houses of Parliament in the dark of night. All broomsticks point towards the climactic scene when evil and good find themselves in a spectacular head-to-head confrontation, surrounded by eerily glowing, frosted, fist-sized globes and an explosion of water and shattered glass. In 3D at Imax, this sequence is especially effective. The ardent fans will be swept away by the Harry Potterness of it all, but the rest of us become restless.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A brooding mood takes over the franchise as teenager Harry is invaded by a deep seated anger he cannot control or understand. The film's tone is unlikely to matter to adoring fans, but its reliance on special effects robs the Harry Potter experience of its palpably human side a bit too often. The ageing youngsters are no longer so cute; in the place of cute there is teenage angst and a perfunctory romantic note that seems laboured, as does much else, accentuating the unnecessarily long run time.

Imelda Staunton's Dolores Umbridge is the film's big new character, superbly crafted both in acting and production terms - albeit at odds with the more restrained approach of the others. Her woolly pink suit, cat-themed accessories contrasts as well as fits nicely with her Fascist ambitions. Her smile is deadly and her rise to power unstoppable. Her presence is required to enable Harry and team to rebel - but not against Hogwarts or Dumbledore.

The slightly complicated plot adds shadows to an already shadowy story, but there are many moments of inspired filmmaking, often driven by a well placed camera or a well edited sequence of shots and scenes. Daniel Ratcliffe - whose skin seems to have acquired an alabaster quality - generates good energy, but his two friends seem to have let the air out of their balloon.

David Yates gets good mileage out of the sombre, ‘doomy’ mood, urging his production design to ever gloomier depths. I like it, but it may not be conducive to a whooping good time, and Harry Potter’s confrontations with the dark side could use a bit of light and shade. Saddest of all, as evidenced by the climactic clash between HP & Team and the baddies, the magic has given way to superhero powers with clashes that would destroy half a galaxy– making the film like a superhero franchise, of which there are already too many. Still, all the technicals are first class.

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(UK/US, 2007)

CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Mark Williams, Robert Hardy

PRODUCER: David Barron, David Heyman

DIRECTOR: David Yates

SCRIPT: Michael Goldenberg (novel J. K. Rowling)


EDITOR: Mark Day

MUSIC: Nicholas Hooper


RUNNING TIME: 138 minutes



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