Nora and I endured super-heightened Warner Bros. security Thursday night--just short of being frisked--to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New writer Michael Goldenberg, new director David Yates: it definitely felt like a new hand was at the tiller. Old friends are back: Ron and Hermione, along with protective profs Dumbledore, Snape and McGonagall, not to mention Sirius Black and Rubeus Hagrid. Lord Voldemort is truly creepy, partly because he is invading Harry's dreams, which makes things more unpredictable. Imelda Staunton is terrific as Harry's new Ministry of Witches nemesis. And we will be seeing more of Black's horrible cousin, played by Helena Bonham Carter. There's a little CG creature and a very large CG giant (who are not Gollum-class), as well as some centaurs and strange flying beasts that only people who have seen death can see.
This movie is more Narnia-like, with its motley collection of folks amassing to fight the coming war against the forces of darkness. And it even brooks comparison to A Wrinkle in Time: it all comes down to fighting evil with good, doesn't it?
In short, Nora, who reads all J.K. Rowling books (the British editions only) as they come out, gives the movie an A+, while I enjoyed myself thoroughly while wishing, truthfully, that they would just get the whole thing over with. (I read the first two books, then started watching the movies.) Does Harry kill Voldemort, or the other way round? Readers of the 7th and last book, Deathly Hallows, will find out shortly, while the rest of us will sit through the movie version of the sixth book, The Half-Blood Prince, and then wait for the ultimate chapter. I'm getting impatient. And so are some of the folks who responded to this Reuters poll.
I suspect that this Harry Potter installment may experience a slight boxoffice dip. But the one I'd be worried about, if I were Warners, is the next one. Yates will be back; he did just fine with Order of the Phoenix. I have no problem with the darker, scarier Potter. That's where it has to go. But in movie terms, it does feel like we're stretching this out over a very long haul. (The reviews have stretched out too; as soon as London broke with an early review, so did everyone else.)
Nora is not ga-ga over Daniel Radcliffe. She prefers Rupert Grint, and can't wait for him to get romantically involved with Emma Watson. Radcliffe does kiss a girl in this one, and MTV.com asked him about it.
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]