Entries Comments

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Directed by David Yates
Written by Michael Goldenberg from the book by J.K. Rowling
Warner Bros.

At this point in the Harry Potter series, things go all Empire Strikes Back, as J.K. Rowling starts gambling with her characters and no one is safe. It’s where she starts playing with the idea, only hinted at as a last resort in previous novels, that one must break the boundaries of structures and rules if the right thing is to be done. School isn’t really important anymore; Quidditch but a faint memory.

In the darkest and most cinematic Harry Potter thus far, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) must contend with the fact that the dark lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is building his army while the ruling body for wizards, the Ministry of Magic, puts blinders on. In the beginning, Harry is nearly expelled from Hogwarts when he uses magic in front of his cousin Dudley (Harry Melling), nevermind that there were Dementors ready to suck the soul out his body. But Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) bails Harry out, and thus begins the oncoming fight between good and evil, made worse by the Ministry’s meddling.

And the Ministry, eager to put a bright face on all that is happening, appoint Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton, who’s great) to the cursed post of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Her job is to avoid actual instruction and experience, reducing everything to child’s play. Harry, along with friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), recruit fellow students to a secret room to teach real defensive magic, despite the number of rules that Umbridge begins to lay down as law. Eventually, she takes the headmaster job from Dumbledore, seen as the real culprit behind the kids’ extracurricular activities.

Meanwhile, some grown-ups are also trying to build up a force in spite of the Ministry’s proclamations. Led by Harry’s godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), with familiar faces Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) and Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) in tow. It’s Dumbledore’s secretly-led Order of the Phoenix, and we’re told that it didn’t hold up well the last time Voldemort was at the height of his powers. One of Black’s relatives, Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), was once in league with Voldemort, killed many people, and was sent to Azkaban, but now has escaped with the Dementors no longer doing their guard jobs and now following the dark lord.

And there’s one thing Voldemort wants that he didn’t get last time: a prophecy concerning he and Harry that is held in one of the Ministry’s vaults, so you know Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) is going to be lurking around. Dumbledore has Snape (Alan Rickman, terrific as always) try to teach Harry how to close off his mind from Voldemort’s, as the two wizards seem tragically connected, with Harry beginning to feel some evil thoughts churning inside him.

And hey, there’s even some budding romance with Harry and Cho Chang (Katie Leung). This movie has it all!

With all this going on, we’re still going to hear some of the most devoted fans ask where all the banal stuff from the book went. But, as always, for me, as long as the main story is told and is told in an entertaining manner, it works. And here, David Yates goes full-out and we have the scariest and most impactful Harry Potter adventure yet. Yates is slated to direct the super-dark Half-Blood Prince, and I think he’s the right man for the job. Even though much gets chopped from the book, and there may be some questions from the non-readers as to what is happening here and there, it’s a good adaptation.

I think the acting has gotten a lot better, too. Radcliffe and others are beginning to show range, and they’re going to need it with the next two stories. This is just good stuff, folks. I enjoyed every second of it.

Follows: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Next: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


Comment from KW
Time: July 11, 2007, 11:09 am

Sweet. I had read that a lot of Potter fans like the fifth book the least….because there’s so much re-tread as far as trying to convince folks that Voldemont is back. So I was nervous about the movie.

I think all the Potter films have each been a bit better than the previous…they just keep improving (in my opinion)…so I’m glad to hear that this one may be the best yet. Sweet!

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.