As a big Harry Potter fan, there was little question of whether or not I would enjoy the fifth movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. However, I have to say that I found it even better than the previous film, Goblet of Fire. This time around, Harry returns to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as a bit of a pariah. The papers have been making him and Prof. Dumbledore out to be liars for telling people that the dark wizard Voldemort is back from the dead. The misguided government is also in full denial about Lord Voldemort, and continues expanding its powers and encroaching on individual liberties in order to keep control. It is all perfectly personified by Imelda Staunton as the government-sponsored teacher/enforcer with a sickly-sweet demeanor, Delores Umbridge. Along with the welcome addition of Staunton to the ever-expanding cast, newcomer Evanna Lynch brings lovable life to the loopy character of Luna Lovegood, and briefly on screen, the always gaunt and crazy-looking Helena Bonham Carter is cacklingly creepy as villainess Bellatrix LeStrange.
As Umbridge is bringing the oppressive hammer down on the students of Hogwart’s, Harry and his classmates start a secret club to learn magic to defend themselves from dark forces. Meanwhile, Harry also suffers from troubling dreams and visions likely sent his way by evil Lord Voldemort. Eventually it all leads to a climactic confrontation of good and evil where the kids have to prove themselves ready for the challenge. What really worked in this movie is that despite the numerous story threads from the book that needed to come together, it didn’t feel like it was all rushing to the final showdown. Instead, most of the movie was filled with scenes of dramatic conversation. It’s a good thing that the actors themselves have grown up a bit because they have to put more acting into these scenes. Harry went from feeling quite alone at the beginning to experiencing the danger-defying loyalty of his friends. Also, there are some pretty good scenes between Harry and new godfather Sirius Black — Gary Oldman gets to stretch his excellent acting muscles a bit. New Potter director David Yates did a great job of using montages to move the plot along, and newspaper headlines shown on-screen helped fill in the social context around the events of the school. All that being said, there were still some pretty spectacular effects and action scenes, especially the climax at the Ministry of Magic. I especially enjoyed how the wizards apparated (teleport) as fluid gusts of black or white smoke.
If you’re a fan of the book, there’s enough of the important scenes: Lots of scenes with the D.A., Harry and Cho’s first kiss, Grawp meeting Hermione, George and Fred’s spectacular farewell, Umbridge’s comeuppance, Snape’s memory, and even Kreacher makes it into a few scenes. Unfortunately, you won’t see all the different rooms of the Department of Mysteries (that would have been really cool).
To get myself psyched up for this movie, I re-watched all the previous HP films and though I loved them all when I saw them, surprisingly I found that Prisoner of Azkaban was the best, partly because of how the director was really able to bring out the character growth and the more intimate dramatic scenes. It’ll be a while before I can get proper perspective on any new Harry Potter film, but I think I will eventually feel that that is one of the strongest qualities of Order of the Phoenix as well (4.5 out of 5)
What if I made Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?
Not that it didn’t look cool enough, but I would have made the Ministry of Magic look really awesome. Even the rows and rows of prophecy orbs appeared a bit dingy and blah. The big sad event (no spoilers here, but if you’ve read the book you know what it is) was not done too well, in my opinion. I would have spent more time with it in order to give it the emotional weight it needed. I expected to gasp and shed some tears after that scene (neither of which happened). Also, remember how in the book there was some ambiguity about the outcome that kind of kept Harry going on thinking about it afterwards? There doesn’t seem to be much question about what happened in the movie version. I would have kept the question mark there. Still, it’s a very good movie and I can’t find too many things that I would change about it. (Oh, except what’s with Sirius and the moustache? He looks kind of like a 70s rock star, porn star or circus ringmaster… And while we’re at it, give Dumbledore back some proper robes and dispose of that light-blue dress that he’s been wearing these last few films!)