Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
PLOT: After Harry Potter and his battle with Lord Voldemort, the local paper runs a campaign accusing our hero of being a liar and that the dark wizard has not returned. With only his friends and Dumbledore having faith in the story Harry has told, Harry begins to feel the pressure of disbelievers and folks that think he should be punished. And when Voldemort starts to get closer, Harry falls further away from those that care about him, preparing to defend himself on his own. That is, until Hermione and Weasley convince him to gather a small group of Hogwarts’s student to prepare for the battle. All the while avoiding the watchful eye of new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge.
I admit it, I have never read any of the “Harry Potter” books, nor have I any desire to. I have seen the movies and I really enjoyed what Alfonso Cuaron did with the third installment, but for the most part, I am really not a fan of the series. With that said, I am about to give my thoughts on HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. So keep in mind, I am not reviewing the books and how it changed, nor am I reviewing the entire franchise, what I am reviewing is the film that I saw. And for all those that say you need to read the books to really enjoy the movie, I disagree. If a have to read a book to have the movie make sense then the movie is not very well made. A film should stand on it’s own and if I dislike something or really find something clever and you feel that it had to be that way because that’s how it was in the book… I don’t care. I care about the movie that I am watching and nothing else. So the question is, did the Order of the Phoenix stand on it’s own. Well, even though I have mixed feelings about the series, I have to say that it did stand on it’s own quite well for this viewer.
Director David Yates starts things off interestingly enough, with the first few moments looking like something out of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. And then the title card comes up. We find that Harry is still dealing with his ordeal from the last film and his much hated Uncle and family still have custody. But this time, things seem to be getting worse for Harry. I will not go into too many details about his adventures because most of you that are fans have probably read the book, but let’s just say, he is almost expelled from school because of his recent adventure and now has to fight a recently earned bad reputation. When he arrives, many think he is a liar and that his last battle with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Finnes) never happened. And to make things even worse, there is a new teacher for the Defense Against the Dark Arts class - a smile while she shoves the knife in your back - Professor Dolores Umbridge, Imelda Staunton in a wickedly sharp performance. Professor Umbridge thinks that Harry is a liar, along with the Ministry of Magic. But those who know Harry realize that he is telling the truth and Voldemort has his sights set on the young wizard.
What works here is a very vivid portrait of Harry, and the darkness he finds himself being faced with. Along with some creepy nightmares and some other fantastic imagery, the special effects paint a very magical picture. From a broom ride across London, to a huge building filled with Crystal Balls. There is a whole lot of magic here and Yates, who has mostly done British television seems to understand the world of Harry Potter. He also is lucky enough to have his pick at a very talented cast. The three main stars, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are very charming and have grown very well as Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger roles that made them famous. And the adult cast add to the strength of the film, especially Gary Oldman as Harry’s God-Father Sirius Black. He is one of the best actors around and it was nice to see his character expanded. The moments he had with Mr. Radcliffe were terrific and I really believed in their relationship. All the other actors were well-placed, aside from a few minor students at Hogwart’s who have not learned the phrase “less is more” at this point in their career. But among the young cast, I found that Evanna Lynch as the slightly spacey Luna Lovegood gave a unique and surprisingly sweet performance. I actually found myself rooting for the oddball character.
As for what didn’t work, my main problem had to be the lack of screen time for both Rupert and Emma. I get that they were showing how alone Harry was supposed to be feeling, but I really felt not using those characters more, lessened the impact for me. And yes, I have heard this is part of the book also, but it lost some of the magic for me. I would have preferred their roles to be expanded. while still letting Harry feel that he had no one to count on. Maybe a little more drama and less acceptance might have packed a bigger emotional wallop for this. I also felt that, as with most of the summer films this year, the extra characters took away from the movie, while the established folk seemed to fade into the background… was Maggie Smith even in this flick? It is difficult to grow and not add other folks to keep things interesting, yet I would rather have the newer characters have to earn some screen time. Yet when you have an wonderful actress like Helena Bonham Carter in such a rich role, it was such a short time even though it is a character with great potential. I guess we‘ll see what happens next time around (and yes, I’m sure it‘s in the books). And as for the plot, it was fine, but I do find that every time I see one of these films, I am left with a, “yeah, this guy is bad, but just you wait…”. I’m sure it is all leading up to a really massive battle and I’m sure the legions of fans are riding the wizardly wave as long as it takes. But as a casual viewer, I’m not waiting in anticipation… just waiting, and waiting, and waiting. So am I looking forward to the next one? Ehhh, I wouldn’t say looking forward, but I’m already invested. So, yes, I guess I‘m up for the next in the series.
My rating 6.5/10 -- JimmyO