334 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

At a little over two hours long, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is tightly plotted, requiring at least an informal acquaintance with the first four movies. But it’s also very well imagined, and what dirctor David Yates did choose to show on the screen was more than sufficient to tell the story of Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts.

At the end of the fourth movie, Harry emerged from the Triwizard tournament with news that Voldemort had returned, and that Cedric Diggory had been killed by him moments earlier. Of course, this news was met with quite a bit of skepticism by the rest of the magic world, most prominently the Ministry of Magic and the Daily Prophet, the two places to which ordinary wizards look for solid, substantiated information. Even some at Hogwarts are dubious about Harry’s claims, although not the school’s headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.

Because the Minister of Magic believes Dumbledore is out for his job and because he’s jealous of the relationship the great wizard has with Harry, Hogwarts soon is beleagured by a brand-new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge, whose lesson plan seems to be to prevent students from learning how to defend themselves against the Dark Arts, an act of repression that stirs Harry to begin to teach his fellow students on his own, away from the watchful eye of Umbridge, whose unctuous demeanor and oleaginous personality get her appointed as Grand Inquisitor of Hogwarts, allowing her to enact decrees of such oppressive, hate-filled magnitude that the students are more determined than ever to fight back.

Meanwhile, poor Harry is having terrible visions and nightmares, as he shares some sort of psychic connection with the Dark Lord. Seems Voldemort desires something, something tangible in the Ministry of Magic – but what? Harry’s burning forehead scar tells him little, but what visions he does get aren’t merely prophetic – they’re of things happening right at that moment.

The denouement comes with a terrible, terrifying battle royale at the Ministry itself. Sadly, one of the Good Guys doesn’t survive.

I enjoyed a lot of things about this fifth movie: the performances of newcomers Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Imelda Staunton (Umbridge), Helena Bonham Carter (a delightfully unhinged Bellatrix Lestrange) as well as the veterans of the series – Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Julie Walters, David Thewlis, Gary Oldman, and Michael Gambon; the jaw-dropping special effects, especially those of the ghostly thestrals, which only Luna and Harry can see, among their friends; and the wonderful Room of Requirement and Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place (Sirius’ parents’ home).

Quite a bit of the book’s plot is missing from the movie, of course, including all of the Quidditch scenes and the many scenes in which the students practice for and take their O.W.L. exams; there’s also an important sequence in which Harry, Ron, and Hermione visit St. Mungo’s to see Mr. Weasley and see Neville visiting his comatose mother and father – up until that point, only Harry knew about the Longbottoms’ fate.

About an hour after watching this movie in the theater (a week after it was released), I read the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series, making this a true Harry Potter weekend. Really, I’m about Pottered out entirely right now. Reading the book and then writing this review means I may have forgotten a few things from the movie that I wanted to mention; did I hear about such and such via the seventh book or via the fifth movie? Hmm.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is about what it should be – it’s compelling, wildly entertaining, and it keeps in the spirit of the books, if not the preceding movies; the tone continues to darken as we rocket to the the finale of Harry’s life at Hogwarts and as the bonds of friendship and loyalty tighten around our collective inquisitive minds.

***1/2

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One Response to “334 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”

  1. semsem Says:

    as for the book it is wondrful really exciting buy ican’t get the film i really want to see it.

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