(Movie Review by T. Ward Porrill) If all the Harry Potter movies that have been released thus far could be placed into their own sub-categories, then “The Sorcerer’s Stone” would be, of course, the cute original; “The Chamber of Secrets” is generally regarded as the fun, but somewhat disappointing, follow-up; “The Prisoner of Azkaban” the cool, “arty”, one; and “Goblet of Fire” is considered by many to be the best, albeit the grimmest, of the series so far. It stands to reason then that “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” will henceforth be known as the kick-ass Harry Potter movie.
Finally, we get to see the students of Hogwarts put their sorcery skills to some use other than in a Quidditch match or a TriWizard Tournament. We also finally get to see some of Harry’s instructors and mentors, including Sirius Black, Mad-Eye Mooney, and of course, Professor Dumbledore, use their supernatural talents in actual battle. And for the female Potter fans, we finally get to see Harry engage in some wizard lip action.
In this fifth installment of the wildly popular Potter franchise, we find Harry in quite the foul state. He’s still mired in guilt due to the death of one of his classmates, the evil Lord Voldemort is intent on killing him once and for all, and now he might even be on the verge of expulsion from Hogwarts School of Wizardry. Add to that all the usual growing pains of a normal adolescence and you have one moody teenaged wizard. At least he’s not into Goth.Complicating Harry’s life further, as well as that of the rest of Hogwarts’ students, is the latest addition to Hogwarts’ faculty, the deceptively sweet Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton from “Vera Drake,” a Potter fan favorite, no doubt.)
Adorned in Avon Lady pink from head to toe, Umbridge sets about turning Hogwarts into a veritable police state, with each day bringing a new rule to be posted in the halls of Hogwarts. Also, her preferred form of discipline is to make her students repeatedly write out their offenses over and over — in their own blood! Umbridge’s hidden agenda is made clear however; as a member of the corrupt Ministry of Magic, she has been dispatched to Hogwarts in an effort to quell the rumors of Voldemort’s return, the rumblings of which have only served to further alienate Harry from his schoolmates.
Thankfully, however, Harry decides to stop moping and fight fire with fire by forming his very own underground resistance movement, Dumbledore’s Army, along with his dear friends Hermione and Ron, as well as sad-sack Neville Longbottom, weirdo new girl Luna Lovegood, and Harry’s crush, Cho Chang. The moment in the film when the “D.A.” is called into action is when the sparks literally begin to fly.
While this latest installment certain delivers plenty of the usual blend of foreboding plotting and dazzling visuals, “The Order of the Phoenix” seems destined to disappoint the hardcore fans of J.K. Rowling’s fantastic book series. Clocking in at just over two hours, the movie could no way include everything from the books sprawling 896 pages. (As I overheard one disgruntled moviegoer put it, “‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ gets three hours but this movie only gets two???”)
Still, certain scenes seemed sort of hurried through, as in the scenes with Snape (the always great Alan Rickman) performing Occlumency with Harry. What’s missing the most however is any real sort of emotion, especially considering one of the book’s major characters dies — or at least appears to die — in this installment. Fans of the book are known to have wept at the loss of this character, but the moment just doesn’t resonate as deeply as it seems it should in the film.
David Yates brings some much-welcomed action into the proceedings and expands the visual landscape of the film to epic proportions not unlike that of the “Lord of the Rings” series. And like “The Two Towers,” “The Order of the Phoenix” is not so much a movie onto itself as it is a bridge to the next movie waiting in the wings.
The book series may very well be ending in a matter of days, but with two more films in the offing, Harry Potter fans have plenty more movie magic to look forward to.
David Yates (director) / Michael Goldenberg (screenplay), J.K. Rowling (novel)
CAST: Daniel Radcliffe … Harry Potter
Harry Melling … Dudley Dursley
Emma Watson … Hermione Granger
Jason Boyd … Piers
Rupert Grint … Ron Weasley
Richard Macklin … Malcolm