138 minutes approx
Harry Potter -
Albus Dumbledore -
Alastor Moody -
Written by -
Directed by -
The fifth film in the series finds the wizarding world in a case of denial about the return of the Dark Lord Voldemort who wreaked so much havoc the last time, before he was vanquished by the infant Harry Potter. Potter is neither believed about the evil wizard's return nor about being attacked by two Dementors, the spirit guardians of wizard prison Azkaban. In the new school term, the arriving Dark Arts teacher Dolores Umbridge sets about undermining the school's headmaster, Dumbledore, and eventually takes it over, ensuring that none of the students learn anything remotely useful. As a result, they turn to Harry to teach them real spells to be used in their defence.
Harry's link with Voldemort's mind grows stronger and shows him that his enemy is after something in the ministry of magic, something that turns out to be a prophecy about the future of both Harry and Voldemort. Unfortunately, it's all a trick to make Harry lead Voldemort's stooges right to the prophecy. It's time for the first showdown between the forces of good and evil.
THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is the least impressive of JK Rowling's Harry Potter books. So much of the action takes place effectively off-stage and Harry comes to learn of it later. It's also a doorstop of a book. Normally this would make adapting it difficult, but in this case it means that whole swathes can be cut out of it without being missed. That also means, of course, that a lot of the subtlety of the story is sacrificed for getting a film-length screenplay that tells the main story. This is likely to leave the purists feeling cheated, but the adaptation is actually as accomplished as any of the previous films' scripts.
The fact is that by this point any hope of anyone joining the series without having seen all the other films or read the books and getting the most out of the film is roughly that of an ice lolly on the surface of a supernova. No explanation is given as to who Voldemort is, what his past is or what his link to Harry Potter is. The story just sets off at the point where the last one left off. None of the characters is introduced with the exception of Dolores Umbridge, but then she is also being introduced to the characters in the story at the same time.
So, the purists won't be happy and neither will anyone who is coming to the story for the first time. What about the bulk of the audience, that is those who have read the books/seen the previous films? Well, they ought to have an excellent time. The darkening tone over the last couple of films is continued into this one, shot in cold colours and with lots of shadows and darkness around the edges of the action. Very few of the characters get anything to smile about and there is a lot of frowning and suffering going on. HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is not a happy film.
It's also dealing with some serious issues. Whilst Harry might be getting his first kiss and acting a stroppy teenager a bit, there are the dark threats, attacks on Mr Weasley and Harry himself, and a lot of characters revealing how their lives were scarred by lost loved ones. The threat of death is never far away.
Most of this is well put together by director David Yates. Some of the important scenes get short shrift, such as the death scene of a character close to Harry, the snake attack on Mr Weasley, the truth about the hate between Harry's Father and master of potions Severus Snape and Neville Longbottom's revelation about the fate that befell his parents. On the other hand, the big two-part finale with the students taking on the Death Eaters in the incredibly impressive hall of prophecies and the face off between Voldemort and Dumbledore in the main hall of the ministry of magic is brilliantly staged and very exciting. Two of the most powerful wizards in the full flower of the magical prowess trading blows of fire and water is something of a sight to see.
On the performance front, the kids are good enough to get by, although it is unlikely that these roles are going to be netting them any awards and nobody else really gets a look in, with again the exception of Imelda Staunton as the quietly awful Dolores Umbridge, a woman whose pink and fluffy facade masks a harsh and brutal sadist. Even Michael Gambon's Dumbledore and Robbie Coltrane's Hagrid spend most of the time absent.
All in all, HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is a competent and enjoyable ride for Potter aficionadoes culminating in a wonderful climax, but anyone coming to the party late had better look for another celebration. Top
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