Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

20 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is the fifth film in the “Harry Potter” series. It is also my least favorite in the franchise. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I am giving it three stars. But with a new Harry Potter film, you expect more than this.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” begins as now-15-year-old Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is sitting by himself on a swing set in a playground. He feels—as we do—that opportunities for nicer, more innocent times are gone. It’s especially so when Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is back and looking to make himself known to Hogwarts’ world again. Nobody believes Harry saw him rise and even fought him at the end of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” except Dumbledore (Richard Gambon). A minor problem with this film is that it can’t possibly stand on its own. There are two many references to past events—this is not a good film to start with if you’re a newcomer to the series. But that’s not exactly a problem, since this is made for regular viewers of the “Harry Potter” series.

Harry is in trouble for saving his cousin Dudley from a vicious Dementor using a Patronus spell. You see, it’s against the law to use magic outside of Hogwarts School. Harry is called to the Ministry of Magic for a hearing to see if he should be allowed to go back to Hogwarts for his fifth year. Things don’t go so well at first because most of the jury still doesn’t believe him or Dumbledore about Voldemort’s return to life. But nevertheless, Harry wins appeal from most of the jury and is allowed to return to Hogwarts.

But Voldemort is back and Harry learns that the battle lines are drawn. There is a defense group known as the Order of the Phoenix while Voldemort raises his army of Death Eaters. Harry wants to fight, but the Order won’t allow him since he’s “just a boy.” At Hogwarts, things go really bad due to the arrival of Delores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), sent from the Ministry of Magic to put an end to this “conspiracy” and keep all students in line. She seems sweet, but she is a total nightmare that eventually costs Dumbledore his job. Then she sets her sights on Harry, who in the meantime, is gathering his own army with his friends. Harry teaches many of his friends to improve on spells to defend themselves against the dark arts, since Umbridge won’t allow them to be taught in class anymore.

Harry is still growing as a character. He even has his first kiss with the attractive Cho (Katie Leung). “How was it,” his friend asks. “Wet.” It’s not much, but it shows that these characters are more than young wizards—they’re teenagers.

The problems I had with “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” are mild, but they stop me from giving a rating higher than three stars. One is, Harry’s best friends Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) are more like bystanders this time around—they aren’t given anything special to do, save for a few short scenes of humor. And it’s annoying when Hermione is correcting Harry for something he knows is right. That’s where young Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) comes in. Another problem I had—I’m sorry, but I didn’t like Luna Lovegood. It’s a one-note-loony role that just plain annoyed me.

Also, there are many moments in the story that just felt rushed, which is odd considering the running-time length. Though, to the film’s credit, the brisk pacing is welcome.

But, in the new installments, we’ll get the unforced feel of unity with Harry, Ron, and Hermione that we should have gotten since four movies have already passed by. I don’t want them to be stooped to artificiality.

But I did like Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, as I always do. Alan Rickman has more creepy moments as Professor Snape—even creepier than Fiennes’ Voldemort. I love the performance from Imelda Staunton as Umbridge, bringing menace and sweetness to the role. And I love the final half in which Harry and his friends (including the nervous Neville Longbottom from earlier films) fight against Death Eaters (including feisty, deadly Bellatrix Lestrange, played by Helena Bonham Carter) and the brief mental battle between Harry and Voldemort which shows more emotion than you’d expect. I am recommending “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” but I have to say, I wanted more magic.

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