Written by Michael Goldenberg
Directed by David Yates
Running Time: 2:18
for sequences of fantasy violence
and frightening images.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was a dark and grimy picture that was visually entertaining and had strong acting performances, but lost some of the magic from previous entries.
It is year 5 at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Last we saw of Harry Potter, he had witnessed the return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and watched his friend Cedric Diggory be murdered. Harry tries to tell the world that Lord Voldemort has returned, but the Ministry of Magic turns a deaf ear, not wanting to believe the possibility that the most evil wizard to ever walk the planet could be back. Instead the Ministry does everything in its power to make people believe Harry is insane. They also install a new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor by the name of Dolores Umbridge. She soon becomes mad with power and threatens to take over the whole school. Harry, joined by best friends Ron and Hermione, band together and start a group known as the DA to learn defensive magic in order to protect themselves. At the same time, Headmaster Dumbledore has restarted the Order of the Phoenix, a group originally created to stop Voldemort the last time he was in power. Together, the Order and the DA will fight Voldemort and his Death Eaters in a battle that will end with both sides suffering heavy losses... The Rebellion Begins.
The first thing you notice about Order of the Phoenix is how gritty it looks. The opening shot reminded me a lot of independent films where the picture was overexposed and blown out. There's a radio playing in the background and when Harry goes face to face with his cousin Dudley, there's a real showdown feel to it. That feeling or grittiness stays with the movie the entire way through. Sorcerer's Stone was a fun loving, true-to-the-book film which grows on me the more I watch it. At the time I didn't feel like it was magical enough, but now I appreciate it mainly because it has everything in it. It stays close to the book and has a very warm quality about it. Chamber of Secrets followed the same path and was only hampered by a story line that wasn't as engaging as the other books. Prisoner of Azkaban took the films to a whole new level. There, for the first time, I felt like I was watching a movie about wizards. The entire film felt magical and while it was darker than the first two, it was still lighthearted. Goblet of Fire took the story even darker, which is to be expected since the older Harry gets, the darker the books become. That movie strayed farther from the books than before but still kept its essence. Order of the Phoenix is the shorted film of the five, even though the book was the longest of the series. A lot of the book is repetitive, so I can understand cutting out things here and there, but as always, there were little things that I missed, things that while not important to the story as a whole, could have helped explain a lot of things to the uninformed.
A lot of things were condensed, and a lot of things were time shifted. One of the teachers gets sacked early on in the movie, something that happens in the last third of the book. Harry gets placed before a tribunal to explain his use of magic in front of a Muggle, but his going was thrown into the mix by a single line by Hermione that many people may have missed. I suppose I could go on and on about the things that were taken out, but I do understand that in order to keep the movie manageable, certain things needed to be removed. However since this was the shortest movie so far, I think they could have easily added another 20-30 minutes of footage (information) and still kept fans happy. They did touch on a lot of the important points and did a good job of giving you certain information that was important, without doing it exactly as the book did. Die hard fans like myself will always wish there was more and will always wish that the movies could stay as close to the book as possible, but everything that needed to be said, was said.
I found the acting to be the best so far, which is to be expected as everyone is used to their roles. This movie is mainly about Harry, as Ron and Hermione are shuttered to the background for the most part. Severus, Sirius, Dumbledore, Hagrid and the rest all have their moments, but Harry and Umbridge get the showier roles. The one thing I've always said about the Harry Potter films is that they're always well cast. Alan Rickman as Snape is arguably the most spot-on casting job ever. And Imelda Staunton did a tremendous job as Dolores Umbridge. She had the "hem-hems" down perfectly and did a great job trying to remain cutesy while going crazy with power.
With every film since the second one, there has been a change of director, which has kept the movies fresh. But this movie had another change which shouldn't be discounted. Steve Kloves wrote the screenplay for the first four films, but Michael Goldenberg came on board to write this one. I believe that added to the darker tone of the film. There were some lighthearted moments, but for the most part it was kept dark and mysterious. While the use of magic was increased, the magical feel of the movie was decreased. The film no longer felt like a fun popcorn film, it felt real, like by now the audience no longer needs to be wowed by the fact there are wizards in the world, but that it should be accepted as fact. That being said, the last 20-30 minutes of the film, once Harry and friends get to the Ministry, are fantastic. It was like watching a massive battle sequence where normally you'd find people with guns, but this time they're all using wands.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It was much darker than any of the previous films, and took on a very gritty and real film that the others didn't. Visually it was great, but at the same time some of the magical qualities the first four films had, disappeared.
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