Harry Potter in Review: The Order of the Phoenix
Cast: See previous reviews, then add Imelda Staunton.
Plot: Harry and friends return to Hogwarts yet again. Although Voldemort has returned to life he seems to be keeping things low key, and the Ministry for Magic seems keen to help him along.
Review: The Order of the Phoenix is little more than a bridging movie. The longest book in the series it also features more material that can be chopped out without affecting the story or the over-arching narrative of the series. With Lord Voldemort back from the dead and three more books (four movies) to fill out with story the Dark Lord of Black Magic seems more interested in catching up with his Netflix then blasting the boy wizard into dozens of giblets. As a result we’re left with wizard world politics and character development. While the political cover-up becoming the self contained story for this chapter and character development always taking a back-seat in the film adaptations there’s very little left to make this essential viewing. You could even skip over this film without losing much of the story.
Not that it is a bad movie, not by any stretch. It’s still plenty entertaining to see the world of Hogwarts and its denizens going about their business and the chirpy Professor Umbridge makes for one of the creepier and nastier adversaries that Harry has had to face as she brings Hogwarts to its knees using the power of bureaucracy. Although that doesn’t sound like much she does have one of the most sickening forms of detention ever devised.
Yates, who directed the rest of the series, does at a welcome splash of art design to proceedings. Whilst it isn’t on the same level of Cuaron’s efforts in Prisoner of Azkaban it adds more life to the place than most of the early films. The director isn’t afraid to break away from the source material either, adding some welcome wit and charm to the place. The montage of the caretaker Filch trying to catch out the Room of Requirement is an example of the fun that Yates has with the material, and these scenes prove to be one of the highlights of the film.
Whilst the young actors are improving in their skills and are given enough material to show it off, the film lacks any big stick-in-the-mind moments. Battles at the Ministry of Magic feel like action by numbers. The wizards zapping brightly coloured sparks at each other never creates a sense of danger and the one major character death that could turn things about is so abrupt and clean it still never feels like anything but play-fighting.
A pleasant enough diversion from the real world, but not essential viewing.
Score: SIX outta TEN