Shortly before starting his fifth year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter is attacked by two rogue Dementors. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of his problems. He also learns that the Ministry of Magic and the wizard press have been waging a smear campaign against him and Professor Dumbledore. They have been trying to reassure the public that Lord Voldemort has not returned by convincing them that Potter is crazy. Feeling isolated and alone, even Ron, Hermione, and the wizard freedom fighters called “The Order of the Phoenix” are little comfort to Harry.
Things get worse when the Ministry of Magic sends Dolores Umbridge to teach at Hogwarts. Not only does she continue to defame Harry, she slowly starts taking over the school and ruling with an iron fist. With a war coming and signs that Lord Voldemort is ready to attack, Potter and a small band of his fellow students take it upon themselves to learn how to fight back against evil. But will it be enough to foil Voldemort’s plans?
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images.
Most of your favorite elements are still here. Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint all still play their roles perfectly. It’s amazing to see them growing up on the screen (as emphasized by some flashbacks). The adults also remain strong supporting cast members. Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, and Ralph Fiennes all have brief moments to shine. A couple of the new cast members also stand out. Evanna Lynch is appropriately ditzy and odd as Luna Lovegood. Natalia Tena is also probably the coolest wizard as Nymphadora Tonks. She’s tough and funny and a great contrast to the rest of the Order of the Phoenix. But the real standout addition is Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge. I don’t think there’s been a more evil villain on the big screen since The Emperor. Her disgustingly pink and proper exterior hides a raging tyrant. She makes your worst teacher seem like a saint in comparison.
Out of the special effects, there are a couple of standouts. We get to meet a giant for the first time – Hagrid’s half brother. His screentime is short, but he certainly leaves an impression. The new Thestrals, scary looking horse skeletons with wings, are also quite cool. The sight of them flying over London is certainly one of the more memorable scenes from this film.
As for the story, the darker tone is certainly interesting. The theme of the story is about teenagers standing up and taking responsibility, but an equally important theme is that everyone has a dark side. Harry learns this is the case not only about himself, but about everyone else as well. This is especially apparent in a scene where Harry sees a younger version of his father bullying a younger version of Professor Snape. It was a poignant moment in the film.
As already mentioned, parts of the book are omitted from the film for running time. This is sure to displease some fans. Another unfortunate side effect is that some characters end up having dramatically reduced screentime. Hagrid, McGonagall, Trelawney, and a few other favorites from past films are barely in the movie.
But as well executed as this film is, I have to admit that it was a bit dull at times. With a 2 hour 20 minute running time, there’s actually very little action in the movie. There’s a little at the beginning and the end, but you have to wait a long time for the payoff. This is a very character and dialogue driven film. It also lacks a lot of the magical elements of the previous movies. As cool as the Giant and the Thestrals are, they aren’t as cool as some of the creatures revealed in the previous movies.
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is the weakest of the five Potter films, but even the weakest one makes a pretty solid movie. I think Potter fans old and young will feel like they got their money’s worth out of this film.
Additional Scenes – There are 11 minutes of new footage. A couple of them feature more of Emma Thompson as Sybil Trelawney clowning around. In one scene she has problems with her dinner. In another, she is bullied in class by Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge. Umbridge is featured in another deleted scene as she overlooks the Slytherin’s picking on a student. We also see her with her hair smoldering after the Weasleys launch their fireworks display. Finally, we see more of her in the big finale as she shows her true colors to Harry and Hermione.
Trailing Tonks – In this 19 minute video we follow actress Nat Tena as she spends the day touring the studio lot. We follow her to the cafeteria, the art department, the stages, and other locations. It’s a fun way to do a ‘behind the scenes’ tour.
Harry Potter: The Magic of Editing – While this may bore kids to tear, it is an interesting look at how editing can change the tone of a film. Director David Yates and Editor Mark Day host a little featurette that transitions into a game where you can put together your own scene. You selections dramatically change the tone of the footage.
A&E Documentary: The Hidden Secrets of Harry Potter – This is a 43 minute film on the “Harry Potter” saga. While it does feature some interviews with the cast and crew, much of it is just a selection of clips from the previous films contemplating what secrets Rowling’s story holds. It’s a little bit redundant considering most viewers will have read the final “Harry Potter” book and know everything the story has to offer.
The Bottom Line: