Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Release Date: July 11th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: David Yates Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Imelda Staunton, Katie Leung, Natalia Tena, Brendan Gleeson, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, David Thewlis, Helena Bonham Carter
nderage sorcerer Harry James Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) can’t even be tormented by periodic bully Dudley (Harry Melling) without becoming a susceptible target of demoniacal creatures that frequent the magical world he inhabits during the regular school years. When he’s forced to cast a charm in front of Dudley – a practice frowned upon by the governors in charge of concealing such capabilities from normal humans – the Ministry of Magic hears of it and expels him. But Headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) sends Alastor Moody (Brendan Gleeson) to whisk Harry away to the headquarters of a secret society, the Order of the Phoenix, where he can prepare for a hazardous reappearance at Hogwarts and a defense against a smear campaign by The Daily Prophet.
The Ministry’s judge, Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy), refuses to believe that evil sage Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned from the dead to raise an army to annihilate everyone who opposes him. Instead of continuing to teach useful spells, the new, corrupt Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) is content with instructing theoretical knowledge of defensive magic, again insisting that there is no danger lurking outside the school grounds. Classmates and inseparable friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) join Harry in protest of the latest educational changes. But when Umbridge is ordained the High Inquisitor and granted powers to drastically alter the curriculum and student conduct, Hermione organizes an assemblage of likeminded rebels to learn real powers in a secret room, where Harry reluctantly but skillfully begins tutoring young witches and wizards.
This fifth chapter in the Harry Potter series has all but dispensed with the adventurous fun of the earlier episodes, instead aiming for darker and more grisly content. As the characters mature, the tone becomes comparatively more serious, with drama substituted for action. Loneliness, overwhelming anger, mentor Dumbledore remaining practically unreachable, unnervingly special tutelage by the emotionless Snape (Alan Rickman, far and away portraying the most engrossing character), confusing feelings toward Cho (Katie Leung), and a frightening psychic link to Voldemort himself, all add to Harry’s (and the viewers’) increasing discomfort.
Although Potter gains a few new allies, including the hopelessly odd Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), assorted members of Dumbledore’s Army, centaurs, the simpleminded giant Grawp, and Nymphadora Tonks (Natalia Tena) and others of the Order of the Phoenix, the villains have become far more horrendous and prevailing. Umbridge is particularly cruel and contemptible, contrastingly wearing fluffy pink garments and a permanent, smug grin as she exacts tortures and directs interrogations. A bevy of adult Death Eaters also joins the fray (namely Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange), again causing the playing field to be dishearteningly uneven. The heroes are allowed troublingly infrequent wins amidst routine despair, keeping the mood dour instead of rousing.
Also in this bridging episode, an annoying sense of keeping the audience in the dark specifically for forthcoming plot elements – rather than merely foreshadowing – governs cryptic dialogue and hushed conversations. Eventually, Harry must literally yell out for the attention so upsettingly withheld. There’s also the familiar, spontaneous response by the storyline to adapt to random wants for advancing subplots or creating additional ones – the most obvious of which is the Room of Requirement, designed to appear, arrange, and alter itself based on someone needing its use. How convenient. Clearly serving as an overly dependent middle section of the franchise, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is one of the more forgettable installments, save for Staunton’s infuriating role and the special effects-infused finale, which reveals even more suffering and tragedy.
– Mike Massie