Jun 3, 2015

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)


I don't know why really, but I was pretty disappointed with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the first time I saw it. Something seemed off to teenager me and I can't really pinpoint the reasoning behind it. Maybe I was in a bit of a rebellious stage where I was rejecting the series that I had loved so much previously? Who knows, but I can tell you straight up before I even begin this review that I feel very different about Order of the Phoenix now.

David Yates was brought in to succeed Goblet of Fire helmer Mike Newell and at this point Yates was mostly known as a television director. Whether or not this was the plan from the beginning, Yates was kept on as director until the end of the Harry Potter series, overtaking Chris Columbus as the only other director to work on more than one HP movie. Order of the Phoenix also has the distinction of being the only movie of the series to not have a screenplay written by Steve Kloves. Michael Goldenberg had the honours and had a tough job ahead of him to try and adapt the longest book of them all.

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At a Glance


Genre: adventure, family, fantasy
Directed by: David Yates
Produced by: David Barron, David Heyman, Lorne Orleans, etc.
Written by: Michael Goldenberg
Music by: Nicholas Hooper
Running time: 138 minutes
Production company: Warner Bros., Heyday Films, Cool Music, etc.
Distributed by: Warner Bros., Warner Bros. Entertainment, Karo Premiere, etc.
Country: United Kingdom, United States
Language: English
Budget: $150,000,000
Box office: $939,885,929 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Mark Williams, Katie Leung, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Robert Hardy, Tom Felton, David Bradley, Devon Murray, Natalia Tena, George Harris, Kathryn Hunter, Adrian Rawlins, Geraldine Somerville

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Synopsis


Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is having an awful summer in Little Whinging. While in his thoughts at a playground, his cousin Dudley (Harry Melling) who goes by "Big D" now approaches Harry with his crew. After exchanging nasty remarks, clouds begin to gather almost instantaneously which has them ducking for cover in a nearby tunnel. The air goes cold before two Dementors suddenly attack. Harry is forced to cast a Patronus Charm which results in his expulsion from Hogwarts for using magic as an underage wizard in front of a muggle no less. A rescue mission led by Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) changes things.


Review


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as usual starts up in the clouds which have grown darker from film to film. A slightly tortured version of the Harry Potter main theme plays and it's pretty clear what David Yates' intentions are. OotP is darker than Prisoner of Azkaban and definitely darker than Goblet of Fire which had its fair share of lighter moments. There's really not a lot of time dedicated to the more "wondrous moments" of the wizarding world and that makes sense. Harry Potter isn't so new to that world anymore and things couldn't be much more grim with "You Know Who" on the loose.

The problem is that while Harry has been away sulking for the summer, the Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) has been running a massive smear campaign through The Daily Prophet. He's been discounting Harry, Albus Dumbledore and refuting the fact that Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is back. Fudge's position has won over quite a few witches and wizards which results in quite a bit of tension between Harry and other Hogwarts students. It's just another problem added to the many that Harry is dealing with in OofP which includes isolation and a barrel full of emotions as a result of having some kind of connection with Voldemort.

Fudge taking an active stance against Albus Dumbledore results in the decreed hiring of Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher to help keep an eye on things under Dumbledore. Her power grows and grows with each decree that is granted and before long, Hogwarts is more like a prison than a school for young witches and wizards. Putting this all together, I'd say that Order of the Phoenix has quite the fascinating political angle which luckily stays away from being too heavy-handed though. It's really clear that Harry Potter has grown up.

First and foremost though, Order of the Phoenix is a fantasy movie and it performs admirably in that regard. There's plenty of action to go around and it's all very entertaining. The special effects are of high quality and you never get the feeling that the characters get lost in all the CGI. Sets and costumes are still major strengths and this is also the first time you see some legitimate non-stop magical duels which are quite thrilling.

There's no question that Order of the Phoenix presents a bit of a challenge to viewers who have never read the books before though. Screenwriter Michael Goldenberg had no choice but to cut a lot when it comes to the story and the characters. A lot of characters are relegated to almost stand-in status and some new characters don't get much of an introduction at all. That's just how it is though. As an adaptation, David Yates has sacrificed a lot of depth in comparison to past entries of the series, but he still gets the right spirit out which is crucial.


It's plain to see that Order of the Phoenix is darker and more grown up than any of the movies that came before it. It unfortunately feels a bit shallow as an adaptation though. There's so much in OotP as a book and you can't really fault David Yates or Michael Goldenberg for that. Order succeeds where it counts the most and it's a welcome evolution for the series, nicely setting up what's to come later on for Harry Potter and co. 

Rating

7.5/10

Related Reviews:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)