a critiQal film review Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Plot: Harry Potter (Radcliffe) and his friends form Dumbledore's Army to teach Hogwarts' students how to perform defensive spells, which new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher Dolores Umbridge (Carter) refuses to teach.

829 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 8s)

This past weekend, we decided to do something we had been planning on before seeing the latest Harry Potter movie. Even though Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) got pushed back to July 2009, we decided to sit down and have ourselves a Harry Potter movie marathon.

Spanning our marathon over two weekends, it took us a while to get to the latest Harry Potter film on DVD, namely Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Would this 5th film be a disappointment, or would Order of the Phoenix be the best Harry Potter yet?

Despite trying to be known for something other than Harry Potter (even going so far as to appear nude on stage in Equus), Daniel Radcliffe has become Harry Potter to many. Having watched him grow throughout the past 7 years, the audience has grown quite accustomed to seeing him in the role, and is hard-pressed to picture him doing anything else.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for Radcliffe, as, with 3 more films to go (since they are splitting the last book into 2 films), he’ll probably be able to retire from acting once the series finally comes to an end.

In the meantime, viewers can look forward to even better performances from him, if his showing in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is any indication. While he and his co-stars Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were rather green when they first appeared in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), by this point they’ve gotten a lot of on-the-job training, and are really starting to show what they can do.

In Order of the Phoenix, Radcliffe’s Harry spends a lot more time dealing with personal struggles rather than the external enemies viewers are used to. With his closest allies distancing themselves from him, he’s mostly on his own for the first part of the film, and spends a lot of time fighting inner demons. Radcliffe, while not exactly a top-caliber actor, manages to convey this to the viewers in a way he never would have been able to do even 2 films ago.

Of course, half the fun of watching any Harry Potter film is it’s large cast of guest stars. With Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman already part of the cast (among many others), Order of the Phoenix brings in Imelda Staunton and Helena Bonham Carter.

Imelda’s gigging version of Umbridge turns out to be a character viewers will quickly despise – and that’s even before she pulls out the “torture quill”. That’s quite a feat for an actor to do, since the character’s appearance looks to be so, well, ordinary (if a bit obsessed with the color pink). Imelda’s turn as Umbridge turns out to be one of the more evil villains to pop up on-screen in the Harry Potter films to date, and viewers will be wishing the character to go away right from the start.

Helena Bonham Carter’s addition as Bellatrix, on the other hand, will leave the viewer wanting to see more of her wacky nutjob of a character, despite her evil intentions towards Potter & Co.

While starting off light and rather silly with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), the Harry Potter films, and Order of the Phoenix is the darkest one yet. Gone is the friendly banter amongst friends, as is the exciting Quidditch matches and even the “pick on Malfoy” theme that has produced some fun results to date (including a punch from Hermione and Harry and Ron’s transformation into Malfoy henchman for a short time) – this time around, it’s all about doom and destruction as the shadow of Voldemore looms on the horizon.

While this makes for an intriguing film, it doesn’t exactly bring a lot of the fun of the previous films with it, making the film seem rather foreboding and dark. Sure, some of the scenes are still exciting, but the film will eave the viewers with a rather sour taste – and a bit of a longing for Harry’s earlier films.

The special effects, thankfully, have managed to continually improve throughout the series, and the epic end battle between light and dark wizards is something that has to be seen. Thankfully, the special effects, while outstanding, never overshadow the storyline, which also has gotten better as the years have passed.

Despite the foreboding feeling of doom that the film seems to be drowning in, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a worthy continuation of the series, and showcases how far the cast – especially Daniel Radcliffe – has come since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001).

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past 7 years and are thinking of dipping your toe into the series for the first time, however, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not the place to start, as the filmmakers are counting on you to have watched the previous films by this point. Start with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) and have your own Harry Potter movie marathon instead – you’ll be a lot better off.

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