Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Based on the novel by J.K. Rowling
Directed by David Yates
Written by Michael Goldenberg
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Imelda Staunton
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth movie in the series based on J.K. Rowling’s books, follows Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends as they enter their fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), the evil Dark wizard, has returned, but no one at the Ministry of Magic wants to admit it. Instead, the Ministry uses all its might to convince the public that Harry Potter is a liar and control all those who believe in him. They even go so far as to place the wickedly sweet Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) at Hogwarts to watch over Harry and squash any rebellious behavior. All of this while Lord Voldemort is trying to obtain some sort of weapon in his fight for control.
With clear political undertones as fear is used to control society and limit freedoms, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is my favorite book of the series. Therefore, I did not expect the movie to be anywhere near as good as the book, and unfortunately I was right. One of the most difficult things about reviewing a “Harry Potter” movie — or any movie based on a book, for that matter — is separating the movie from the book. To recreate with perfect detail and subtlety the plot, characters, and feelings of the book would be nearly impossible and require far more than the 138 minutes of the current film. As a result, some changes must be expected. In the case of the “Order” there were multiple alterations used to compress the plot. Unlike my friends, I recognized that these were necessary, and I tried not to focus on the pieces of the story that were removed. Instead, I merely wondered if enough of the story remained such that someone who has never read the books (yes, there are people who have never read Harry Potter, crazy, I know) would be able to follow the plot. And after talking to someone who falls into the never-read-the-book category, even those worries were gone. No, too little plot was not the problem with the film.
Like the last “Harry Potter “film, I felt the movie did not suffer so much from plot compression, but from the opposite problem: unrelenting action. Sure, the books have a lot of action, but they also have character development; after all, these are in essence coming of age novels. This book, in particular, focuses on the serious and relevant topics of government intervention and manipulation. The movie, on the other hand, barely addresses this theme, instead letting it fade into the background. Instead, the plot is forced onto us with montage after montage. While sometimes necessary to move a story along, I do not need to see Harry’s life in three second clips set to music; it’s a movie, not a music video. Even many of Ron’s (Rupert Grint) witty one-liners were cut to make way for principle story line. David Yates, the director of the film, would have benefited from taking cues from Alfonso Cuaron’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” In that film, there are actually scenes where the characters just talk.
Although the above may seem like I hated the movie, this is not true. Sure, there was too much plot, but the movie was not terrible. When the actors were actually allowed to act, they showed that they are in fact capable of conveying the emotions and feelings of their characters. In particular, Imelda Staunton had the perfect combination of fake sweetness and forcefulness to make her absolutely terrifying. Furthermore, the visual effects were absolutely stunning. The Ministry of Magic and the Hall of Prophecies were jaw dropping in their scale and realism.
Overall, the movie was about what I expected. While I was secretly hoping that it would impress me (because it could have) I wasn’t holding my breath. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I would recommend waiting until it comes out on DVD.