Should I Watch..? 'Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix' (2007)
What's the big deal?
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix is an adventure fantasy film released in 2007 and is the fifth film in the Harry Potter series. It was the first to be directed by David Yates who would go on to direct the final four films and is based on the novel of the same name by J.K. Rowling. It follows Harry during his fifth year at Hogwarts as everyone struggles to digest the news of Voldemort's return with the Ministry of Magic in complete denial. Like the rest of the series, it was a huge financial success as well as a critical hit when it was released amid fever-pitch anticipation. But I personally felt that it was a slight let-down after Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire and doesn't quite have enough action to satisfy those fans craving a bit after the events of the previous film.
What's it about?
After forced to defend himself and his muggle cousin Dudley from Dementors, Harry Potter is facing expulsion from Hogwarts for using magic whilst underage. Sent to the Ministry of Magic, Harry learns that the Ministry refuses to accept Voldemort's return and has launched a smear campaign against Harry and Professor Dumbledore, turning the wizarding world against them. What's worse is that the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, has appointed a new Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher in the form of Dolores Umbridge whose fussy nature hides a far more sinister side. However, she refuses to teach the students anything useful as she fears that it is part of a plot by Dumbledore to overthrow the Ministry.
As Voldemort begins summoning his Death Eaters to rejoin him including Draco Malfoy's father Lucius and Sirius Black's deranged cousin Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry is forced to form a secret group of students dedicated to fighting Voldemort. Known as Dumbledore's Army, Harry's rebellious nature and his developing relationship with Cho Chang make him vunerable - and also something the Dark Lord might use against him...
What's to like?
What I personally felt was the weakest book is actually a pretty decent movie. The cast continue to impress as their characters grow and age while the newcomers also provide plenty to enjoy. Staunton's Umbridge is a terrific character whose benign appearance masks a truly evil persona while Helena Bonham Carter's unforgettable Bellatrix instantly puts herself into the series' list of great villains. Frankly, the series already has such a huge cast list that it struggles to get everyone in but some do start to get more screen time - Oldman and Thewlis make welcome returns from Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban while Isaacs and Tom Felton as Draco finally start to feel like proper baddies again instead of sneering spectators.
Effects are still superb and set design continues to be a real highlight - the Ministry itself is awash with great ideas like the central hub with its black tiled walls while Hogwarts continues to dazzle with more and more of it being seen. And the climatic face-off between Voldemort and his Death Eaters and Harry with the rest of the Order finally gives action fans something to enjoy as spells ricochet around the set, like a magical shoot-out - this is far more interesting than Harry's teenage turmoils...
- During filming, Rickman banned Matthew Lewis and Rupert Grint from coming within 5 metres of his new BMW. They both spilt milkshake in it during filming of the previous movie.
- The Department of Mysteries is the first completely CG stage used in the series. Building it was too impractical and an estimated 15'000 crystal balls would have been needed - and cleaned up after as well.
- One design for the film's poster featured a number of students, one of whom was Hermione who had her bust digitally altered. After some public criticism, Warner Bros later removed the poster, saying it had been issued by mistake.
What's not to like?
The film lacks a lot from the novel where Ron tries to emerge from Harry's shadow via Quidditch. It is naturally Harry-centric but the film's script doesn't offer much of a cohesive narrative. Having watched the four preceeding films (and later read the books), I still honestly can't recall anything particularly memorable about The Order Of The Phoenix. With the introduction of the Order, the film offers us yet more characters but doesn't take the time to get to know them - who was this mysterious Tonks woman with purple hair who seemed to appear out of nowhere and why was she involved? I wanted to know more but the film carried on regardless.
Until the film moves to the Ministry, there isn't a great deal that seems to happen. Harry learns more things, both in class and out, but there wasn't the sense of danger or urgency I expected. With Voldemort unleashed, all sorts of evil should have been roaming the land but I never got that feeling from the film. He pops up here and there in Harry's head but what I wanted was for Harry to start using his magic for duelling. And that's the problem in a nutshell - if The Goblet Of Fire was the end of the beginning then this film is the beginning of the end. We would have some way to go before anything would get resolved.
Should I watch it?
From the pulsating climax of the previous film, Order Of The Phoenix felt like it takes a bit of a nap to recover. The film doesn't satisfy in the way the last movie did although it is still a technical tour de force. There's enough there to keep Potter fans interested but I started to find my attention waning somewhat - a worrying sign that this film can't sustain the momentum built up before it.
Great For: Potter lovers, patient action fans
Not So Great For: Tolkien fans, people wanting more characterisation, short attention spans
What else should I watch?
The next film - Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince - would see a bit more doom and gloom involved, certainly more than we saw in The Goblet Of Fire. But it wouldn't be until the final two movies that we finally get open warfare between Voldemort's forces and Harry so I'm afraid there's still a lot of plot to discuss and resolve until we get to the bombastic and brilliant Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows.
I've been racking my brains to think of another fantasy film saga that has such attention to detail, a stunning ensemble cast, amazing effects and unlimited imagination. Trouble is, I can't think of a single one I would recommend more than Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy which is just superb. Having recently seen the first instalment of his long-awaited prequel The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I still stand by that assertion.
Professor Albus Dumbledore
Professor Severus Snape
Helena Bonham Carter
Release Date (UK)
12th July, 2007
Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
© 2015 Benjamin Cox