Widely referred to as the ‘political one’, Order of the Phoenix sees the Ministry of Magic infiltrate the, until now, homely environment of Hogwarts. Dumbledore’s Army is founded to counteract the imposition whilst the newly sanctioned decrees add a twist to the once light and fluffy films. Director David Yates handles Rowling’s source material well and, whilst displeasing some fans with some omissions, creates applaudable tension that far surpasses the supposedly dark Prisoner of Azkaban.
Harry’s return to Hogwarts is threatened after exposing his chav cousin Dudley to magic when Dementors appear on the scene in Little Whinging. Ostracised by both the Ministry of Magic and the Daily Prophet, Harry is awarded no leniency and instead has to endure a nerve-wracking trial in front of the Wizengammot. Despite being found not guilty his troubles are intensified when he finds Dumbledore is ignoring him whilst his nightmares about Voldemort get steadily worse. Such nightmareish scenes soon take on a sinister edge when it is realised that Harry is, in fact, seeing what Voldemort sees, having established a telepathic link the previous summer. Cue several gruelling occlumency lessons with Snape. Harry’s visions, however, only intensify, leading him to witness a harrowing vision of his beloved Godfather Sirius being tortured.
Playing the deliciously evil Professor Umbridge who, aided by the bumbling grouch Filch, uses her authority to turn Hogwarts tradition on its head, the film’s stand-out performance undoubtedly comes from Imelda Staunton. Wearing numerous vile shades of pink and adorning her office with a wall full of meowing cat ceramics she embodies the ministry’s might. Enforcing new decrees that effectively end all fun at Hogwarts, her patronising tone would be enough to make any student question their academic career. Enter Fred and George who, grown tired of Umbridge’s endless assault on the school, triumphantly up sticks and head off to make their Galleons as joke shop owners.
With Hogwarts banning the learning of defensive spells, Harry, Ron and Hermione found the afore-mentioned Dumbledore’s Army, a secret organisation set up to teach those willing to fight the most important of defensive magic. Amidst the political mayhem, Harry finds time for love and has his first kiss thanks to some well-timed sprouting mistletoe. Fans of the book will know of Harry’s CAPITAL LETTER RANTS. They’re subdued here thankfully but all is still pretty angsty… but, estranged from his peers, Dumbledore and the magical world, who wouldn’t be?
Order of the Phoenix makes nice use of the mounting decrees as segmental pieces whilst the propaganda proliferated is only heightened by the increased use of the Daily Prophet as a story telling device. Many people speak about the darkening tone of the series but such talk is perhaps best applied here to Order of the Phoenix . Bellatrix (the great Helena Bonham Carter) is a force to be reckoned with and the Death Eaters have an increased presence. Sirius’s house elf Kreacher offers a stark contrast to the happy-go-luckiness of Dobby whilst the black ceramic that fills the Ministry, as well as Hogwarts’s skeletal thestrals, all add an ominous tone to the film… and quite rightly, too. Not long after Harry rushes to save his godfather does he die, leaving Harry (and fans) riddled with grief. Although their relationship is subdued in the film, the loss is nonetheless tangible. Dumbledore’s battle with Voldemort, this being his first full film as a fully formed being, whilst dramatic, feels a little rushed and is robbed of some of its grandeur. It’s still as creepy as hell though.
Like with many of the other Potter adaptations, Order of the Phoenix inevitably makes cuts. The prophecy* is explained but only very briefly so, if you haven’t read the book, be prepared to be left slightly confused. Malfoy is overshadowed by the countless other elements threatening to add their own doom and gloom in Harry’s school year and, consequently, his story arc is not given enough space to gallop and he soon becomes a bit-part. The final segment, which takes part in the Department of Mysteries, lacks the intricacy the novel wove. For all of its omissions, the pang of regret for all of the prophecies destroyed in the cascading shelves scene is very much intensified on screen.
Despite the slight sacrifices it makes due to time constraints, this is a mighty fine effort from first time Potter director Yates. Impressing so much he went on to direct the remaining films, he obviously does something right here. One of the finer Potter instalments, Order of the Phoenix is a fine addition to the saga.
Best character: Umbridge.
Best newcomer: Luna.
Best baddie: Umbridge, hands down.
Best creature: Padfoot returns! Yay!
Best Harry moment: His final moments. Though ravaged with grief, he still manages to overcome Voldemort’s attempts to lure him to the dark side.
How did it rate to the book?: The harrowing part where Mrs. Weasley is found crying over a boggart impersonating her family is left out… whilst Grimmauld Place is almost over-looked altogether.
*It basically being a record of Professor Trelawney predicting that the child who would question Voldemort’s power would be born toward the end of July in the year of Harry’s birth…. what’s overlooked here is that by seeking Harry and trying to destroy him Voldemort picked him as his equal, ignoring Neville, another July baby, in the process… geddit?