Harry is deeply traumatized from having witnessed Cedric Diggory's murder, but he will soon find that this was just another chapter in the continuing loss he will endure. Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned and, in an attempt to conceal this catastrophe from the wizarding public, the Ministry of Magic has teamed up with the wizard newspaper The Daily Prophet to smear young Potter and wise Dumbledore (Michael Gambon)--seemingly the only two people in the public eye who believe the Dark Lord has returned. With no one else to stand against the wicked Death Eaters, the Hogwarts headmaster is forced to revive his secret anti-Voldemort society, the Order of the Phoenix. This welcomes back characters like Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), kind Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), fatherly Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), and insidious Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), and introduces a short list of intriguing new faces. In the meantime, a semi-psychotic bureaucrat from the Ministry (brilliantly portrayed by Imelda Staunton) has seized power at Hogwarts, and Harry is forced to form a secret society of his own--lest the other young wizards at his school be left ill-equipped to defend themselves in the looming war between good and evil. In addition, Harry is filled with an inexplicable rage that only his Godfather Sirius seems to be able to understand.
This film, though not as frightening as its predecessor, earns its PG-13 rating mostly because of the ever-darkening tone. As always, the loyal fans of J.K. Rowling's books will suffer huge cuts from the original plot and character developments, but make no mistake: this is a good movie. --Jordan Thompson
On the DVD The second disc of The Order of the Phoenix features "The Hidden Secrets of Harry Potter," a retrospective on the series so far, with "Potter experts" (i.e., people who run fan sites) weighing in on what's to come. This must have been filmed during production, because all their speculation about the conclusion of the saga is clearly dated and therefore superfluous (since Order released theatrically at the same time as the seventh book, one would've expected a more current analysis). Many of the deleted scenes are mostly extensions, with the exception of one hilarious take of Professor Trelawney (Emma Thompson) trying--unsuccessfully--to eat gracefully during Dolores Umbridge's introduction at Hogwarts. The chatty actress Natalia Tena, who plays Tonks, gives a tour of the set in "Trailing Tonks," even playing a Christmas song she wrote on her guitar, and director David Yates and editor Mark Day demonstrate editing 101 with a feature that lets you edit your own scene from the movie. Watch the feature but skip the self-editing part; the controls are too complicated to navigate and too frustrating to work properly (plus, hit the wrong button and you've gone all the way back to the beginning). A digital copy of the movie is also included on the bonus disc. --Ellen A. Kim