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Customer Review

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Magic is Maturing, July 11, 2007
At the very end of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," Emma Watson says, "Everything's going to change now, isn't it?" I remembered that quote going into "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth installment of the series; the films have greatly changed, especially in terms of heavy-handed subject matter. Not only is this film even darker than the last, it's also more mature. This is somewhat disappointing, but it is to be expected; the main characters, after all, are now fifteen years old. I have to admit that I was ready to give this film a lower ranking, simply because it lacks the bright, whimsical charm of Chris Columbus' brilliant "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." But then I realized that I was unfairly trying to compare two very different films. On its own, "Order of the Phoenix" is an incredibly well made fantasy film--well written, well acted, and great to look at, all while retaining the essence of J.K. Rowling's novel.

The plot, while a bit complicated, is quite engrossing. In his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) will find that the odds against him are increasing. It begins when he's put on trail for breaking the rules and using magic outside of school (he had to save his cousin from a Dementor). Cornelius Fudge, the Head of the Ministry of Magic (Robert Hardy), is convinced that Harry never witnessed Lord Voldemort's resurrection. He also believes that he and Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) are conspiring to take control of the Ministry. In response to this, Fudge gives the Ministry the power to enforce new rules at Hogwarts, rules so strict and unreasonable that they practically become dictatorial.

As part of the regime change, a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is introduced (as they have been in each of the films). Here enters Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), a woman that truly redefines what it means to be the teacher from hell. She oversees a complete overhaul of Hogwarts' policies, from dress codes to class schedules to curriculums. Even social interaction is highly restricted, as seen when a kissing couple is forcefully separated. Her uncompromising attitude is only made worse when joined with bright smiles, girlish giggles, and frilly pink dresses. This woman is incredibly phony, a ruthless, seething control freak who unfairly demands respect and loyalty. Harry understands this all too well; while in detention, he's forced to write sentences with a special quill. Let's just say that it makes a definite impression.

Fearing that their defensive skills aren't being challenged enough--and fearing that Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is nearing--Harry and his friends Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) secretly form a rebellion of sorts. Harry teaches the students a number of spells, hoping to prepare them for battle with Voldemort's army. The youthful passion and naivety is just as fascinating as it is baffling; a group of teenagers are willing to fight against evil, even if they don't have what it takes. Of course, no one understands this more than Harry, who begins to have terrible dreams and disturbing visions directly related to Voldemort. Unfortunately, Professor Dumbledore is of little help; for as yet unknown reasons, he's been avoiding Harry the entire school year.

The film progresses quite smoothly for something so convoluted. Consider the fact that the students still maintain social relationships while all this is going on. For Harry, a teenage romance between him and Cho Chang (Katie Leung) is alluded to, as is a strong bond with Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), an eccentric yet understanding young girl. His enemy, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), remains a force to be reckoned with. But his connection to Ron and Hermione has and always will be the strongest. It was a pleasure to see them continue to develop, both as friends and as individuals. There's a moment when Hermione says, "It's quite exciting, isn't it, breaking the rules?" "Who are you, and what have you done with Hermione Granger?" is Ron's reply, which I found amusing. Up until then, he only knew her as a perfect student, always keeping her nose stuck in a textbook, flaunting her intelligence to both students and professors.

As with all the other "Harry Potter" films, "Order of the Phoenix" features a number of well-established British actors. These include: Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, Alan Rickman as Professor Snape, Richard Griffiths as Uncle Vernon, Fiona Shaw as Aunt Petunia, Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, and Gary Oldman as Sirius Black. David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Warwick Davis, and Jason Isaacs also reprise their roles. Helena Bonham Carter joins the cast as Bellatrix Lestrange, Sirius' evil Death Eater cousin. All add dimension to the story without becoming overbearing, which is good because room was needed for special effects, all of which are incredible.

Yes, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is a top-notch movie, despite its dark tone. Having read the sixth book, I can only say that the next film adaptation will be even darker, which may be problematic for some viewers. Many--myself included--have to accept that the wondrous atmosphere of Chris Columbus' original film has long since developed into something denser, less innocent. But in no way does it lack any of the imagination or style that brought the original story to life. This is a thoroughly entertaining film, full of magic and surging with energy.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 14, 2007 5:45:56 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 14, 2007 5:46:59 AM PDT
KerrLines says:
Loved your review.Thought it one of your best yet!Mine was short and sweet.I truly enjoyed the film.This is the first "Potter" film where I have not been bored!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 14, 2007 11:43:17 AM PDT
Thanks for the praise. But I must say, I don't understand how you found any of the "Harry Potter" films boring. You didn't find them fun? Charming? Adventerous? Imaginative? Well acted? Oh well; to each his own, I guess.

I greatly enjoyed them all. However, as you probably gathered from this new review, my favorite is the first one, and it will most likely always be my favorite.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 15, 2007 2:37:14 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 15, 2007 2:42:38 AM PDT
KerrLines says:
This one just simply spoke to me as an all around film.Staunton really put it over the top for me, and Michael Gambon is a real favorite of mine.Also, this film's direction was more to my liking.The other ones got a little bogged down in many places. This one moved and kept a brisk thrilleresque pace.I like the maturation going on...the darker tones.Innocence over! Keep up the fine work.

Posted on Jul 15, 2007 8:32:58 AM PDT
Thorough review, Chris. I feel going into the movie I understand the plot and characters without you spilling the beans on climax and resolution. I liked how you tied the movie in with the book and made comparisons to past movies. Great job. JP

Posted on Aug 21, 2007 1:17:30 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Aug 21, 2007 1:17:30 PM PDT]

Posted on May 9, 2009 8:50:24 AM PDT
Emily Petit says:
This is such a perfect review. I didn't like the film but you make a great case. It didn't change my mind, but it's very strong, and very well-written!
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