Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
With a majority of the wizarding world in denial about the return of the Dark Lord himself, Mr. Potter’s classmates don’t necessarily welcome him back to Hogwarts with open arms at the start of his fifth year. To make matters even worse, it’s rumored that both he and Professor Dumbledore are using said rumors to fuel an uprising against the Ministry of Magic. In order to ensure the safety of both the Ministry and Hogwarts alike, Ministry member Dolores Umbridge is appointed as new headmaster at the School of Witchcraft an Wizardry. As her nightmarish rule over the school begins to drive the students to the brink of insanity, it’s up to the students themselves to rebel and learn how to protect each other from the oncoming storm via Harry’s teachings.
Harry and the gang have very successfully made each transition from film to film and dealt with many an obstacle accordingly. What this has presented is essentially a gradual increase in the amount of overall intensity each installment has to very much embrace, at least in order to be deemed a worthy adaptation in a now long line of above average ones. Taking such a requirement into careful consideration, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is quite possibly the darkest, most action-packed entry in the entire series.
Thankfully, neophytes David Yates and Michael Goldenberg have provided us with enough of what was appreciated in both Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire, but therein also lies the issue of translating the longest Potter book into the shortest film. Unfortunately, this brings about many a detail that has either been completely omitted or just not fleshed out appropriately, but what the film lacks in this regard it makes up for in substantial emotional depth and some truly mind-blowing action. Even though these elements have very much earned Order of the Phoenix the series’ second consecutive PG-13 rating, it’s quite easy to see that the creative liberties Yates and his immediate predecessors have taken are wholly faithful to Rowling’s novels, even if some may disagree with the director’s take on several likable moments found within them.
On that note, the fifth Potter film sports more of the same in terms of heavy doses of teenage angst and guy/girl crushes. Although these hormonally charged instances were key in presenting a much-needed sense of character development in the fourth adaptation, the examples given here are just plain negligible and get lost in a sea of much more important happenings. This isn’t to say that their development has ceased; in fact, the central and supporting characters seem to have been fleshed out even more, further aiding the film in possessing the much-needed emotional touch Potter adaptations have slowly procured over the years.
Everyone’s favorite cast of witches and wizards are back once more as well, with yet another addition to the Hogwarts faculty: the tyrannical Dolores Umbridge, aptly played by the charismatic Imelda Staunton. There isn’t much else to say in this regard that hasn’t already been said, with the exception of how great Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson have truly become. The trio manages to impress me time and time again, and all three of them continue to capture the essences of their characters perfectly, further proving to both myself and others that they really are coming into their own as full-fledged actors.
Continuing the favorable trend of wholeheartedly exploring the darker nature of later Potter novels, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix doesn’t disappoint. While it does fall a bit flat once again in terms of cohesiveness and handling some aspects of the characters’ overall maturation in an appropriate fashion, the action is just too excellent to ignore and the film’s emotional underbelly really help it take a turn for the better. Needless to say, it isn’t the best in the series, but it’s still enjoyable nonetheless.