RETRO REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Poster - Warner Bros.
Poster – Warner Bros.

The following is a spoiler-filled retro review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

With the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Warner Bros. and Mike Newell made sure that we were ready to lose people. Cedric Diggory’s death was very sad, but it didn’t come close to being as devastating as what happened in David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, during summer Harry (played by Daniel Radcliffe) encounters two Dementors while Dudley (played by Harry Melling) is with him. They attack and Harry, of course, defends his cousin. Since he used magic in front of a muggle, he’s promptly expelled from Hogwarts… Until Dumbledore (played by Michael Gambon) makes the Ministry of Magic rescind the decision.

When Harry finally does get to Hogwarts he has been briefed on the existence of the order of the phoenix – a secret society created to combat Lord Voldemort (played by Ralph Fiennes) – but, sadly, no one at Hogwarts believes that Harry has told the truth about the dark lord’s return.

There’s a lot to take in with this film, and it’s not all good. I really enjoy this film a lot, and I think it might even be a little bit under-appreciated and underrated. But, again, there is just too much stuff going on. And, look, I get it. Order of the Phoenix is the largest book in series, and I wouldn’t know where to begin when adapting a book at around 800-900 pages.

But there are scenes and sequences that just don’t work very well in the film, and that could’ve easily been taken out of the film. I mean, just look at the Grawp subplot. The Grawp CGI isn’t great, and I really don’t like anything – other than the fact that this is where we get rid of Umbridge (more on her later) – about these scenes.

The movie throws a lot at you, and it doesn’t all stick. What does, however, is the ‘flashback’ to Snap as a student. Seeing James and his group of friends bully Snape makes you appreciate that character much more, but I wish we could’ve had just a few more scenes with the great Alan Rickman in this film.

Also, even though the film jumps around a lot in time – and it can feel exhausting – the ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ montage is brilliant in showing just how great Harry is as a leader, role model, and teacher. You appreciate your protagonist a lot in these scenes, and his growth as a wizard is really clear for all to see here.

But this is also the film that gets rid of the delight of the franchise, and made it grim, serious, and devastating for good. Don’t get me wrong, both Goblet of Fire and Prisoner of Azkaban had taken the film series into a dark place, but Order of the Phoenix really set the direction of the franchise in stone. And if you weren’t on board with that direction, then this film probably didn’t sit well with you.

It’s always tough to talk about the performances in the Harry Potter film series. There are so many strong performers in these films, and the three leads grow with each film. But if you could only talk about one character and one performance then that would be Imelda Staunton’s performance as the detestable Dolores Umbridge. Staunton does a fantastic job with a character that is impossible not to loathe.

Thankfully, I’m not forced to only talk about one character, so let’s move on to the other horrible newcomer to the film series – Bellatrix Lestrange (played by Helena Bonham Carter). It is impossible not to dislike this character. Her actions put her right around the top of the franchise’s most hated list.

Which brings me to the devastating moment that I mentioned in the introduction. The loss of Sirius Black. I get emotional whenever I watch this scene. It is absolutely heartbreaking, and you feel like you’re right there with Harry as he chases down Bellatrix and uses the cruciatus curse on her. Such a powerful sequence.

I also think one should really pay attention to, and complement David Yates on, the excellent sequence in which the order of the phoenix battles the Death Eaters. It is such a thrilling sequence, and gave us an idea of what was going to happen to our characters later in the story.

8 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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