Eric D. Snider

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Movie Review

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: B+

Released: July 11, 2007

 

Directed by:

Cast:

At a mere two hours and 18 minutes, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is the shortest film in the series -- no small feat, considering the book it's based on is the longest. Subplots have been cut, and some fans will surely be shocked and appalled, but they needn't be. Streamlined though the film may be, the important thing is that it doesn't feel streamlined. It feels like an exciting and fast-paced fantasy adventure -- which is exactly what it's supposed to feel like.

British TV director David Yates is the latest man to walk through the series' revolving door (he'll do "Half-Blood Prince," too), and he brings with him an admirable work ethic. Chris Columbus' first two entries were rambly, and Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell had a great deal of fun putting their own imprimaturs on Nos. 3 and 4. If Yates has an identifying mark to his directorial style, I missed it. He's a for-hire director who gets the job done with the appropriate levels of humor, energy, and thrills, but without a lot of time-wasting foolishness in between. Get in, get 'r done, and get out.

And it works. As satisfying as it was to see someone like Cuaron make a movie that was unquestionably "his," I realize now that it's also a pleasure to see someone make a movie in a serviceable, cheerfully anonymous style. Yates, working from an adaptation by new-to-the-series Michael Goldenberg ("Peter Pan"), does just that. The movie works the way a Harry Potter movie ought to. It's not perfect -- a few ends remain loose, a few characters get shafted -- but it's very good.

This episode finds Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) more sullen and tormented than usual. Dreams of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) plague his sleep. Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy), the head of the Ministry of Magic, has spent the summer planting stories in the Daily Prophet that paint Harry as a liar for proclaiming Voldemort's return. "All is well!" cry the headlines. Fudge has staked his career on the false pretense that the wizarding community has nothing to worry about.

To that end, he sends Hogwarts a new Ministry-approved Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor. She is Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), a deliciously sweet-seeming little woman clad in pink and always wearing a smile on her plump, grandmotherly face. She is, as you might expect, evil incarnate, albeit a kind of evil Harry has never dealt with before. She earnestly believes the party line that Voldemort is gone and Harry is a liar. It's her devotion to goodness that has made her a villain and a zealot. When she turns Hogwarts into a police state, abolishing all extracurricular gatherings and encouraging students to rat on one another, she seems to be doing it out of a genuine (though misguided) desire for law and order.

Part of her campaign is to stop teaching any actual defensive spells in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Everything she teaches is theoretical. After all, since Voldemort is no threat, why on earth would you ever need to use a defensive spell in real life?

Since Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) know the truth -- that Voldemort is out there and rapidly recruiting his followers -- they assemble an underground group called Dumbledore's Army. Under Harry's instruction, these students practice defense against the dark arts in secret, preparing for the battle that the Ministry says will never happen.

As usual, the adults are the most entertaining figures in the film. Imelda Staunton is a gleefully wicked addition as Umbridge, and Alan Rickman continues to steal every scene he's in -- often with no more than a raised eyebrow -- as Professor Snape.

But the kids are doing well, too, with Daniel Radcliffe really coming into his own as an actor in this installment. A brief flashback to the previous film reminds us how much he's matured just since then, and he plays Harry's conflicting emotions with impressive range. A significant part of this film's climax deals entirely with Harry's internal struggles, and Radcliffe pulls it off with great maturity.

As I write this, the world is once again experiencing a bout of Potter-mania, with the final book in the series due just 10 days after this film opens. Most of us are probably more excited for that book than we are for this movie, since the book is an unknown commodity and the movie is merely a reenactment of stuff we've already read. But as an appetizer for what's to come -- and a reminder of how magical and entertaining the Harry Potter universe is -- "Order of the Phoenix" satisfies.

Grade: B+

Rated PG-13, frightening images, magic-related violence, some blood

2 hrs., 18 min.

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This item has 35 comments

  1. ChocolateStu says:

    I'M SO EXCITED FOR THE BOOK!!!! The movie sounds like it will be good, too. My biggest beef with the previous movies has been the way they've felt choppy, like the directors are trying to cover everything, but not paying any one thing sufficient attention. I'm glad this one is "streamlined".

  2. Dave the Slave says:

    Alan Rickman is the freakin man. Im definately a fan of the series, might even see this one before it gets to the dollar theatre! :-P

  3. Dave the Slave says:

    o my everloving gosh... I just saw this movie with my wife, I LOVE this movie!! And I am definately not easy to please! This was by far my favorite Harry Potter movie, I can't find a thing I didnt like about it. Eric's right that it definately got streamlined from the book version, but honestly thats more often than not a sign of a good book-based movie. They didnt touch all the subplots and side stories which left more time to develop the main ideas, and it was truly brilliant!

    I haven't felt this happy and not-ripped-off about seeing a movie in theatres I think in my whole movie-going life. This is DEFINATELY worth seeing! :-)

  4. Spelling Police says:

    o my everloving gosh, if you're going to keep using the word "definitely" over and over, you really need to learn how to spell it...

  5. Turkey says:

    Eric taught me how to spell "definitely." And "separate" (it has "a rat" in it). Funny where you learn these things.

  6. Lotus says:

    Oh wow, your rating was MUCH higher than I expected...

  7. Niall says:

    I just saw this. Absolutely outstanding. Best Potter film by far. Direction excellent, production values/cinematography excellent, superbly paced, and the acting was brilliant all round. They actually managed to make the weakest book into the best film, by stripping out the extraneous waffle and concentrating on the main story. A mature, gripping and socially relevant ensemble piece with an outstanding performance by Daniel Radcliffe in the centre. He's had his good moments before but in this film he was outstanding throughout, he completely carries the film and seems to have complete confidence in himself and know exactly what he's doing throughout. The others are good too.

  8. Kamisaki says:

    My wife and I saw the movie yesterday, and we both loved it. In my opinion, Order of the Phoenix makes a better movie than a book. Harry didn't seem nearly as whiny in the movie as he did in the book, and they did a great job of getting rid of the plot elements that were nonessential while not leaving out anything important. Additionally, I became much more attached to Sirius Black in the movie than I ever was before. The limited time he gets to spend with Harry seems to count a lot more when there's not 700 pages of stuff to occupy the rest of Harry's time.

    I also have to say that the new characters introduced in this film were tremendous. Luna Lovegood was played perfectly, and Umbridge was, indeed, evil incarnate. My wife nearly puked when she saw Umbridge's kitten-infested office. :)

  9. Jane says:

    I agree- this was definitely the best HP movie yet! I was surprised that Eric didn't like it as much as the 3rd and 4th movies. The 4th especially felt waaay too rushed to me.

  10. Ken says:

    Wow, I seem to be in the minority here 'cause I didn't like this movie at all! I loved all the other Potter films but this one rubs me the wrong way. It's hard to explain what I didn't like about it though. I guess I could say it seems like one big long trailer for the movie. All the scenes went by so fast that it feels like they only show part of each scene.

    But It's still pretty good for a movie based on a 700 page book. I look forward to the next film in the series, because that's the Potter book that I feel is the slowest paced, and it could use some speeding up!

  11. Weezy says:

    My husband and I took our two boys to see this last night and it was so good that we stayed and watched it a second time!! (Oddly enough, the theatre was half-empty, I expected bigger crowds the day after opening day). Excellent casting on Umbridge! She is evil defined. Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix was also very good.

    However, I was disappointed that at least a couple of subplots/side diversions were not included, like Snape taunting Sirius, the Weasleys helping to clean out the Black house and finding the locket with the initials RAB or everyone going to St. Mungo's to visit Mr. Weasley and seeing both Professor Lockhart and Neville's parents.

    It was indeed streamlined. If the same director is doing Half-Blood Prince, we're likely to not see Fred and George at all.

  12. Miki says:

    I really liked this film, it was entertaining and fascinating as a Harry Potter film should be. However, it was flawed, very flawed. I dont so much overly care about being a nazi to the book as much as I care about at least developing what you DO use in the film. I would have been fine with them making Cho the one who rats them out if they at least hinted as to SOME kind of motivation or explanation behind it. And doing the scene where she tries to explain herself to Harry and he snubs her was not a good excuse/escape from providing that for us. It just made it seem too sudden and out of nowhere.

    I understand streamlining, there's no way of including everything in a decently-timed film. But it felt choppy. I didnt feel like I got the chance to experience the emotional moments because they were taken away as soon as they appeared. Sirius's death didnt mean as much to me as it did in the book because they seemed to rush through that too. Cedric's death in the last movie was drawn out just enough to be emotional but not too much to be overly angsty. And Cedric isnt even as important a character as Sirius. I dont think it would have been to much more time to have given the important scenes that were shown a little more time. I imagine that if I hadnt read the book I would be completely lost and detached emotionally from the film. And even I, having read it, still felt slightly detached. I mean I know that Harry is a bit disconnected from the world at this point in the story, but we as audience shouldnt feel disconnected to him. Its like someone gives you a plate of food and then takes it away before your finished and puts another one down and does the same thing. It was entertaining and fun to watch, but far from satisfying.

  13. Jeff J. Snider says:

    "I would have been fine with them making Cho the one who rats them out if they at least hinted as to SOME kind of motivation or explanation behind it."

    They actually addressed it pretty well, I thought, when Snape tells Umbridge that she used the last of the veritaserum on Cho Chang, and our heroes all look at each other with a "Oh, THAT'S why she tattled" look.

  14. whome says:

    What made this movie work was the script. It was brilliant. As we get to see different directors do the various films, we see how much better some do than others, but we never got to compare Kloves to anybody else until now. And I have to say, Kloves comes out on the short end of the comparison (kind of like Columbus did after the third movie came out). The ideas that need exposition are shown more often rather than told, and the dialog is far more natural. If you give the actors better dialog, they come across as better actors when they deliver the lines.

    The poor sound editing and soundtrack problems make the film a little more choppy than it should have been. They over-use the "Jurassic Park boom". The soundtrack seemed to say "this is a dark and serious movie" but otherwise didn't add much to the flow or characters (with the exception of the music for Luna Lovegood.) I miss John Williams.

    Anyway, the film otherwise was quite strong. I did like movie 4 a bit better, but this one is still a very strong entry into the series.

  15. Adam Ondi says:

    I loved Luna. I don't think that character could have been played any better. I enjoyed the movie overall, but there were several concepts that were introduced and then abandoned. If you aren't going to elaborate on a plot point, then don't bother to put it in the movie at all.

    Overall, though, I was very into the movie as a whole. The essence of the story in the book was very well represented in the movie, and I enjoyed it. The only thing that really annoyed me by the end was how the Death Eaters somehow managed to change into swirling clouds of black fog and flew around the kids. And then the Order of the Phoenix arrived, flying around as swirling clouds of white fog. Where the heck was THAT in the story? That has never been established as being possible at all. I think the Death Eaters would have been far more menacing, and the Order of the Phoenix far more heroic, if you actually got to see them running around and dueling with each other, rather than swirling fog somehow fighting with other swirling fog.

  16. Dave the Slave says:

    I'm DEFINATELY never gonna spell "definitely" right! :-P

  17. Veritaserum says:

    They did explain why Cho was the one who ratted them out. They used Veritaserum juice on her. She had no choice. That's why, when they find out in Umbridge's office later, they all look apologetic for being mad at her.

  18. Veritaserum says:

    Oh, never mind. Jeff Snider already answered that question. Somebody throw a tarp over me.

  19. Nate says:

    I thought this was a great movie. What I didn't like about the movie was the introduction and almost immediate dismissal of new characters. Why put Tonks in the movie if her character isn't going to be developed? I didn't care for the scene with Harry, Voldemort, and Bellatrix. I thought I was suddenly watching Emperor Palpatine and Luke Skywalker.

    Otherwise I thought the movie was great.

  20. mommy says:

    I'm just grateful for the comments section...I couldn't for the life of me remember the loohoo girl's name. I'm sure when I discuss the movie I will sound much more intelligent saying Luna.

    I didnt understand the swirling fog either...maybe it was so the 2yo sitting in front of me would have one less reason to say she was scared.

  21. Scott says:

    I mostly liked how they streamlined the movie, deleting subplots and moving key plot elements around so as to be more convenient for the story. For instance, rather than going to St. Mungo's to see Mr. Weasley and meet Neville's parents, we just hear Neville talk about them while looking at the old Order of the Phoenix photograph. Finding out about Neville's past is the key element here, we don't need the whole scene at St. Mungo's to establish this. Well done by Yates.

    Having Cho rat out the group because of the veritaserum is significantly different than the book, though - and not only because they changed the traitor. Snape supposedly gave Umbridge fake veritaserum in the book, which is important for his character. Filming it as Cho ratting them out rather than her friend gives Cho and Harry a quick reason to split up, which cuts out the slow scene of their break-up in Hogsmeade as was in the book. I wasn't so happy with this, but it makes for a smoother movie.

    Luna and Grawp were surprisingly well-done. And I'm glad they have been able to keep the same cast for all of the movies - with the notable exception of the death of Richard Harris [who played Dumbledore] after Chamber of Secrets.

  22. Jacob Mielke says:

    I loved this movie. I could find no fault with it and I thought Tonks was kinda hot.

  23. Steve says:

    I saw this last night at an IMAX theater. It was awesome! Besides all the great things that have been mentioned about the movie, the picture was crystal clear, the sound was incredible (they didn't overload their speakers like so many theaters do) and the crowd was well-behaved and respectful.

    It was a great experience right up until the children got out of the room of prophecies and then, suddenly the POWER IN THE THEATER WENT OUT!! AARRGH!!!

    I'm going back tomorrow (free ticket exchange), but man was that frustrating.

    Oh, and I also loved Tonks. She was perfect. I loved the subtle reddening (from purple) of her hair when she was aggravated with Mad-Eye.

  24. Clumpy says:

    For me, it was easily the best film since the third (actually, the only movie in the series I'd watch repeatedly aside from the third). It was streamlined but not rushed like Goblet of Fire, had some truly awesome emotional moments and an apocalyptic fight at the end, and managed to rekindle my excitement in the movie series.

  25. Romy says:

    I HATED IT! IT SUCKED! If People Even READ The Book They Would Agree It Sucked. They Left Out Like 99% Of The Whole Story. I'd Like To See How They Try To Shove Everything They Needed Out Of This Part For The Rest Of The Series Into The Movies They Aren't Supposed To Be In. Stupid Directors.

  26. John Doe says:

    Romy's capitalization skills scare me.

    I didn't like the flying fog either, and I wished Tonks had been around more (she's hot). I liked it and thought it was a good rendition of a HUGE book. However, I've always wondered how people who never read the book feel about it. I think that those who haven't read the book probably wonder what is going on half the time, but I guess those people aren't likely to see the movie anyway.

  27. Daniel R says:

    Romy, If you wanted the book, just read the book again. A movie is a completely diffferent animal. If it were a play-by-play of the book, it would be a terrible movie. Likewise, a book that follows a movie is a terrible book (if there is such a thing - sounds awful).

  28. Romy says:

    The Entire Point Of The Movie Is To Follow The Book Because The Book Was A Topseller, And Some Guy Got The Bright Idea "Hey! They Would Make Topselling Movies!" Well, Duh! But If You Take Out Over Half Of The Book, Then Only Half Of The Good Stuff Is In There. There Are Parts In That Book That Play HUGE Parts In The Books That Follow, But Those Parts Are Left Out In The Movie. How Are They Going To Make Up For That Later? I See It As One Of Three Ways: Either They Will Shove Something In One Of The Upcoming Movies That Doesn't Belong There, They Will Explain It In Some COMPLETELY Retarded Way, Or Everyone Who Hasn't Read The Books Will Be COMEPLETELY Lost And Confused. THAT'S Why The Movie Sucked. And It Takes All The Emotion Out Of It. Reading The Books, I Was Overly Upset When Sirius Died, But If I Had Never Read The Books And Only Watched The Movies, I Wouldn't Have Cared At All. Sirius Never Played A Large Part In Any Of The Movies Like He Did The Books, But Especially This One. And The Recalls That Show Connections Between The Books/Movies Were Left Out, Too. Like Seeing Defense Against The Dark Arts Teacher #2 In St. Mungo's. As Far As Neville's Parents, I Don't Believe That Neville Would EVER Tell His Friends About His Parents' Fate. First Of All Because He Is A Dork And It Would Make Him Look Even MORE Psycho, And Second Of All Because He Wouldn't Want To Scare His Peers Into Thinking That He May Be One Of Voldemort's Targets. A Lot Of The Humor And Suspense Was Taken Out Of It, Too. It Was WAY Too Easy For The Kids To Get Into The Prophecy Room, Unlike The Book Where They Had Obstacles. And We Missed The Things Like Quidditch Games (And Ron Being Keeper, Through Both The Good Times And The Bad), And Ron's Little Struggle Against The Brains In The Mystery Part Of The Ministry, Which Made For A Funnier Mood. And Where Was The Weasley's Swamp??? I Don't Remember Firenze Coming Into The Castle To Teach Divination In The Movie Either, Which Actually Makes For A Large Part Of The Centaurs' Hate For Umbridge. Umbridge Didn't Seem As Evil In The Movie Either Because They Took Out A Lot Of The Punishments (Banning Harry, Fred, And George From Playing Quidditch For Life, Confiscating Brooms, Giving Filch Permission To Use Midevil Punishment To Name A Few) And A Lot Of Her Power (Control Over Floo System And Owls). It's Just The Little Things That Can Completely Ruin A Movie. And I Promise I'm Not The Only One With This Outlook.

    John Doe-I'm Sorry It Scares You. I'm Just Used To Typing Like This :)

  29. Talm says:

    Can I pose a few questions?

    What did Snape do with the new knowledge Harry gave him? Is that for a future movie?

    How come there was now resolution with Chang?

    Why did the movie end up exactly where it began, but with a couple more dead people and Fudge being corrected?

    Where was the shot of Ron weirded out while flying back to London on a beast he couldn't see?

    Why so little pay-off for so many Dumbledore's Army training scenes? (The majority of the army doesn't even make it to battle and those who do end up, well, sucking.)

    And is that really the last line of the movie? "something worth fighting for?" Wouldn't Voldemort consider power and control worth fighting for?

  30. Talm says:

    Oh yes, and how come nargles never get defined? Is this really important enough to leave to another movie?

  31. Again says:

    Although I did like how the room of requirement grew a mistletoe to fill the need for action that Harry required. I was waiting for the soft lighting, a warm breeze, and some bount chika wow wowww music to start up, but I guess the room isn't that magical.

  32. what_is_wrong_with_you_people? says:

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but movie critics are supposed to pick out the bad ones, aren't they? Did Eric's evil clone write this review? This movie was by far the worst depiction of a good book I've ever had the misfortune to see. The actors were terrible, they cut out all the important dialogue, there was no mention of Quidditch at all (and Ron was supposed to come into his own with Quidditch in HP5), and...oh yeah...the acting was terrible! One very, very important part of the book was after the fight when Dumbledore explains everything to Harry--about Kreacher, Sirius, etc. The only part of that they managed to slip in was Dumbledore saying, "I know how you feel," and Harry replying, "No you don't." And yet, they somehow fit in Ron and Hermione's witty dialogue stressing that Ron had the emotinal range of a teaspoon. The movie, in essence, was a blight upon the face of humanity. End of story. I don't understand at all why you people liked it.

  33. Sarah says:

    This was the best movie yet. I was disappointed they left Quidditch, but the movie was really funny and the ending was really well done. They did the dying of Sirius well, and the part where Harry had the flashbacks was so cool. I was also disappointed that they left out a good chunk of the beginning (i.e. Grimmauld Place, Kreatcher, etc.) and they made Tonks, Lupin, and Snape underplayed. But still, it was my favorite book and currently my favorite movie. Well done, David Yates and cast!!!!!!!!!

  34. happyman says:

    It's always a pity when the true-believers come out of the woodwork. They can never understand why their favorite book has to be defaced in order to be made into a movie. There's always something they think is the *most important thing evar* which *just has to be there* in order for the movie to really work. Because no two of them can ever agree on just which things are really most important, and because putting all the lists together would create a 45-hour monstrosity, it's pretty obvious they'll never be satisfied with any movie made by actual humans with actual budgets.

    Note that I am not saying this about fans, because I consider myself one. I just got the entire set of Harry Potter for Christmas, and read it straight through. It took a bit. However I am sane enough (and have seen enough book adaptions) to know the above facts and just view the movie on its own merits. Yes, they're going to have to compress some of the later time-lines as well; welcome to the theater. As others have said, if you wanted the book, go reread the book.

  35. Nate says:

    I read someone wrote here about the last line of the movie....."something worth fighting for"...well im sorry but this bugged the crap out of me too mainly because it seems like I remember the exact words, almost, coming straight from Gandalfs mouth in the last LOTR: Return of the King, written and filmed and even in theaters way before the the Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix books release or movies production...whether or not its in the books i dont know but it just pissed me off a little, wondering if anyone else noticed it...i dont remember when he says it in LOTR but I think it may have been to Pippen...if I'm wrong I apologize, someone please correct me with proof if so

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