Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has lofty ambitions. Not only does the story increase the scope of the magical world even more, but it has to follow up the somewhat lackluster release that was Goblet of Fire. Does this installment rise from the Fire like the Phoenix it is implied to be?
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix returns to a lost form missing from Goblet of Fire, opening with a Dursley/Potter scene. However, the sky darkens and a Dementor attacks Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his chubby cousin, Dudley (Harry Melling). As Dudley’s life force begins to dwindle, Harry is forced to unleash his Patronus Charm. While successful in disbanding their attackers, underage wizards are unable to use magic in the presence of Muggles, leading to a trial to determine Harry’s fate. Harry is cleared of all charges, but the Ministry of Magic refutes his and Albus Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) claims of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) return. Because of this, a resistance force is established— the titular Order of the Phoenix, consisting of fan-favorites Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), and movie series’s newcomer, Nymphandora Tonks (Natalia Tena), amongst others, of course.
However, the backlash against Harry’s claims isn’t resistant to Hogwarts’s walls. His friends are hesitant to believe that Voldemort has turned, and the Ministry of Magic even installs a member, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), into the faculty to suppress Harry. To revolt against Umbridge’s growing control and refusal to teach them any proper Defense against the Dark Arts lessons Harry and the Potters form Dumbledore’s Army as a means of teaching the skills necessary to defend against… dark arts. It all culminates in a mini-battle between Good Guys and Bad Boys.
Given that half of the movie is focused on Harry’s peers’ reluctance to believe his claims over Cedric Diggory’s (Robert Pattinson) death, there’s a sense of internal strife and angst in him throughout the movie. While it’s not at the heightened, exaggerated level that was present in the book (or for those who haven’t read it, Spider-Man 3-like levels), there are still scenes where Harry will go, “ARGH! WHY ME?! BLAH BLAH BLAH I HATE HAVING MAGICAL POWERS BECAUSE EVERYTHING’S SO HARD AND WAH WAH MY PARENTS ARE DEAD.” It’s a bit annoying because it’s just a minor extension of the pubescent party that was present in Goblet of Fire. I thought we’d be over that by now. However, there are some highlights in terms of Harry’s development with his very first kiss (at 15, what a late bloomer!).
Furthermore, Order of the Phoenix reaches an almost X-Men: The Last Stand-level of oversaturation with the increased roles of Harry’s classmates. While they’ve always been present in the background, it’s good to see Seamus Finnigan (Devon Murray) and Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) get more screen-time. Despite this, the Order of the Phoenix members barely played much of a role in the movie, outside of the final battle. This is unfortunate, too, given how illuminating Oldman is in playing Sirius. Given how the movie ends, it’s unfortunate that he won’t get much of a chance to shine.
This leads me to another thing— the movie has pacing problems, specifically in the build-up towards the final act. The pacing is fine up until the characters are rushed to the Ministry of Magic to confront Voldemort and his Death Eaters. That penultimate scene itself, while entertaining with a mini-magic battle, should have been milked more. The fight scene, the battle that consists of the majority of the action, is dwindled down to a little warm-up fight, leading to the VERY anti-climatic death of Sirius. One second, he’s well and good; the next, he’s Avada Kedavra’d and dead. Outside of Harry’s yell of anguish, he (nor anybody else) really mourns the loss of their friend. It’s a shame, considering just how popular the character is.
The biggest change that signals the series’s growth is the complete absence of Quidditch. Yes, the mainstay of all things Harry Potter is gone. Honestly, while the subtraction of the game is worth the attention to the supporting cast, I wouldn’t have minded an updated CGI game or two. Nonetheless, it was necessary and I support it.
We are then left with the question I posed in the beginning: Is Order of the Phoenix better than Goblet of Fire? Yes, definitely. But it’s still not quite there. It’s definitely on the right path that was paved by Prisoner of Azkaban, but all the pieces just aren’t present in Order of the Phoenix.
Overall Score: 7.25 – Good. (7s are good, but not great. These films often have a stereotypical plot or are great movies that have a few minor flaws. Fans of this movie’s genre might love it, but others will still enjoy seeing it in theaters.)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix improves on everything where Goblet of Fire failed. While the installment is an indication of the series headed in the right direction, Order of the Phoenix doesn’t have the necessary pieces to heighten the series to being more than a series of film adaptations.