Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Resuming normal service with Order of the Phoenix. Nuthin’ else to say, really. How about this weather, eh? How’s the family?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Perhaps I was too generous with Goblet of Fire. I think it may have disappointed me more than I realised.  All I know is that after watching and reviewing it,  I wasn’t looking forward to covering the remaining Potters any more. Suddenly, it seemed like the biggest slog to finish my Potterthon. Could it be my inherent laziness gene kicking in and forcing me to do nothing towards what I hope will be a long and fruitful career? Always a possibility, but I managed a Bondathon late last year and that took three weeks of daily work. I reckon Goblet just dampened my spirits somewhat. Anyway, good thing Order of the Phoenix was up next because my cup runneth over once again with Potter love. Hooray!

“Cornelius, I implore you to see reason. The evidence that the Dark Lord has returned is incontrovertible.”

After Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) returned from fighting for his life clutching Cedric’s body, few people believe Potter or Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) that Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned. This is mostly thanks to Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) and his propaganda campaign with wizarding newspaper The Daily Prophet.  Dismissing Dumbledore as a fool, the Ministry instates Undersecretary Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) as Hogwarts’ new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher to evaluate the school and suggest educational reform. Feeling ill-equipped to deal with the oncoming evil shitstorm, Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) form an underground club with other students and call themselves “Dumbledore’s Army”. Their sole purpose being to train and learn how to properly defend themselves against Voldemort and his followers, the Death Eaters. The plot is a lot more coherent and cohesive than Goblet‘s was. The school being locked down under Umbridge’s fascistic rule is fantastic and the gang training in secret is exciting. Obviously we know ol’ Voldy’s definitely back so we feel Harry’s frustration at next to no-one believing the impending danger.  Apart from Umbridge, notable additions to the cast are spacy, ethereal weirdo Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), Goth murderess and Black relation Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham-Carter) and the rainbow-haired Nymphadora Tonks (Natalia Tena). All of them are fantastic, too. Of the main three, The Raddinator continues to improve. Emma Watson gets to have a little more fun with Hermione and Rupert Grint is still mugging for the camera, but not as irritating this time round.

The film starts on vaguely familiar territory with Harry coming up against Dudley (Harry Melling). In the film’s funniest bit (though not entirely intentional) we learn that Dudley now has a gang who beat up small children and call Dudders “Big D”. It’s probably the least convincing gang seen since West Side Story. We also get the welcome return of Dursley shenanigans, although it’s mostly Uncle Vernon sweating and eating ice-cream.  Thing is, I like and respect Richard Griffiths so much, I’d pay to see two hours of just that. Somebody call his agent.  I think what makes Phoenix better than Goblet is consistency. Once it pulls you in, it doesn’t relinquish its grip until the end, unlike the wildly varying peaks and troughs of Goblet. From the start, we learn that Harry has been expelled from Hogwarts, which is a hell of a hook and things just improve from there. Secret societies, conspiracies and the like – it’s all good stuff and adds up to a completely compelling and enjoyable film.

For me and I’m sure many others, Umbridge steals the show. Imelda Staunton does an amazing job as the sickly sweet raging bitch. Everything from the way she totters around to her tacky pink office with kitten plates is just perfect.  There’s a gleefully nasty scene where Potter is given detention and forced to write lines. His question about needed ink for his quill is dismissed and it soon becomes apparent that the lines he writes are being carved into his arm. The montage where she goes completely mad with power and instates all kinds of crazy rules is a hell of a lot of fun- if you can call it that. You’ll just want to smack that smug little smile off her face by the end. Most cruelly of all, she kicks out poor old Professor Trelawney (Emma Thompson). Granted, she’s a bit useless, but that’s like kicking a puppy! Thank Christ angry Gambledore is there to put a stop to it and yell at the students. It’s a pretty grim film with most of the enjoyment coming from the illicit Dumbledore’s Army sequences where Potter is training up his classmates. They’re really enjoyable and it further develops Potter’s budding romance with Cho (Katie Leung) which ends with probably the most awkward screen kiss ever. Even so, it still tugs at the heartstrings.

The film kicks into high gear once the assemble students go to the Department of Mysteries. What follows is a brilliantly suspenseful sequence with the kids fighting off Death Eaters (who are now much cooler now they’ve replaced their shit skull masks with shiny metal ones). Unfortunately, Sirius (Gary Oldman) gets offed in one of the series’ biggest gut punches. It’s a seriously affecting bit that devastates me every time I see it. I think it’s down to the quiet manner of it all. The music drops out and Sirius just slips away into a ghostly veil. There are no explosions, no screams of pain – just a rather confused look on Black’s face. Powerful stuff. Thankfully, after this we get a healthy dose of kick-ass to perk us up with an all-powerful wizard smackdown between Voldemort and Dumbledore. I think it’s my favourite moment of the entire series. The effects come into their own here showing torrents of water and giant fire snakes. It’s fucking excellent. It’s like Yoda Vs. Dooku all over again, except not retarded. Another favourite little moment of mine is every time Snape’s on-screen. Rickman gets limited screen time in this one, but he makes the most of every damn second. I love the little insight into his past where it shows Harry’s dad and cronies picking on Snape at school. It’s a brief and effective glimpse at a chink in Snape’s armour.

I have a few nitpicks with the film. Firstly, the giant character of Grawp is a bit of a CGI faceplant, especially when the rest of the special effects are truly impressive. Also, I think it’s a bit mawkish to have love and friendship being the main reason why Potter can resist Voldemort’s possession. These aren’t film spoilers by a long shot – just little stumbles, really.

“You’re a fool, Harry Potter, and you will lose everything.”

Order of the Phoenix is a roaring return to form after the patchy, shambling Goblet of Fire. It’s exciting, atmospheric, suspenseful and has the greatest duel ever in it. Quality stuff.

QUIDDITCH WATCH: None. There’s some broom action around London, but not a Quaffle in sight. Disappointing.

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