Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Reviews

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Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
January 4, 2015
In my previous Harry Potter review, I talked about the challenges the film franchise faced when the books began to grow in size. The continuing success of the series, both on the page and on the screen, put pressure on the directors, producers and writers to include as much of the source material as possible to keep the fans happy. While none of the directors after Chris Columbus have been quite so literal-minded in this regard as he was, the desire for fidelity is still present in different ways.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the beginning of what could be called the long, slow consolidation of the franchise. The first of ultimately four efforts to be helmed by David Yates, it approaches the material with neither the need nor the willingness to prove itself, seemingly confident that fans will know enough about the basics at this point that more new stuff can be crammed in. But while the film has a lot of promising or interesting aspects, it is in the final analysis more episodic and less satisfying than its two predecessors, and may be the weakest film in the series since Chamber of Secrets.

It's very easy to lay the blame for this squarely at the feet of the director. Yates was and is primarily a TV director, having made his name on acclaimed series like State of Play and TV films like The Girl in the Cafe. His only previous theatrical offering, The Tichborne Claimant, was notable for its cast but not for its plot or execution. It would be very simple to assume that Yates simply has an episodic mindset, and is, through his training and sensibility, less capable of long-form, cinematic storytelling than Mike Newell or Alfonso Cuarón.

Whatever truth may be in these statements, however, they are not by any means the whole truth. An equally bigger problem lies in the fact that the series doesn't feel the need to justify each instalment on its own terms anymore. Up until Goblet of Fire, the future of the series felt up in the air just enough to keep everyone on their toes: Newell's film and Prisoner of Azkaban went the extra mile to prove that they were necessary additions to the canos. By the time Order of the Phoenix came to be made, the Harry Potter fandom had developed to such an extent that there was no longer any need for such healthy self-doubt. While the films don't treat the viewers' intelligence with outright contempt, there is still an underlying unwillingness to bring new people on board, even at such a late stage.

There are a lot of things about Order of the Phoenix which are appealing, and any one of them could have the capstone for a film in its own right. There is the tyrannical rule of Delores Umbridge, who descends onto Hogwarts like a terrifying cross between Margaret Thatcher, Mary Whitehouse and Michael Gove. There is the Order of the title, with more details coming forward about Sirius Black and the Malfoys. And there is the overriding conspiracy of denial surrounding Voldemort's return, following the events of the last film.

Order of the Phoenix is significant within the series for being the only film not to be scripted by Steve Kloves. Michael Goldenberg, who wrote Contact and the live-action version of Peter Pan, was brought in to replace Kloves after the latter claimed to be physically and mentally exhausted. Kloves' scripts may never have been perfect, falling into several predictable rhythms, but it's probable that he could have marshalled these different and divergent threads into something more coherently satisfying.

For most of its running time, Order of the Phoenix concerns itself with the first plotline, focussing on Umbridge taking over Hogwarts and inflicting her pink plague upon the students. Imelda Staunton does a really great job getting across all Umbridge's quirks, showing all that latent rage and frustration burning away under the forced smile of quiet, English passive aggression. Her characterisation of Umbridge as a spineless, narrow-minded, pencil-pushing moral crusader is a breath of fresh air compared to the other teachers of Defence Against the Dark Arts, who have by and large been pale, skulking and slippery types, whose physicalisation so often shows their hand too early.

Just as Goblet of Fire did a good job of creating tension through infighting between Harry and his friends, so this film manages to unsettle our feelings of safety by removing all aspects of Hogwarts we have learnt to take for granted. In the previous films, there was always a sense that no matter how bad things got, two things were certain: Dumbledore would be around to help, and Harry wouldsave the day. In Order of the Phoenix both are called into question early on, leaving us uncertain and ever mindful of the gathering evil of Voldemort.

By referring back to the denial of Voldemort by those in authority, Yates introduces a theme of the corruption of the wizarding authority, upon which he expands in the later films. Much like the Time Lords in classic Doctor Who, the Ministry of Magic started out as a seemingly benign and benevolent organisation, but is increasingly portrayed as hubristic, all-controlling and, in the Ministry's case, driven as much by fear as Voldemort ultimately is. Umbridge's reign is the first hint we get of the Nineteen Eighty-Four-inflected view of the wizarding world, removing another crumb of comfort from the audience for our own good.

Further effort is also made to weaken Harry as a reliable protagonist, in this case by his battles with Snape as the latter tries to train his mind against the Dark Lord's influence. Daniel Radcliffe's performance in these scenes demonstrates how far he has matured over the course of the series: he may be playing an easily-angered adolescent, but it's a controlled performance and he responds to Alan Rickman quite superbly. Rickman, naturally, gives as good as he gets, but his best is reserved for his brief, taciturn exchanges with Umbridge.

All of this sounds promising - but there's a problem. Because the book is so big, Yates is never able to develop any of these strands to an entirely satisfying degree, and as a result the whole thing begins to feel inconsequential. Even with all the cuts that he and Goldenberg made before filming had even started, the film still feels like a half-told collection of bits which can't entirely stand on their own. Supporting characters feel increasingly like stations we pass through on a long train journey, and by this point the feeling is not one of intrigue at where we are, but growing frustration at how long it is taking us to get us to our destination.

It may seem churlish to keep comparing Harry Potter to The Lord of the Rings, but here as elsewhere it is a meaningful comparison. Much of the (unwarranted) criticism of The Two Towers focussed on the idea that the film couldn't be taken on its own, with critics (wrongly) claiming that it didn't have a meaningful beginning and end. Order of the Phoenix suffers from the same problem; if you had never seen the first four films, too little of it would make sense for you to enjoy it as a stand-alone. And because so little effort is made to let the casual viewer in, the majority of what happens just washes over you in an unmemorable way.

There are other big problems with Order of the Phoenix outside of its structural integrity. There are internal issues too, relating to the storytelling, the pacing and the integration of the action. Despite being the shortest film in the series, at 138 minutes, the film still feels drawn out in places, with Yates taking a long time to cover aspects which could just as adequately be explained in half the time. The Order itself feels underdeveloped as a concept, with Yates giving more time to more visually memorable but relatively frivolous concepts, such as the Room of Requirement - which is, for the record, both unoriginal (the TARDIS) and lazy to the point of utter desperation.

The big issue with both the drama and the set-pieces is one of emphasis. While he has some credentials in drama, Yates does not do set-pieces very well, the result being that all the fights which should feel weighty instead feel distracted and unfocussed. The final battle between the Order and the Death-Eaters feels empty and perfunctory, with Yates' camera chasing after the action rather than shaping it. The result is that Sirius Black's death carries no meaning at all, which is a huge shame given Gary Oldman's hard work to make him compelling in Prisoner of Azkaban. The same goes for Voldemort's duel with Dumbledore in the Ministry of Magic: we get a three-minute parade of unremarkable special effects, and then it's back to normal as if nothing ever happened.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a middling instalment in the franchise which contains potential but lacks focus in its execution. Its interesting ideas and the moments in which it does come together ultimately redeem it, as least as a passing diversion, but it is the least essential Harry Potter film since Chamber of Secrets. In the end, it's a mild disappointment, being not being bad enough to put you off, but leaving you with some serious concerns going forward.
Super Reviewer
April 13, 2013
OMG. Get a haircut. Not the worst (I'm thinking No. 6), but also not the best despite it's shiny presentation. Character development starts in this film -- at least for the kids -- so it's a "must" for the series lovers.
cosmo313
Super Reviewer
½ October 26, 2008
This adaptation of Harry Potter's 5th year at Hogwarts marked the start of David Yates's tenure as director for this series, and it's a position he'd have for the rest of this epic story's duration. It's also the second shortest film in the series, which is a troubling thing considering it is based on the longest of the books.

Things are starting to get real, and really series for Harry following the events of the previous outing. The wizarding world is in a curious state about the return of Voldemort, with a lot of people torn about whether it's really going on or not.

As a result, Harry finds himself in a difficult spot as he struggles to deal with these problems, as well as the trials and tribulations of being a teenager. As the bureaucratic powers that be begin to crackdown on growing suspicions about the return of Voldemort, Harry and his loyal friends start taking matters into their own hands, knowing that it's pretty much the only way to get anything accomplished, despite all the risks involved.

This is a bit of a tough one for the series. As I said, this film is the second shortest, and it's based on the longest book. Unfortunately that means that the film is an extremely streamlined adaptation, with few of the subplots, and a fair amount of condensing of the main story. It also continues the tradition of having a darker tone, though there are still some lighter moments and fun things, though not a nice blend of menace and whimsy like previous entries accomplished.

The core cast return and continue to get better and better. New additions like Helena Bonham Carter and Imelda Staunton are fantastic additions, and make for some gloriously scene stealing villains that are an absolute joy to watch. The music, though not done by Williams, is decent, though I wish they could have stuck more with the type of scores from other films.

The cinematography however, is something I really don't have any complaints with. It's moody, atmospheric, and gets the job done nicely. I think that Yates is a bit wobbly here at times, but can't get too mad as this was his first crack at the series.

All in all, this is a decent movie, but it could and should have been far better. Honestly, as much as I enjoyed the book, I'm not sue it needed to be as long as it was. That being said though, I can understand why this film had to get some things, though I wished they could have done a better job at selecting what to keep and what to toss.

I should probably hate on this film a little more, but I find that a little hard to do. I mean yeah, it's flawed, but it's also part of an already ambitious series, and it does get a fair amount of stuff right, so I'll let it slide with the slightest possible 3.5/5 possible.
Nikhil N.
Super Reviewer
May 23, 2011
The book was long, dragged on, and certainly a let down compared to the fourth. This movie on the other hand holds its own as one of the most entertaining of the bunch. Its quick, dark, and fun to watch. Good movie, great series. The actors are maturing and so are their performances. Harry Potter is still a thrill ride.
TomBowler
Super Reviewer
July 31, 2009
Equal parts funny and dark, this is one of the best of the series, especially with the inclusion of the hateful Dolores Umbridge. Full review later.
Super Reviewer
June 9, 2007
For me, this is where the series took the jump forward into territory rarely seen in the fantasy genre. All the previous entries were good, but this one is just plain fantastic. The fact that they made quite possibly my least favorite book in the series action packed and entertaining from start to finish with an excellent pace is what makes this the best one in the series so far for me. The book was sluggish, slow, and at times boring. I didn't think that in the slightest when watching this movie. David Yates direction was a perfect mix of the popcorn thrills of Newell and the sophistication of Cuaron. This is also where I think the acting by the main three really gets good. Daniel Radcliffe in particular impresses in this installment. The series story really kicks into gear in this one to get us started for the inevitable conclusion. It's always a toss up for me between this and the Deathly Hallows Part I as my favorite in the series.
Super Reviewer
August 11, 2012
The fifth installment presents more action and face-paced performances from its now-matured cast. 'Phoenix' is dazzling with its plot as well as visualization. 4/5
Super Reviewer
½ May 28, 2012
The film cuts too much from the book. The result is a rushed, disappointing, and uninspired work.
Super Reviewer
May 29, 2007
So far, I think this is my favorite movie of the bunch. I love how mundane and utterly infuriating the main villain is (Dolores Umbridge), and I think it speaks volumes to the larger culture of Hogwarts' (the one you don't much get to see) that the other students flock to him for leadership. There are some moments that I might have thought too scary for a kids' movie, and the shot of the girl getting cursed accidentally by a necklace seems ripped right out of The Ring. But yes, the story is wonderfully engaging, and it's a treat to see how the characters grow up and grow together. This whole series is remarkable, and this is just one great film among eight.
Super Reviewer
½ September 20, 2011
Probably the worst of the series (well, of the later movies), but it's still Harry Potter. Tough to follow the 4th act, this episode never had a chance to be more than a set up movie. Can't wait to have the entire series stored somewhere in the cloud with apps that allow me to stream it to any device that I have... If only there was something that would let me do that...
FilmFanatik
Super Reviewer
½ July 16, 2007
I originally believed this to be the best of the series, but I have to take that back. I still believe that The Prisoner of Azkaban has the finest narrative of all of the films in the series. Don't get me wrong, though. The later films aren't by any means bad. The Order of the Phoenix, for example, is one of the most gut-wrenching and intense films of the series. The only thing that brings it down a bit is the narrative, which is a bit uneven in the overall scheme of things, but not quite as much the films before it. You can tell that the filmmakers, namely David Yates, are ironing out exactly how to tell these tales. This one has a lot of emotion going on in it, probably more than the ones before it... but that's nothing compared to what's to come.
blkbomb
Super Reviewer
½ February 9, 2011
Hagrid: It's changing out there. Just like last time. There's a storm coming, Harry. And we all best be ready when she does.

"Evil Must Be Confronted"

Order of the Phoenix is my least liked Harry Potter movie. With that said, I still really like it. We see the addition of Bellatix Lestrange who is played really well throughout the rest of the films by Helena Bonham Carter. She is an evil follower of Voldermort and doesn't waste much time before she kills.

Another new face in this one is Umbridge. Easily the easiest person for me to hate in the series. Umbridge is what we in the muggle world call a bitch(Well, I guess Mrs. Weasley will say it too). Umbrich is the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and she is doing the ministries business. She lays down a bunch of ridiculous rules and takes magic completely out of the classroom. Her and Fudge refuse to admit that the Dark Lord is back and instead blame everything that is happening on Sirius Black.

The cool thing about the book and movie is that Harry has to take command and start training students to defend themselves, since Umbridge isn't. They call themselves Dumbledore's Army and practice as much as is possible under heavy watch and scrutiny from Umbridge.

This is the first attempt by David Yates who would go onto helm the rest of the movies. Although this movie isn't as good as it should be, Yates only improves from here on out. I like that one director made the last four movies. It gives some stability to the movies and their tones.
Super Reviewer
½ July 11, 2007
With each outing, the cast of Harry Potter grows more and more interesting. Three memorable characters and performances enter the picture: Evanna Lynch as 'Luna Lovegood', Imelda Staunton as 'Dolores Umbridge' and Helena Bonham Carter as 'Bellatrix Lestrange'. Staunton is the best of the three, playing the ultimate bitch with gusto. Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix is the first Potter movie directed by David Yates, who would remain at the helm of the saga for the remaining three films, bringing his unique, dark vision; a vision that would define the Harry Potter aesthetic for all time. Exciting stuff. Prisoner of Azkaban remains my favorite because it's closer to my heart, but Phoenix is certainly the one with the strongest writing and the most brilliant acting.
Super Reviewer
July 18, 2007
Director David Yates and his screenwriter, Michael Goldenberg have trimmed all the fat from the novel, and the resulting film adaptation of Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix is a brisk, lean, and involving 139 minutes. This is the shortest film to date in the franchise, and it is better than the meandering book it is based on.
Things are worse than ever at Hogwarts. A new teacher, sent from the Ministry of Magic, has turned the school into a dictatorship. This teacher, Mrs. Umbridge, played with a cruel yet accurate honesty by Imelda Staunton, seems to be trying to control the children, taking away their ability to practice real magic, probably so that Voldemort can turn them into his slaves much easier. This influences Harry, Hermione, and Ron to create Dumbledore's Army, a rebellion of Hogwart's finest students.
Much of the film's attention is aimed at the Ministry of Magic who, like any government, is filled with corruption. The minister is filled with fear, and many of its greatest supporters are soon revealed to be Death Eaters - those loyal to Voldemort and his return to power. There seems to be a hint of satire here, as the film takes many humorous jabs at this governing body, from the nonsensical court system to the wall filled with new decrees as to how order is maintained at Hogwarts. It's as if this government doesn't know its head from its ass, even in the face of obvious reason.
Meanwhile, Harry is becoming more of a teenager. He's angry, feels completely alone, and hates how no one thinks he is capable to stand on his own. Sounds like me when I was a teenager. I think if I were to study this film as a metaphor, I would say this installment is most reflective of teenage angst. Although Harry has good reason.
Complete with an all star cast that now introduces Helena Bonham Carter as the delightfully evil Bellatrix Lestrange, the fifth film in the series is a solid effort that manages to bridge the gap between the fourth and sixth films. Things are beginning to unravel at an alarming rate, and a war seems imminent. Hold on tight as this tale is about to take some great twists.
Super Reviewer
January 22, 2011
I will not tell lies: which is why I can proudly say that I enjoyed this installment, which is a fine followup to Goblet, and a great Potter film itself. I didn't mind the lack of action, or the silly romantic side-plot, I just loved Harry and Pals vs Umbridge. Radcliffe really shows his talent in this, and we finally get to see a (slightly) matured Neville. The ending with the Death Eaters was very solid and well done from a visual standpoint. Ultimately, this is a great Potter film. Highly recommended.
Super Reviewer
July 16, 2011
Finally, the battle against Voldemort begins here with OotP. There were several issues etching away at me, the whole prophecy thing could have had more foreshadowing, the way Black's death was portrayed could have been a little less sudden and in the end the whole ordeal just feels like a segue for events yet to come.

But hey, it's a fairly tolerable first act and the emotions/relationships are handled much better than GoF. I do think the whole political and propaganda angle surrounding Voldemort's return could have fleshed out more, or at least had more serious effects than the perky conservative antics of the "new" head mistress.
Super Reviewer
January 12, 2010
This may have been a small speed-bump in the Potter franchise, as I would call this the least compelling of the series; However this movie still gives us everything we want, but it does it much more sloppily than the first 4 films did. I still love this film, but it's sad to say that if the franchise takes a turn in this direction, the films may just get worse! Still, the Order of the Phoenix soars with imagination just like all the Potter films do which is why I still have my love for it. The acting is still top notch and the characters are still to be cared for. I will always enjoy these films and this one as well. It seems to jump from plot point to plot point very quickly, but in the end, the drama is all there and you couldn't ask for a better ending, leaving you on the edge of your seat of which will be one of the biggest devastations in film history. And so the tragedies begin.
Super Reviewer
July 10, 2011
I will be honest and up front when I say this: Out of all the Potter books, this one is my third favorite. Now, you might ask why when this is, from what I can see, the fan favorite? Well, the answer is that while it is the longest, most complex, and has the birth of the pure darkness that the others are filled with, this story was stripped of the hidden glee that made the other four and the others enjoyable. We no longer see Harry having fun, and I think that, in tern, effects us. Well, with this being the third favorite novel, I am afraid that this is my least favorite of the films. Now, I know that this is the longest of the series and as such, it is beyond impossible to make a completely faithful adaption. But, I will be honest: making it into the shortest film is not that much of a good idea. But more on that later. First, let's talk about the man who controls the rest of the series: David Yates. For this being his first Potter film, I will admit that I expected more out of him. Even more when I saw Alfonso Cuaron handle Prisoner Of Azkaban (which is my number one novel and film in this series). So, I am guessing that my hopes were a little too high, but what do you expect when we have had so many good films already in this series? The one thing that makes me not hate Yates completely is the fact that he would end up directing my second (and possibly third) favorite films in the series. Now for the acting. Well, I will be honest: in acting, there is one ultimate sin and that sin is having your fame shoved into your head so much that you start slacking with your performance. I am sad that the main kids in this film do not, at all, give good performances. I mean, they are okay and all, but it seemed like that they figured that they were already in a multi-billion dollar franchise and, regardless, they were going to get huge paychecks nonetheless. Disappointing. For the script, I think it is say that I am even more disappointed with how this film was written. Michael Goldenberg, do me a favor: do not write any more adaptations. This was suppose to be, in terms of writing, the best of the series. You screwed it up for me. SHAME ON YOU! For the score, still nothing worthwhile to mention. Overall, out of all the Potter films, this was the worst. Only watch if you are a fan of the series or just want to see a mediocre adaption.
DreamExtractor
Super Reviewer
February 26, 2011
Harry Potter is my life, I grew up with it all my life, and this was a good addition. harry is beginning his fifth year, and he is already in trouble. Harry is joined into the Order of the Pheonix, a society who took down Voldemort last time, and now that hes returned were in bigger trouble than ever. Tge Daily Prophet is accusing Harry of lying and that Voldemort hasn't returned, this causes much stir between Harry and his old friends. Harry must also deal with Dolores Umbridge, a evil woman from the ministry sent to watch Harrys every move, and to watch Dumbledore so she can take over school. This is going to be Harrys hardest year yet. This one had the worst acting in the series, but the performance of Imelda Staunton, who deserved more recognition. But it had good effects, and music. Plus theres a lot more action. I think it was a great addition and I love it
Super Reviewer
June 27, 2011
Order of the Phoenix is the longest book (not including Deathly Hallows) and is the shortest movie, but that does not stop from making this the most visually spectacular and dark Harry Potter yet. Imelda Staunton and Helena Bonham Carter deserve special mention for their performances as Dolores Umbridge and Bellatrix Lestrange respectively. The only problems in this one are that there is virtually no character development, and the events happen so disjunctly that it doesn't flow properly or have the emotional effect that it should.
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