Harry Potter returns in ‘The Order of the Phoenix’
In “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” Harry returns in his fifth movie and fifth year at Hogwarts. The Harry Potter from the book doesn’t age as much as our Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) seems to be on the big screen.
As with the last outing (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”), we find Harry and his friends in very dark territory. Harry’s visions regarding the return of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) fall on deaf ears in the wizard community, and we find him on trial for fighting off a pair of “Dementors” in front of a non-wizard type.
In fact, many of the teachers seem intent on doubting anything Harry has to say, except his biggest ally, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. But even his credibility is being undermined by the presence of a new teacher, Professor Dolores Umbridge (played to perfection by British actress Imelda Staunton). She is rigid, smug, has a cat-like squeal about her and you hate her immediately. So do most Hogwarts students, who are punished routinely because of their feelings and are constantly being bombarded with new rules almost daily.
Her class, Defense Against the Dark Arts, does anything but defend the students, who decide on a course of action all their own — but will the new teacher find out about their behind-the-scenes attitude? Without a doubt, Umbridge is one of the film’s highlights as a new villainess for Harry, and practically steals every scene she is in. Another fine villainess is Helena Bonham Carter as the evil Bellatrix Lestrange. Oh, would I have enjoyed seeing just a little more of her; she was very evil and saucy.
Director David Yates follows the spirit of the franchise series, and viewers will appreciate the special effects and care taken to bring author J.K. Rowling’s words to life once again. As with any book-to-movie project, there are plenty of pages left behind. In the book, Harry is more romantic with one of his fellow students, but those expecting to find a similar story on screen will likely be disappointed. Harry does have his first on-screen kiss, though, with Cho Chang (Katie Leung), much to chagrin of good friend Hermione (Emma Watson).
My only disappointment with the latest movie is the lack of screen time from our old friends who have been in every movie to date. Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) didn’t appear until way into what felt like the second half, and Emma Thompson was probably on screen for a total of three minutes, tops. The always-brilliant Alan Rickman could have used more screen time as well. Still, just seeing Harry with his close friends (including Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley), and how they have relied on each other in every episode, is all that really counts.
It’s been a fun and fascinating journey, watching Harry Potter from his first day at Hogwarts, and how he has grown from a student with plenty of questions to a student who questioned those put in charge of educating him and the other young wizards. Harry’s anger is still prevalent and stems from the death of his parents. We’re reminded of this again in a series of flashbacks, and also by Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), Harry’s godfather and only family. Things only become darker, as witnessed toward the end of “Phoenix.” The action scenes were powerful and you can’t wait until the next installment, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” which is scheduled for a 2008 release.
Taken as a whole, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004 and directed by Alfonso Cuarón) would rank as the best in the franchise, with “Phoenix” up there in second place, but we still have two more to go, so that may change. One thing is for sure: By the time “Deathly Hallows” makes it to the big screen (right now scheduled for a 2010 release), Daniel Radcliffe will be a very “mature” Harry at age 21, and it could possibly be the most anticipated conclusion to a movie franchise in the history of the genre.
— Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including the Sirius Radio Network every Sunday evening. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8.
Keepin’ it reel:
Now Playing: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman, Helena Bonham Carter, Imelda Staunton, Evanna Lynch, George Harris, Natalia Tena, Kathryn Hunter, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Jason Isaacs, Katie Leung, Matthew Lewis, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, Peter Cartwright, Bridgette Millar, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon, Sian Thomas and Emma Thompson
Directed by: David Yates
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images
Running time: 138 minutes
Howie gives it: 4.5 out of 5 bagels