Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Warner Bros. Pictures, PG-13)

film_harry_smThis fifth installment of the series does not feel like a rushed summary of its namesake; it is fairly well-paced and surprisingly cohesive, thanks to some shuffling around of plot points.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When a book is adapted into a movie, fans will always be disappointed. No film could ever recreate what they see when they read the story, and no screenplay can be completely faithful to the book it is based on. Given this, some adaptations are much more successful than others. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is definitely one of the better ones.

Order of the Phoenix finds Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) struggling through his fifth year at Hogwarts, trying to prepare his fellow students for an inevitable war with the newly risen Lord Voldemort. An even more prevalent obstacle is the meddling ways of the Ministry of Magic, representatives of which will stop at nothing to discredit Harry and his mentor Dumbledore. Even as his friends rally around him, Harry has never felt more alone after witnessing a friend die at the hands of You-Know-Who in his fourth year.

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The film clocks in at 138 minutes, not bad considering the book it's based on is nearly 900 pages long. And unlike the previous film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, this fifth installment of the series does not feel like a rushed summary of its namesake; it is fairly well-paced and surprisingly cohesive, thanks to some shuffling around of plot points. Hardcore Potter fans will no doubt take offense to some of the liberties taken, but without adjustments the movie would have to be several days long.

The film stands clearly out from the previous four movies in that it is by no means just a kid's flick. Director David Yates makes sure of this from the beginning-the opening scenes of monstrous Dementors attacking Harry and his bully of a cousin recall horror movies like 28 Days Later more than what we've seen of the previously child-friendly franchise. In fact, it may be argued that the film is too dark, anxious, and angst-filled for its own good. Moments of levity are sometimes ill timed or even seem inappropriate in contrast with the mostly gloomy film. Sure, Harry and his friends may be entering young adulthood, but many of their fans are still very young. Some of the imagery, especially a scene in which Ron's father is bitten repeatedly by a giant snake is not suitable for very young children.

The real strong point of Order of the Phoenix is the stellar cast, who give really remarkable performances. Audiences may be surprised at the sudden chemistry between Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) as it becomes clear the characters are growing up. With Radcliffe's Harry they make a trio that even serious fans of the book series will love to watch interact. Imelda Staunton is a joy to hate as Hogwarts High Inquisitor Professor Umbrige, and Ray Fiennes is a much scarier Voldemort in this movie than the last. As always, Alan Rickman is pitch perfect as the slimy Professor Snape, and delivers each of his too few lines with a calculated and utterly superior sneer. Helena Bonham Carter and Gary Oldman are both outstanding as warring cousins Bellatrix Lestrange and Sirius Black.

The special effects are overall very well done. In particular, the Ministry of Magic is very impressive. The vast entrance hall is beautiful, and the Hall of Prophecy is breathtaking and eerie. Some of the visuals may leave fans scratching their heads in confusion though—for instance the ability of Death Eaters and members of the Order of the Phoenix to appear as ghostly black and white puffs of smoke while dueling.

 In battle the adult wizards seem super-powered compared the Hogwarts crew, which is a strange choice considering that in the climactic scenes in the book, Harry and his friends are able to hold their own until reinforcements arrive. In some ways this is the biggest departure from the book in the whole movie. While other changes involve a different character moving the plot along or an event happening earlier or later on, this is a change in tone that some audience members will find unnecessary and poorly chosen.

All in all, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ranks high among the Potter films. Some will think it is the best yet, while others may yearn for the innocence of the first few installments. But times are hard in Harry Potter's world, and this film will prepare fans for darker times ahead. | Elizabeth Bolhafner

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