Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix is the darkest entry of the Potter series so far, and it’s also the least. I wonder if it’s because the charm of Harry’s younger days has been replaced by Dementors, paranoid government officials, danger at every corner, the gradual takeover of Hogwarts by a wonderfully sinister new teacher, and of course Voldemort. Every year Harry grows, and with him grows the seriousness of his world. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but The Order Of The Phoenix, I feel, doesn’t seem to click with the story that’s been carefully nurtured over the past 6 years or so. Much of what happens in it is an excuse for masterful CGI work and plenty of wizard warfare.
The plot doesn’t make sense to me, and there’s a MacGuffin that the characters build up as an artifact of dreadful power. It later turns out to be a prophecy of some sort that’s kept hidden in a small glass ball, which itself is stored in a vast chamber filled with shelves of other glass balls. Now imagine the scene in the Egyptian library from The Mummy and replace the bookshelves with these shelves. Yup. Everything gets smashed.
Voldemort is after this prophecy, and Harry, who looks a bit like a pale frog, learns of this through terrible premonitions in his sleep that involve the torture of many of his close friends. But when the prophecy is destroyed (I won’t tell you how or why), no one seems to care. It’s as if even the bad guys know that it’s just the MacGuffin.
The bad guys are out in full force this time, and they’ve put everyone in Hogwarts on the alert, including Dumbledore. I’ve never much cared for Michael Gambon’s portrayal of the headmaster. He lacks the charisma and the presence of Richard Harris. He is cold towards Harry, and much more brooding, spending hours upon hours lurking in his office and sifting through memories and dreams in his nifty little bowl of water called the Pensieve. I’ve always felt I could run to Harris’ Dumbledore and give him a big hug. But with Gambon, the very thought of hugging him is the stuff nightmares are made of. There is no warmth in the man. His only advantage over Harris is that he seems well equipped to handle this heavy darkness that weighs down on the recent Potter movies. I fear Harris would’ve been too caught up with the House Cup to know how to battle evil witches and wizards.
And like I said, the evil ones are out in full force. Voldemort’s army is slowly assembling, and at the head, at least in this movie, is Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), a psychotic prisoner of Azkaban freed by the graces of god knows who. She’s a scary one. But there is one other is who is perhaps twice as scary, because she’s twice as chirpy: Dolores Umbridge, played immaculately by Imelda Staunton. She is sent to Hogwarts by the Ministry of Magic to whip everyone into line — “Things at Hogwarts are far worse than I feared!”. Her role is to squash what she and the Ministry believe to be the formation of Dumbledore’s army. She enforces countless rules and sits in on classes, jotting down notes and occasionally giving smug chuckles of reprehension. As far as I’m concerned, she makes a better villain than Voldemort. There is more to her character. Voldemort is evil, yes, but that’s all he his. And he looks evil. The failure of his character is that he behaves the way his appearance tells him to behave. There is no three-dimensionality to him. Umbridge on the other hand is exceptionally scary because she does not wish to be so. Her smiles and politeness hide terrible thoughts, and that’s more horrifying than any Avada Kedavra curse.
Ah, I have not touched on the Order of the Phoenix. It is, as far as I know, a secret organisation created by Dumbledore to counter Voldemort’s first round of evil-doing. Now it is made up mostly of members of the Weasley family, a couple of Harry’s dad’s old school friends, and Sirius Black (Gary Oldman). This part of the movie I liked. I enjoyed the clandestine conferences and the unity of good against the forces of bad. Everything is bubbling up to a boil, and our poor friend Harry is caught in the middle with no clue as to what’s going on. Now that he’s had his first kiss and imparted what little knowledge he has to his schoolmates, is he grown up enough to defeat Mr. Voldemort? Because we’re certainly waiting for him to.
Best Moment | The showdown between the Death Eaters and the good guys, and final battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort. There is a sense of grandeur watching two wizarding giants face off against each other.
Worst Moment | You know… it’s still Daniel Radcliffe.