While many movie franchises slide as they reach their later instalments, the Harry Potter
films just keep getting better. The latest, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
is easily the darkest of the series to date, and its also one of the best. For while it could easily have been little more than a holding film to set up the big encounters to come in the last two instalments of the series, its to the credit of British director David Yates that the end result is really very good.
It finds Harry coming under suspicion from his wizarding colleagues, who dont believe his claims that the evil Lord Voldermort has returned. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix thus finds its title character on the backfoot for much of its running time, with a select band who firmly believe his story, and very powerful figures who dont.
Where the movie of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix excels though is in its three trump cards. Number one is a far tighter script than were used to with Potter films, which, combined with trump card number two--the aforementioned David Yates behind the camera--cuts much of the slavish loyalty to the text away in favour of a film with real momentum. The third, and best, card though is the casting of Imelda Staunton as Professor Dolores Umbridge, who simply flies away with every scene shes in. Its a superb performance, and the film is poorer whenever shes not on screen.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not a film without a few problems, certainly: its a fair criticism that not too much actually happens, and one or two bits feel superfluous. But it overrides its problems with ease, to emerge as a compelling, highly enjoyable family film, which will leave you salivating for the Christmas 2008 release of movie number six in the series. --Simon Brew
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returns for his fifth year of study at Hogwarts and discovers that much of the wizarding community has been denied the truth about his recent encounter with the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, in an inspired bit of casting). Fearing that Hogwarts' venerable Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), is lying about Voldemort's return in order to undermine his power and take his job, the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, appoints a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher to keep watch over Dumbledore and the Hogwarts students. But Professor Dolores Umbridge's Ministry-approved course of defensive magic leaves the young wizards woefully unprepared to defend themselves against the dark forces threatening them and the entire wizarding community, so at the prompting of his friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), Harry takes matters into his own hands. Meeting secretly with a small group of students who name themselves "Dumbledore's Army," Harry teaches them how to defend themselves against the Dark Arts, preparing the courageous young wizards for the extraordinary battle that lies ahead...