Brandon has never read a single Harry Potter book or seen any of the films. Believe it. But what sort of pop culture fan would he be if he didn’t immerse himself in the films that so many love? Join him as he gets his owl, heads to Hogwarts and sees what all the fuss is about. Here, Brandon looks at the 2007 film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Previously: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Plot (via iMDB)
With their warning about Lord Voldemort’s return scoffed at, Harry and Dumbledore are targeted by the Wizard authorities as an authoritarian bureaucrat slowly seizes power at Hogwarts.
Harry Potter’s Hard Times
Growing up is hard. It’s hard enough for a normal teenager. You have acne, mood swings, nagging parents and teachers. Now imagine those pressures combined with the fact that an evil sorcerer is hell-bent on infiltrating your mind then promptly taking over the world. Sure makes a few zits seem minuscule by comparison, huh?
This is where we find our young hero at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The poor lad has got a lot on his shoulders, and it’s starting to show. He’s upset, he’s at wit’s end, and he’s starting to lose it. Oh yes, things are truly becoming difficult in the fifth HP film. For a Potter newbie like me, this movie was full of the juicy, dark, magical drama I was waiting for. The stakes were raised, and I loved it…even if I was more than a bit confused at times.
From the first scene, David Yates’s take on the franchise is distinct and fresh. He has an eye that feels very grounded in reality while still magical. It’s a great mix, especially since the mood of the series is getting decidedly darker.
A new school year is starting, but before Harry can board the Hogwarts Express, he has to save his cruel cousin Dudley. Dudley, who has really grown up (it’s not a great look, Duds) is nearly killed by a Dementor. That’s right, a Dementor in the Muggle world. What on Earth is going on?
The Mischievous Ministry of Magic
That’s a question that is repeated often in Order of the Phoenix: what the heck is happening? Dementors causing havoc outside of Azkaban, the Ministry of Magic attempting to take over Hogwarts, Harry feeling neglected by Dumbledore. There are lots of important questions being asked. Lots of questions and lots of problems.
Perhaps the central problem in the film is Dolores Umbridge, a character that would make Annie Wilkes say “I like your style.” Umbridge works for the Ministry of Magic and is tasked with effectively stealing Hogwarts from Dumbledore’s hands. She’s cruel, she’s charismatic, she likes cats. I enjoyed this character from the start. The series has a great track record of introducing newer, better characters with each subsequent film and Umbridge is no exception. She’s a villain, of course, but she’s a gem to watch.
Her addition to the film adds even more layers of darkness. Not only is she literally abusing children but she’s ignoring the oncoming storm that is Voldemort. Because he’s back. He’s back in a big, big way. But the Ministry refuses to admit his return and shoots down anyone who brings it up. Together, Voldemort and Umbridge make Harry’s life incredibly hard.
It’s no surprise then that Harry is feeling awfully bad throughout most of Order of the Phoenix. He has some good moments, like when he kisses Cho and when… no, no that’s it. That’s the only bright spot in Harry’s horrid year. He’s being menaced by Umbridge, he’s being mentally stalked by Voldemort, he loses someone very close to him, and the only thing he has to look forward to is just more and more misery. Daniel Radcliffe does a terrific job with the part despite it being often one-note for most of the movie. He makes it work.
In fact, this is easily the most dramatic and emotional film in the series. The good news is that David Yates understands that and delivers. Every emotion is earned, the drama is believable and engaging. Everything feels very important in the movie. Even minor scenes contain a gravity that was missing in certain parts of earlier films. Everything is coming together, and you can sense characters and storylines and relationships culminating.
Dark Times Ahead for Harry Potter
As I’ve said before, I am so on board with these movies becoming bleak and pitch-black. A murderous villain is coming back to take over the world and kill a slew of young children; that sounds pretty dang gritty to me. So I have been enjoying the turn to darkness that started with Goblet of Fire. Things only get worse in Phoenix, with the pain inflicted by Umbridge and the loss of Sirius Black. Oh yes, Harry’s godfather passes away in a frankly bewildering fashion. Despite being in the dark on why Sirius died, I was still saddened to see him go. At the same time, I was happy to see the stakes get raised even more. J.K. Rowling giveth and taketh away.
While I enjoyed Order of the Phoenix, there were definitely moments that lost me as a non-book reader. I’ve heard from fans of the novels that this movie has a lot of translation issues, things that didn’t work from page to screen. I can see that. It feels like the story would make more sense if I read it. As it is, certain things like Cho’s betrayal of Harry and Sirius’s death feel a bit flat and confusing. Why did Cho turn on Dumbledore’s Army? How exactly did Sirius die? What was the weird, cloudy arch that he fell into? Why did it kill him?
Here’s another thing bothering me: why on Earth is Hogwarts allowing Harry to return to London after the year he’s had? Voldemort is obviously back and out to murder Harry. Why aren’t they sequestering young Harry to a room in Hogwarts and placing guards on watch 24/7? The Dementors at the beginning of the film prove he isn’t safe back home. Come on, wizards, you should be smarter than that! You can’t admit that a war is coming and then release young wizards back into the dangerous world.
Despite those few qualms, Order of the Phoenix continues a trend I love: things are getting dark. It feels like it’s almost midnight in the series and that brings me nothing but delight. Does it make me a bad person that I like seeing Harry and his friends put through so many trials and tribulations? Perhaps. Or maybe I just love good drama.
MVP of the film
This has to go to Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge. Like the best big screen villains, Staunton plays her part with the perfect mix of menace and charm. She’s small, bright and has a cute laugh but she’s straight-up psycho. You can tell that Staunton enjoyed playing the part, and you can’t blame her, David Yates let her really cut loose. She portrays Umbridge with cheerful, unsettling glee – like the devil in a pink dress.
Random questions/comments about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- What on Earth happened to Dudley Dursley? No, I’m not talking about his horrible fashion choices and general awfulness – I’m talking about how fast he grew up. I’m feeling old seeing this little kid become a man.
- I have to wonder if the plot regarding the Ministry of Magic overtaking Hogwarts was influenced by J.K. Rowling’s anger at the political climate of the time. Phoenix was written in the early 2000s and published right as the Iraq War began, a war that many Britons were opposed to. There was a lot of talk of “for us or against us” at the time, and people were told to trust their elected representatives even when they were making choices many disagreed with. Rowling has never been shy about her political views, and you can feel them coming out in Phoenix. There’s a distrust of officials throughout the story and a feeling of pushing back against those in charge when they’re making bad decisions on behalf of the greater good. Maybe I’m looking into it too much, but it seems apparent that Rowling let her opinion known more with this story.
- It was so exciting to see Dumbledore kick butt in the final act of the film. I’ve been waiting a long time to see why people consider him one of the greatest wizards of all time. Now I know. What a tough, cool old wizard. More Dumbledore, please!
- I felt my heart strings tugged hard when Sirius inadvertently called Harry by his father’s name in the midst of battle. That was surprisingly touching.
- I’m not sure what’s going on with Luna Lovegood, but I’m into it. She’s kooky and maybe even dangerous, but she’s definitely more interesting than most of the other students.
- There are times when a name just fits someone perfectly. You have to admit that there is no better name for Hagrid’s brother than Grawp. He is totally a Grawp.
Check out Brandon’s exploration through the previous films in the Harry Potter series here.