Saturday, June 25, 2011

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - A for Acceptable

File:Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix poster.jpg

The release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in 2005 not only proved to be popular, but also proved that the Harry Potter series was still as popular as ever. To further cash in on the ongoing craze, Warner Bros. released a sequel two years later based on the fifth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, directed by David Yates. I was still fairly young when this came out and I remember liking it like I did the other films. Having seen it a few times since, including my recent viewing, I can say that it's still a rather enjoyable movie.

After the events of last year, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is bullied verbally by his cousin Dudley (Harry Melling) and a group of others, but is soon stopped as the wind begins to pick up. Harry and Dudley run into a tunnel, where they are attacked by a couple of Dementors. Harry uses a Patronus charm in self-defense, causing him to be expelled from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. That night, he is picked up by members of the Order of the Phoenix, a secret organization of wizards preparing to fight against Lord Voldemort, wherein he meets up with his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) at their headquarters located within Sirius Black's (Gary Oldman) ancestral home at 12, Grimmauld Place, accessed through a London apartment complex. Though Harry is later cleared of his charges and able to attend Hogwarts again, he must not only deal with the return of Voldemort, but also the takeover of the school by their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), a member of the Ministry of Magic.

The plot was a little easier to follow than the last one, but it still got a little confusing after I thought about it. It's established that Voldemort has a connection to Harry that allows the boy to see visions of what the Dark Lord is doing, but every time it's in the Department of Mysteries, where a prophecy is held concerning Voldemort. When Harry and a group of others go to that same place, they find it in quite literally no time at all. If Voldemort had all of that time to look for it, it seems odd that neither he nor the Death Eaters wouldn't have found it by the time Harry made it there. On top of that, the prophecy turns out to be something established as early as the first installment.

Of course, changes are present between the book and movie versions of the story. One change I found obvious was that after Harry has a vision of Arthur Weasley (Mark Williams) being attacked by a snake in the Department of Mysteries, in the movie it cuts to him having fully recovered after they found him. In the book, at least a bit of one chapter is dedicated to Mr. Weasley recovering in the hospital and what happens with the others while they're there. Other things, such as the regular Quidditch subplot, were either cut or edited for the movie, but at least the spirit is there and the movie still works as a whole despite that.

The acting is remarkable as always, and it's still great to see how well the characters are brought to life on the screen. Luna Lovegood is a rather interesting character in the way she acts, which newcomer Evanna Lynch plays quite well. Imelda Staunton also does a good job of portraying the unlikeable Dolores Umbridge, which serves to make the character's comeuppance in the third act all the more sweeter.

With the two year gap between movies, effects such as those present here have gotten much better. A great example of this is a fantastic scene in the middle of the movie wherein Fred and George Weasley (James and Oliver Phelps) disrupt the O.W.L. (Ordinary Wizarding Level) Exams by use of fireworks, complete with a visually stunning dragon formed from it, after which they fly away from Hogwarts via broomsticks. Another example occurs during the part of the climax within the Department of Mysteries, where the students have a battle with the Death Eaters that ultimately leads to several shelves of prophecies falling and shattering, which makes one not only marvel at how perfectly the scene was executed, but also wonder how they managed to get all of it on film and how much of it was special effects. All in all the effects are stunning to look at no matter the context.

Depending on where you come from, you may find some political undertones when watching this movie. When I saw it last, I made a connection with the standardizing of education, or "teaching to the test." After Umbridge becomes the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, she tries to teach the class magic without practice not only out of fear that Dumbledore is building an army, but also so that her students will do well on the O.W.L. Exam. This is similar to how education has changed, at least where I live, simply so that students will pass Final Exams without making much of an effort to be sure how well they know the material. This again may not apply to you, as this sort of connection (if you naturally see one) can vary depending on your background.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is another good addition to the Harry Potter franchise and is a must-see for long-time fans. The story still continues to gain a darker tone, but there's still plenty of laughs to be found here. It's a little rough around the edges as a movie, but it still manages to work as an adaptation. Newcomers to the franchise should see the previous movies before seeing this one, as it makes some references to the continuity and may contain spoilers.

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