Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Might be better than the book. Yup, I went there.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix picks up with 15-year-old HP returning for his fifth year at Hogwarts and – surprise, surprise – shit is still a total hassle for the kid. First he gets court-martialed for saving his hideous cousin’s life from a Dementor (you’re a better man than I, Harry), then he heads off to school after being cleared of the charges and finds that the Ministry of Magic has taken the biggest bitch in all of England and put her in charge as the worst Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher/Dean of Discipline in the history of Hogwarts. Why all the hubbub? I’ll tell you why, fool! Because The Big V is back in action and the Ministry of Magic refuses to buy into it, so they target Dumbledore and HP for spreading lies, and as a result, Harry starts building up an army of his own so he’s doesn’t end up with a Death Eater’s wand in is hooha.
And Draco’s still a piece of shit.
So I was kinda let down by The Goblet of Fire. Not gonna be a broken record about it, but I was somewhat skeptical that this franchise could return to the glory days of Azkaban after all was said and done. But in comes director David Yates and it’s instantly apparent to me why they’ve kept him on board ever since. Yeah, Cedric getting offed was pretty serious stuff, but that dark, ominous tone that should have been better established when the Dark Lord made his big comeback at the end of the Triwizard Tournament is now here in full effect from beginning to end.
The thing Yates does well is that he doesn’t bother so much with the magical aspect of things, but instead stays focused on his characters and what they’re going through while maintaining this uber slick style that would probably work wonders in a BMW commercial. And that’s great, it really adds to the increasingly mature tone of the storyline, and when he does finally start to focus on the magic during a flat-out epic duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort, it skyrockets to a plateau of badassery that the previous four movies don’t even come close to matching. Among other things, I thought Goblet of Fire definitely took a step back in this regard, so it’s that much more awesome to see Harry and his pals growing up at the forefront of things.
And better yet, hardly anything got left out. Huzzah! The novel is still a bit too lengthy to religiously adapt into a two-hour-and-15-minute span, but the only minor complaints I’ve got is that there isn’t a whole lot of focus on The Order of the Phoenix itself, nor is there a whole lot of back story on Sirius, HP’s dad and the rest of the Marauders during their time at Hogwarts. But whatever, their past with Snape is properly addressed, I don’t think anyone lost sleep over Kreacher taking a backseat to things, and while I wish The Veil had actually been explained before Sirius gets up close and personal with it, it doesn’t take away from the impact of the moment whatsoever.
So way to go screenwriter Michael Goldenberg. You da’ man!
But back to the whole “better than the book” remark. In my humble opinion, this was the weakest of Rowling’s efforts. It’s phenomenal during the last 200 pages or so, but everything up to that point pretty much boiled down to Harry bitching and moaning about how Dumbledore doesn’t want to be his friend anymore, how Dumbledore didn’t make him a prefect, how people won’t believe him about Voldemort and how it’s just so damn hard to be Harry-fucking-Potter. Good God was that annoying. Hope I wasn’t like that at 15.
Anyway, during the few times that Harry does start pushing people away because they just don’t understand the struggle of being The Boy Who Lived, he turns around and takes the high road right quick in the movie by opting to smooth things over with Ron and Hermy instead of moping around all day like a bastard. His furious rage towards getting the cold shoulder from Dumbledore feels justified rather than overdramatic, all that prefect noise has been written out entirely and there’s still no sign of S.P.E.W.
And the characters are still pretty solid. Hat’s off to Imelda Staunton as Hogwarts’ new batshit crazy cat lady, Professor Umbridge, and the way she somehow manages to bringing Rowling’s most infuriatingly unreasonable creation to life (and Rowling’s got a lot of ’em up her sleeve) without making me want to snap the damn DVD in half. But other than that, Grint is getting better by the year, Watson‘s still good, and Radcliffe apparently had a serious sit-down with the last four movies and has done a swell job of not getting over-emotional for once. Kid is much easier to watch this time around, so well done, old chap. Still miss Richard Harris even though Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore is growing on me, and I am all about the quality one-on-one time we get with Gary Oldman as good ol’ Sirius Black. Doesn’t yell as much as he used to, but that’s fine because he’s still an awesome godfather, he clean up damn well and this is pretty much his movie anyway. Can’t ever go wrong with Oldman.
Wasn’t a big fan of Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange though. Too much of the batshit crazy cat lady factor going on. Still not sure how I feel about Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood though. Will report back in the next HP review.
Man, there’s a freakin’ ton of characters in this franchise, huh?
Anywho, I laughed, I cheered, I was kinda floored by the visuals during the final Act, and it’s just glorious to watch an HP movie again and be able to say “That was great” as the end credits started to roll. Just so many fantastic scenes whether it’s HP building up Dumbledore’s Army and everyone casting their patroni for the first time, or Alan Rickman flipping out with the utmost subtlety during Snape‘s occlumency lessons. Even the Dursley’s are more fun to be around, which is a huge accomplishment in itself. The Order of the Phoenix is the last movie of the series that I’ve actually seen before, and as if this giddy-as-sin review hasn’t been evidence enough, I’m pretty effing pumped for The Half-Blood Prince.
Keep it up, Yates. Makin’ the wizard community might proud.