Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Review No. 416

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The Bottom Line: A depletion order in screenwriting.

Directed by: David Yates
Screenplay by: Michael Goldenberg
Based on: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe
Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint
Hermione Granger: Emma Watson
Rubeus Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane
Albus Dumbledore: Michael Gambon
Severus Snape: Alan Rickman
Draco Malfoy: Tom Felton
Minerva McGonagall: Maggie Smith
Sirius Black: Gary Oldman
Lord Voldemort: Ralph Fiennes
Bellatrix Lestrange: Helena Bonham Carter
Dolores Umbridge: Imelda Staunton
Also Starring: Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Fiona Shaw, Jason Isaacs, Julie Walters, Richard Griffiths, Warwick Davis

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures on July 11, 2007. Produced in English by the United Kingdom and the United States. Runs 138 mins. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was watched on February 10, 2013.

“I’m sorry, Professor. I must not tell lies.” –Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the only film in the canon not written for the screen by Steve Kloves. In most cases, this isn’t a bad thing, let alone an obvious one, but considering Kloves had written more than ten, intricate hours of “Potter” material prior to Order of the Phoenix, it’s likely he knows the franchise over half as well as J.K. Rowling herself.

On one hand, I don’t blame Michael Goldenberg, the new and one-time-only screenwriter, for his faults. Order of the Phoenix was the longest book of the series, at 870 printed pages. But it also provided one of the most important storylines. As a result of religious botching and quickening of events (especially during the opening scenes, as in Goblet of Fire), Order of the Phoenix is one of the shortest of the entire series (at two hours, eighteen minutes) and a rather underworked one, as well.

Order of the Phoenix does put on a near-unforgettable show in one specific area: acting. David Yates has taken over for the production of this film, in which Harry is found twice as brooding as he, last time around, was lovesick. I haven’t so much as heard of Yates’s previous films, and I wouldn’t say I necessarily need to. The man stood in the dark of the “Potter” series for four entries, then snapped back around for his first outing to combine previously established caricatures with the dynamic, impactful structure behind them all.

Take Snape (Alan Rickman), for example. Ever since we saw him in Sorcerer’s Stone, he was delightful to watch simply because he was thrown so far over the top. It’s still that way here, but once we get a glimpse of his story, we’re suddenly curious about the once-cheesy character. Even better are two new entries: Helena Bonham Carter as the cousin of Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, is more vile than we’ve ever seen or imagined her; and Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge, the new Hogwarts Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, puts forth enough tyranny that chucks her comfortlessly among the likes of detestable and ignorant.

The story presented in Order of the Phoenix takes a free ride back to the series’ third entry. This is where Harry learned his godfather was a good, kind man, and that his parents—though long dead—are surrounding him more than ever in spirit. The problem with this entry is there isn’t enough emotion—save for the final sequences, which feature a sudden change from exhilaration to heartbreak—channeled to keep its gears oiled. As far as I’m concerned, writer Goldenberg has only written superficial, action-packed adventures (2003’s Peter Pan, 2011’s Green Lantern), and that’s all he’ll ever do. (Granted, the climactic brawls are more exciting than ever before.) You could say Order of the Phoenix is a step up from the rest of his work, but you could also say, where the hell did Steve Kloves go? Sir, we missed you quite a lot.

B MINUS

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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