Written by Michael Goldenberg
Directed by David Yates
Consistency oddly both enhances and takes away from the Harry Potter experience. Like the books, the films have a built-in structure that allows for them to not bother with coming up with fresh ways to start and finish each film. A new academic year at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry begins and ends with the film following suit. While this familiar structure doesn’t allow for surprise, it is the adventures the take place between these two bookends that define each film. And despite a new rule of conservative values and repression falling upon Hogwart’s, it is the constantly appreciative and awed faces of Harry, his few friends, his professors and the legions of fans watching that make HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX one of the most solid in the series. Being a part of one of the most successful film and literary phenomenon of all time has not jaded a single player in the least. Doing justice to a lushly imaginative world without making itself into something more serious than it is and managing to have fun while working hard has allowed Harry & co. to find a comfortable, satisfying stride.
Under the new direction of British television director, David Yates, Harry finds himself facing a darkness that is brooding and growing inside of him. In his fifth time out as Mr. Potter, Daniel Radcliffe continues to add new levels to Harry’s personality, becoming increasingly more introverted throughout the series. Here is a boy whose parents were killed and dons a scar that certifies him as the wizard the world has waited for. Dealing with his own demons and the weight of being something of a chosen one is so much for this young man’s shoulders to bare that social interaction and expectation become more difficult. Radcliffe’s Harry is a boy becoming a man. He knows he is destined for great things but he also knows how much there is still to be learned and how far there is still to go. The storm that goes from raging to calm in his mind on a regular basis is so taxing that his instinct is to cut himself off from those that always have his back. It is noble to wish to spare those he cares for from his pain but it is also telling of his fear to be close to people who might one day also be taken away from him.
Detachment and repression are common themes in THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. While Harry imposes rules upon himself, new addition to the Potter cast, Delores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) ushers Hogwart’s into conservative times, placing value on paranoia and control. With this comes the greatest challenge for Yates. How do you make a movie about magic where the characters are forbidden from performing any? Yates overcomes this by driving the magic underground and pitting the students against enemies both frivolous and frightful. Staunton’s tart persona has plenty of pucker, making her the teacher every kid wants to exact sweet revenge upon. Despite her stern hand, she is merely an irritating distraction when compared with the looming return of Lord Voldemort. The denial steeped around his return and the subsequent nondisclosure to the public make THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX an atypically topical Potter film. The implications made when the ruling powers manipulate the press and silence those who oppose them are unexpected and yet never take away from the plight of Harry and friends. Suffice it to say that come the end of this film, their growth as people will ensure they are no longer treated like simple children. What is most striking about their maturity is they don’t even know it’s happening.
With so much emotion being forced inside, it is exhilarating and liberating by the time the climax comes and all is finally unleashed. It’s an awful lot like being in the head of an adolescent. HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX also manages its own magic by cramming the longest book from the Potter series into the shortest running time of any of the films while maintaining all the elements necessary to make the story whole. Weaving in layers of thematic insight and giving more depth to Mr. Potter himself brings the film from magical to meaningful. And after five installments, bringing something new to the spell without ruining the recipe or changing the consistency is a pretty impressive trick unto itself.