'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix'
Published Jul 8 2007, 19:07 BST | By Nick Levine Director:
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Imelda Staunton, Alan Rickman, Katie Leung, Helena Bonham-Carter, Michael GambonRunning time:
Whoooosh! For the fifth time in six years, Harry Potter has decided to hop on his broomstick, wave his magic wand about and cast a very, very powerful spell. His wont? To magic money from the pockets of mummies and daddies all over the land. To date, the movie adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s blockbuster novels have – shabam! - taken over $3.5 billion at the worldwide box office. And they’re not done yet: The Order of the Phoenix
is as warm-hearted, family-friendly and action-packed as its predecessors.
Harry (Radcliffe), Ron (Grint) and Hermione (Watson) begin their fifth year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, only to find that their seat of learning is in jeopardy. Dumbledore (Gambon), their beloved headmaster, is being browbeaten by the press because he believes that the evil Lord Voldemort is on the comeback trail. Hoping to sideline the ageing tutor, the Ministry of Magic installs a new Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge (Staunton), who uses her political allegiances to take over Hogwarts step by step. Our heroes quickly learn to detest Umbridge, who refuses to teach them the practical magic they’ll need when Voldemort attacks. An incandescent Harry eventually takes matters into his own hands, forming a secret army from 27 of his fellow students. The skills Harry teaches his disciples prove invaluable when Voldemort, somewhat inevitably, descends on Hogwarts.
David Yates – the man who gave us superior TV dramas State of Play
and The Girl In The Café
- is the fourth director to helm a Harry Potter
movie. At first, he can’t seem to break away from the influence of his predecessors. The film's opening stretch is filled with scene after scene – Hogwarts bustling with activity at mealtimes, sweeping vistas of a mist-drenched London, close-ups on Harry’s furrowed brow – that are all too familiar from previous Potter
flicks. However, The Order Of The Phoenix
gradually establishes an identity of its own, mainly thanks to a ball-breaking turn from Staunton as the deliciously despicable Umbridge. Smug, officious and kitted out in a disgusting powder-pink power suit, she rules the screen like a demonic Barbara Cartland.
Harry’s first kiss with the cute, doe-eyed Cho (Leung) is sweet and tender, but the moment doesn't quite live up to the hype that's been heaped on it by the gossip rags. It doesn’t help that our hero – with his short back and sides, sensible specs and curiously hair-free face – is starting to resemble a straitlaced young lesbian. This isn’t meant as a dig at Radcliffe, who ably carries the film’s rather indulgent running time on his slight shoulders. As ever, he’s assisted by the cream of the British acting profession. Alan Rickman is delectably macabre as the sneering Professor Snape; Helena Bonham-Carter does her gothic princess routine to perfection and Robbie Coltrane, as gentle giant Hagrid, is as charming as ever.
Ultimately, The Order of Phoenix
is a bold step forward from the Harry Potter
franchise. Our hero has grown up. He's beginning to feel a twitch in his trousers, and it’s not because he’s accidentally set off his wand. The heat of his ongoing feud with Voldemort is starting to get to him. Yates manages to convey the uniqueness of Harry Potter's life, while simultatenously ensuring that the movie's themes – solidarity among outsiders, the importance of friendship, the trials and tribulations of growing up – are reassuringly universal. Who, Ed Balls aside, could fail to be exhilarated by the scene where a sterile exam hall bursts into life amidst a medley of exploding fireworks? By tapping into the escapist fantasies of kids and adults alike, Harry Potter’s wealth-extracting wand has – kaboom! – struck again.