Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 

With Hogwarts in a stranglehold by the Ministry of Magic and our young wizard's warnings about Voldemort's return being branded lunacy, it is up to a secret society to battle the evil gaining power.  They will gain a young member in the boy they are trying to protect and the group who goes up against He Who Will Not be Named and his minions are "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

Laura:
Harry Potter is not for little kids anymore.  Director David Yates ("The Girl in the Café"), the first Brit to helm the series, invests "Order of the Phoenix" with a very sinister tone from his opening frames and coaxes Radcliffe into the role of a young resistance leader up against a Ministry of Magic turning fascist in blind disbelief of Voldemort's return.

Filming in a sickly yellow cast, Yates reintroduces Harry sitting on a swing in a decrepit public playground where Dudley Dursley (Harry Melling), now a young thug wannabe, and his mates begin to taunt him.  When Harry reacts in anger, storm clouds suddenly swirl low, the cover of two Death Eaters whose appearance in Muggles territory is unprecedented.  Harry is able to fend one off and strike at the other intent upon Dursley by conjuring a Petronus charm.  His heroic efforts land him in the Ministry's court, where Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) is intent upon expelling him from Hogwarts for performing a spell within sight of a Muggle.  Dumbledore arrives and successfully argues Harry's case, but the great wizard avoids the young man immediately after.

Instead, he is taken by 'Mad-Eye' Moody (Brendan Gleeson) to meet a secret society - the Order of the Phoenix - led by his beloved godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman).  Mrs. Weasley (Julie Walters) wants to protect Harry as 'only a boy,' but Sirius acknowledges the lad's urge to fight.

This fifth film is devoid of cute animals, Quidditch games, Moaning Myrtle hijinx and any type of coddling.  Harry has always endured the hateful Dursleys, but now he finds himself isolated at Hogwarts as well.  Sure, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are there, but the only adults he comes into contact with now are the spitefully passive aggressive Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton, "Vera Drake"), first undermining their Dark Arts classes, then usurping Dumbledore's position, and Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), whose sessions teaching Harry how to close his mind to the Dark Lord resemble something like torture.  Hogwarts' newly oppressive environment sees Umbridge discharging dotty but beloved Sybil Trelawney (Emma Thompson), Argus Filch (David Bradley) as informer and Harry's first kiss, Cho Chang (Katie Leung), a possible betrayer.

In addition to Staunton, brilliantly costumed in pink suits and hats and surrounded by all things kitty cat, newcomers to this episode include some rare comedic relief in Nymphadora Tonks (Natalia Tena, "Mrs Henderson Presents") and the spacy otherworldliness of new student Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch, note perfect). Eating the screen alive as thoroughly malicious and possibly insane murderer Bellatrix Lestrange is Helena Bonham Carter ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"). New creatures include the Thestrals, skeletal black winged horses visible only to those who have experienced death, and Hagrid's half brother Grawp, a simple minded Giant.  Kreacher (Timothy Bateson, "Ladies in Lavender," "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont") is a house elf better left unliberated.

The film ends with a spectacular battle between Good (Dumbledore) and Evil (Voldemort) that is truly thrilling.  Just as exciting is the news that Yates is returning for the next installment - he has focused this series on its larger, more adult, themes with a lasered vision.

B+

Robin:
Robin did not see this film.
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