By Chris Campo
Just like that, in the blink of an eye, I am now officially over half-way through my first viewing of the Harry Potter saga. I love this series already. They're the type of films that, if I saw them at a younger age, I feel as though they would've stuck with me, and meant a lot, however I am still sad that I only have three more films to watch. I mean, I'm happy that there's still nearly six hours left in the Wizarding World, but hopefully you get my point. It's because of these films that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, due out this November, is now one of my most anticipated films for the rest of the year. I hope you have been following along as I review these films after watching them for the very first time, because here are my thoughts on the fifth installment in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Upon returning to Hogwarts for his fifth year, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is met with backlash from friends, faculty and other members of the Wizarding World, who don't believe him when he says The Dark Lord, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned. The Order of the Phoenix appoints professor Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) as new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, to keep the kids of Hogwarts, especially Harry, in check and to keep him from spreading the rumor of Voldemort. Eager to stand up and let the truth be known, Harry forms a rebellion alongside Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), not only to stand against the new school rules put in place by Umbridge, but to fight off Voldemort's army, who Harry believes is coming.
I may have not liked this film as much as the previous two, but there's nothing noticeably flawed with it. It's a good film that had the daunting task of following two amazing films, although it is better than Chamber of Secrets, my least favorite Potter film so far, and I didn't even really dislike that one. I enjoyed my time with this film, but it's not the best of the series. This is also the first Harry Potter film directed by David Yates, who is the final director to join the series, directing the next three films and the upcoming prequel. Yates has a fitting visual style here that feels like an updated approach to Chris Columbus' style with the first two films. It's very distinctive, trying to do a lot of new things for the franchise, and I'm excited to see Yates perfect his craft over the next three films.
The film faults the most for me in two aspects, pacing and length. Now, this is the second shortest Harry Potter film, so I'm not here to complain that it's too long. Surprisingly enough, I wish this film had an extra fifteen minutes or so. A lot of plot points are either brushed over in a montage or come to what feels like a full stop, only to be picked back up later. The film's plot doesn't come together as seamlessly as it did in previous films, which is funny, because so far, this is probably the most straight forward of the Harry Potter films. This also leads to pacing issues, the first and second act being far too slow. The film opens with a short action set piece, and there's not a single action scene I remember until the finale. I'm not saying all movies need action in order for them to be enjoyable, I'm just saying the lack of excitement was more noticeable due to the pacing issues.
With that out of the way, I want to talk about my favorite aspect of the film - Voldemort. He's not a scene stealing antagonist here, he's actually barley in the film, but the film does a great job at making you stay aware of his presence throughout. Voldemort is so damn interesting, and we learn a lot about him here. There's also some pretty spooky imagery with him, especially when Harry has his nightmares about him. This film isn't the first time we meet Ralph Fiennes' Voldemort, but this is when I truly understood his motives and his relationship with Harry. I was right in my review for Goblet of Fire when I mentioned the ending was a turning point in the saga's overall story, and I am giddy to witness Voldemort in full effect in remaining films.
Unlike the other films, The Order of the Phoenix has a much more consistent tone. It's mostly a serious, dark film with little humour but it's a welcome change, allowing us to see these characters at their darkest moments. Dumbledore is a much more rounded and realised character here, and we get to see him be a badass for the first time, and it's very satisfying and definitely a highlight of the film. Harry is seen here like never before. He feels like he's grown up at a lightning fast rate, with students looking up to him as a teacher in his own rights. Harry discovers new secrets about himself in this film, some alarming and some genuinely heartwarming. I got emotional twice by short monologues Harry had, he is easily becoming one of my favorite movie heroes.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is an ever so slight step down in quality from the previous films. Pacing issues aside, it's a fun, if not darker film that has a kick ass villain and a hero you see grow as a person before your very eyes. I continue to be charmed by this series. I hope you guys are enjoying these reviews as much as I am, and if you are, please join me soon for my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
3 1/2 Stars