There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned, and many in the wizarding world are afraid. Many have come out of the shadows in their support of the dark lord, many more are afraid of what he will do next. His return has even called into question the safety of the students who are about to return to Hogwarts. However, many have argued that Hogwarts—with Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) at the helm—might be the safest place for young wizards right now, so the decision was made that Hogwarts will remain open this year.
Thus, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has begun his fifth year at Hogwarts, and the wizarding world is darker than ever. He fears that he will be Voldemort’s primary target, due to the unfinished business that the dark lord has with him, but Harry Potter is not alone. The Order of the Phoenix is a secret group of wizards devoted to protecting Harry Potter and stopping Voldemort. Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), and Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), are some of the Order’s members, and they will do whatever it takes to ensure Harry Potter makes it to Hogwarts safely. Unfortunately, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) has a very strict disciplinary style, and she seeks to undermine Dumbledore’s authority, which could make Hogwarts vulnerable to Lord Voldemort.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
Dumbledore’s Army (+3pts)
The Prophecy (-4pts)
Dolores Umbridge & Hogwarts (+8pts)
The Order of the Phoenix (-3pts)
The Heist & The Climax (+8pts)
Pro: Dumbledore’s Army (+3pts)
Dumbledore’s Army did not play a major role in the overall story, but I really liked this storyline nonetheless. It worked for a number of reasons, the first being the suspense it added to the movie, which came from the thrill of hoping Dumbledore‘s Army did not get caught by Dolores Umbridge. Then there was the humor that came from how Dumbledore’s Army evaded Dolores Umbridge for as long as they did, and the visible confusion and frustration that was plastered all over the antagonists‘ faces whenever they failed to catch Dumbledore’s Army. It was also just interesting to see this group of students taking matters into their own hands in a sort of revolution-type storyline. Finally, this was the first time in the franchise where Harry Potter was shown as being in a league far above his fellow students. We had always been told that he was special and that he was a great young wizard, but he always seemed more or less defenseless and incredibly lucky whenever facing any dangerous scenario. This was the first time he was shown as being anything special, which made him a lot more interesting than he was even minutes before the Dumbledore’s Army storyline started.
Con: The Prophecy (-4pts)
This part of the story felt very generic. The prophecy was something that was introduced, and without giving anything away, it was something that both the protagonists and the antagonists needed to retrieve. Evidently in the wizarding world, when a prophecy is made, the crystal ball that was used to discover the prophecy is then archived. That was all fine, but it felt like a generic objective. I did not really understand the importance of finding it. It just felt like this random object that was introduced for the sole purpose of adding something to the story that both protagonists and antagonists had to race to find. I liked the race itself, but the object of that race felt meaningless, so the stakes never really felt very high.
Pro: Dolores Umbridge & Hogwarts (+8pts)
Dolores Umbridge was a pretty effective antagonist. So far in this franchise, we have seen dark, powerful, ominous antagonists, and we have seen menacing and dangerous creatures. Then there was Dolores Umbridge, who was a new breed of antagonist. She was small and dressed exclusively in obnoxiously colorful outfits. She was also a cat lady, and was sort of bubbly, but she had a strict set of rules, and she was relentless in her enforcement of those rules. We have seen Harry Potter going up against countless creatures and villains, but Dolores Umbridge was something else entirely, which made her a very effective antagonist. She also came in like a wrecking ball, and destroyed the security and comfort that the audience had felt toward Hogwarts.
Hogwarts was a place that Albus Dumbledore ruled—for all intents and purposes. Under his watch, Hogwarts felt safe, impenetrable from dark magic. Then Dolores Umbridge came in, and made everything uncomfortable and uncertain. Sure, it was still the same Hogwarts that audiences wanted to come back and revisit, but Dolores Umbridge provided a new lens in which to view the wizarding school. I still enjoyed revisiting the familiar places and characters, but Dolores Umbridge made everything feel fresh. Rather than fight with magic, Dolores Umbridge fought with rules, structure, and discipline, which made her the kind of antagonist that audiences would be dying to see defeated. Maybe she was defeated in this movie, maybe she was not, but the filmmakers did a great job of setting her up and they delivered the kind of antagonist that had audiences invested in seeing the protagonists try to overcome.
Con: The Order of the Phoenix (-3pts)
While the movie was titled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the Order of the Phoenix itself felt mostly irrelevant for the majority of this story. They wanted to make sure Harry Potter got to Hogwarts safely, and they supported Harry in the movie’s climax, but other than that, these characters were mostly kept in the background. This was not a huge deal, as Harry Potter should definitely have been the movie’s focus, but I thought a bit more focus on the members of the Order of the Phoenix would have gone a long way in making the stakes of the movie feel greater, as well as making the characters in the Order feel important.
Pro: The Heist & The Climax (+8pts)
While I was not a fan of the prophecy itself and the crystal ball associated with it, because it felt like a generic object that the protagonists needed to obtain, I did enjoy the heist that went along with it. The crystal ball was located somewhere that the main characters were not allowed to be, so in typical Hogwarts fashion, the students needed to sneak into where it was. In other words, they needed to come up with a heist-style plan to get in and get out without being caught. While it was obvious that things would go horribly wrong in terms of the plan, it was still entertaining to see the main characters trying to execute it. This all then led to the climax of the movie, which was filled with wizards and witches, both good and bad, fighting one another in a big climactic battle. It was intense, action-packed, and it was really awesome to see some of these characters going up against one another in this spectacular climax.
Con: Rushed (-4pts)
Much like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, this movie felt rushed. The filmmakers simply tried to adapt a large book into a movie, and they struggled to refine the story down into the movie format. I had read the book a long time before watching the movie, so while I am sure the filmmakers cut a lot out, I could not remember anything specific that was missing from the movie. That being said, there were things that I thought could have been cut out of this movie altogether—the giant, for one—which would have given more time to flesh other things out. It felt like the filmmakers were trying to rush through one thing so that they could move on to the next thing, and that was really the case for most of the movie. It was not a huge issue, as there were enough exciting things happening to keep me engaged, but the more I rewatch this movie, the more I realize just how rushed the story was.
Grade: B- (83pts)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was not a bad movie, but I did not think it lived up to the standards that were set by the movies that came before it. It certainly had its strengths, with Dolores Umbridge being an effective new antagonist, Dumbledore’s Army being an interesting new storyline, the heist being a suspenseful lead-in to the climax, and the climax being an epic showdown of good versus evil. Unfortunately, a lot of the movie felt rushed, with the filmmakers cramming unnecessary storylines—storylines like the giant in the woods—into the movie, rather than properly fleshing out the more important ones. Then there was the prophecy itself, which just felt like a generic object that was added simply to give the characters something to go after. Then there was the Order of the Phoenix, which was a group that felt so underdeveloped that they felt irrelevant for most of the movie. There was plenty that I enjoyed about this movie, but there were also a number of things that did not work for me. The result was a decent movie, but it was ultimately one that I thought could have been more refined than it was.