Main cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge), Robert Hardy (Cornelius Fudge), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), James Phelps (Fred Weasley), Oliver Phelps (George Weasley), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Brendan Gleeson (Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody), Katie Leung (Cho Chang), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), and Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort)
Director: David Yates
Previously, Harry Potter spent the summer being inexplicably sent back to live with his horrid Muggle family where he managed to lose his virginity to a horse in a theater full of men in raincoats. Then it’s back to business in Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, in which he finds himself battling Britain’s most heinous enemy: bureaucracy. You see, the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, decides that Albus Dumbledore is mounting a campaign to oust him so he fights back by denouncing the whole Voldemort-is-back thing as lies spread by Albus and Harry. This leads to the Hogwarts School of Unstable Continuity to be besieged by Dolores Umbridge, Cornelius’s partner-in-crime, who proceeds to turn the school into an Orwellian/Chairman Mao paradise.
Meanwhile, Voldemort is back even as Dolores forces the kiddies to learn only magic theories rather than waving wands. I suppose the old school body’s tendency to keep the kids in the dark about giant snakes slithering in the ladies’ restroom and more is their way of forcing the kids to learn first-hand how to wave wands and say “A Toast to Petroleum!” at flying bedsheets in the air. Anyway, this drives Hermione to drag the ever-passive Harry into teaching the kids how to use magic. This movie introduces the cool and fey Luna Lovegood while developing Neville Longbottom into a nearly interesting character, but of course the bulk of the movie deals with people prodding Harry into action as he sulks, moans, and makes cow-lidded eyes at Cho Chang.
I don’t know what happened to Daniel Radcliffe but he looks like a shiny wax statue here. He acts like one too, come to think of it. The scene of him kissing poor Katie Leung is very awkward to watch, sort of like seeing the robot girl Vicki in the old 1980s TV series Small Wonder getting violated by a trash compactor or something. By the way, this movie, probably realizing that there are many adults who watch this movie only to capture scenes of the underage cast to share on saucy message boards, has Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe wearing some clothes that manage to show off the fact that they are indeed growing up without getting too blatant about the fact and riling up the church mommies. The problem is, while those who enjoy the sight of Emma Watson in a tight shirt will be happy, Daniel Radcliffe is… well, Daniel Radcliffe. Sigh.
Nonetheless, this movie calls for Harry to be sulky and sullen like Macaulay Culkin contemplating his movie career, so Mr Radcliffe doesn’t seem so out of place among the living in this movie. Frankly, this movie belongs to Imelda Staunton. Her portrayal of Dolores Umbridge is so effective that while Dolores on paper comes off like a cartoon character tailored after Cruella de Vil, in this movie Dolores is frighteningly real despite her exaggerated antics. As much as she is a cartoon character, this Dolores also exudes undercurrents of menace that feel terrifyingly genuine.
I really want to like this movie, I do. Story-wise, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is rife with beautiful possibilities. Harry’s angst is dark and real. I love how he finally calls the adults on their cruel behavior towards him just as I am fascinated by the stirrings of Harry’s dark side. In a way, this movie almost succeeds in putting together a compelling story of teenage angst. The middle portion of this movie where Harry has plenty of time to indulge in his adolescent blues has me thinking at times that I have never imagined that this franchise could pay tribute to The Breakfast Club so well.
However, the movie falls apart spectacularly towards its last third when what seems like two hours worth of scenes are truncated and crammed in an incoherent pile-on to a chaotic denouement. The pacing aside, the movie is also filled with spectacular lapses of logic. Harry faces trial for using magic before a Muggle but he and his buddies have no problems flying on their broomsticks in clear view of the Muggles, for example. Hagrid and Albus Dumbledore’s behaviors are even more nonsensical and cruel in this movie compared to the book because this movie botches up its narration especially towards the end.
This movie boasts a director who actually knows how to use Mr Radcliffe in a way that does not expose the young man’s really weak acting abilities so in a way this is far more watchable than most of the Harry Potter movies that came before it. But it’s still not quite there yet, though. And I suppose there is really nothing we can do about the spectacularly embarrassing sight of grown men waving small tiny wands at each other, is there?