Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Andrew Polonsky ('08)/ Eastside Editor-in-Chief

Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixDespite the surrounding hype of the latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth in the seven-part saga, the movie fails to meet the high expectations fans have come to expect from the book-to-movie series.

The film is, however, good – director David Yates does have an exceptional talent with capturing natural human interaction. But for all of Yates’ ability to work with people, special effects in the film were shoddy and overall second-rate. Most noticeable were the several scenes in which Harry and his companions fly across London. The sweeping images of the London skyline and notable English landmarks scream “green screen”.

Still, Yates does redeem himself somewhat with a stunning depiction of a full-out wizard battle. The sweeping black smoke of the Death Eaters clashes beautifully with the blazing white of the members of the Order of the Phoenix during the book’s climactic battle in the Department of Mysteries.

But the most glaring error in Order of the Phoenix is in its brevity. Granted, a two-hour, eighteen-minute film is not short, but considering that Order of the Phoenix is the longest book of the series, the Order of the Phoenix should not have been the shortest film to date.

The lack of detail, altering of plot line, and omission of information should be obvious to anyone who has read the novel, and the result is devastating: the once detailed, complicated plot of the novel has been boiled down to the simplest of movies, allowing non-readers to barely grasp the important parts of what is a pivotal installment in the series. Several mistakes, like the fact that both Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) were prefects during their fifth year, could have easily been avoided with a simple one-line fix.

That is not to say that Yates totally botched Order of the Phoenix. Primarily through the use of montage sequences, Yates pushes the plot forward, stopping only to examine the twists in the story. Surprisingly, the montages are very well done and are a far cry from the stereotypical Rocky training sequence. The montages impart a cyclical nature to the story, mirroring the repetitiveness of life at school, even if the school is Hogwarts.

The most redeemable quality of the movie was the excellent acting of several minor characters. Imelda Staunton does a remarkable job as Professor Dolores Umbridge. Everything, from her forced smile and feigned courtesies to her horribly-decorated office, makes her the epitome of the person you love to hate. Luna Lovegood, the odd, Nargle-fearing outcast, is played exceptionally well by first-timer Evanna Lynch, who captures all of Luna’s quirkiness with apparent ease.

The central trio of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron and Hermione is as good as ever, and one short scene with awkward acting notwithstanding, the experience of these three actors shows throughout the film.

A subtler, previously unknown aspect introduced in Order of the Phoenix is the presence of real-life elements. For the first time in the movie series, teenagers now listen to music in their dormitories and adults drink beer with dinner. These changes, albeit minor, help to give the film a less surreal tone and help to reinforce the harsher, starker themes of the novel itself by adding a sense of reality and regularity.

All-in-all, it would be a lie to say that Order of the Phoenix is a bad movie. A bad adaptation, perhaps, but enjoyable nonetheless. Fans of the book will need no coaxing to line up for the next movie installment, but non-readers should be advised that their time might be better spent reading the book rather than seeing the movie.