Spoiler Warnings for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, both book and film
Welp, we’re back once more! Time for another Harry Potter movie. A new movie, and a new director—David Yates, who will continue on to be the director for all the films up to the present day. And…alright, I’m going to try to be more succinct this time. I’ve been told that I come off as overwhelmingly negative in these pieces, and that I go on too long. I’m going to try and shake things up here then, and not do my scene by scene breakdown, instead grouping things into a few different categories. Let me know what you think, and if you like this new format or the old one better!
Alright so…this is not a good film for me to start making a conscious effort to not be negative about. Well, there is one thing that stands out to me immediately and that is Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange. She doesn’t get much screen time in this movie (or any movie really; she’s a relatively minor character) but she owns every second she’s there. So much so that when looking at the effects the films have had on the fandom, this performance is really one of the biggest ones. Movie!Bellatrix has all but supplanted Book!Bellatrix in most fan works, and I can’t blame them. Ms. Bonham Carter takes a moderately interesting character and turns her into the single most terrifying performance in the series, through sheer maniac glee and sadism.
Other things…well, Yates is a very firm believer in ‘show don’t tell’, which makes certain emotional scenes—particularly the bit where Harry gets possessed by Voldemort towards the end—much more powerful. Imelda Staunton does a very good job as Umbridge; so good in fact that, given certain trends in real world politics as well as some familial issues of my own, she makes this movie rather painful to watch currently. Luna Lovegood is also very good, as Evanna Lynch did an excellent job. The Ministry of Magic itself looks cool, lots of good set design there. Fred and George’s grand exit is pretty good. Oh, and they included my favorite character, Tonks. She doesn’t do much, but she’s there when she could easily have been cut so that’s something. The duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore at the end is…reasonably good. Not as visually interesting as it could have been, but certainly better than any previous duel in the series.
On a technical aspect, this film is much more cohesive and coherent then the previous one. I have opinions on why that is, but voicing those opinions would be negative, so let’s say that.
That’s all I got for this section frankly. Sorry, I want to be positive, but this is really not the movie for that.
The Big Problem
This movie is thoroughly unremarkable. Aside from the three aforementioned performances, there’s nothing really exceptional about this film. That doesn’t mean that the other performances are bad, they’re all…fine. Nothing bad, but not really stand out either.
At the end of the day, the biggest problem with this film is that very little about it feels eventful or memorable. There are, admittedly, a few decent moments in the first two acts, but things don’t really get interesting until the third act. And I know that movies are supposed to be their most dramatic and interesting at the end, but just because the most exciting stuff happens at the end that doesn’t mean that the beginning and middle are supposed to be boring! The only thing that saves this movie from the soul crushing boredom of, say, the The Shining TV miniseries, is that it’s short enough where the boredom can’t truly seep in (it is the second shortest of the movies, which is rather funny given that it’s the longest book and the only shorter movie is one of the ones based on only half of a book). And even then, one could make an argument that not being soul crushingly boring hurts this movie, since at least people still talk about that TV miniseries.
Am I just being petty because this is my favorite of the books? That’s entirely possible. Am I angry because the longest book got turned into a shorter movie than the shortest book? No. Where Goblet of Fire was destroyed by having to take a very dense book and cram it into a single movie, I’m of the opinion that Order of the Phoenix could have been competently condensed without undo difficulty. There is a lot that happens in the book, but there’s also a lot that could be skipped over. And that’s what they did. They might have skipped over a bit too much, but at the end of the day Order of the Phoenix was a bit more interested in Harry’s day-to-day life than the other books (from what I’m given to understand Rowling didn’t have an editor for this one) and for a film, those things weren’t quite as needed.
At the end of the day, what I most compare this movie to is Avengers: Age of Ultron. Both are kind of lifeless, unambitious movies that are only saved from being terrible by a few good moments of character interaction, an absurdly entertaining and well acted (if not the best written) villain, and the introduction of a female ally of the main characters who will continue to pop up throughout the series but never really be a lead despite being continually memorable. It’s not the worst of the franchise, but it’s not really close to being the best either.
I debated whether or not to include this section in here. I really am trying to not be overly negative. But this movie has a lot of problems. So here we go, a list of various smaller issues. They don’t belong in the main section because they’re mostly only present for one scene, so no single one of them really ruins the film. But they all add up to hurt the overall presentation. I will try to keep each point brief, and will only include the things that made me do a double take when watching the movie, no nitpicks.
- Overall, the CG for creating creatures seems to have gone downhill in terms of quality, most noticeably with Grawp and the thestrals. Not sure why, but it’s jarring and, after the rather excellent dragon in the last film, strange.
- A dementor manages to get the drop on Harry, as in it gets close enough to touch him without him noticing. I know that Harry’s less susceptible to the Dementors at this point, but surely he’d have noticed the creeping cold and lack of happiness getting more intense, right?
- When taking Harry back to their headquarters, the Order flies right over the River Thames, low enough to make eye contact with anyone on several boats, the roads along the river, the bridges over the river, and all the shops along the river! For a film who has Harry being punished (wrongfully) for breaking the whole ‘don’t do magic in front of muggles’ law as a major plot point for the first act, this is a strange choice.
- In the books (bear with me, this is relevant) Harry and Cho fell out in part because Cho’s friend was the one who ratted the DA out and Cho refused to fully admit how bad of a thing that was. In the movie it’s implied to be because she was slipped truth serum, meaning that she was as much a victim as Harry and thus making his dismissal of her distressingly cold.
- In the first movie, the centaur we saw could speak very eloquently (same as they could in the books). In this movie, the centaurs…whinny like horses, thus destroying part of their theme and their contribution to the overall theme of ‘purity culture is stupid and unfounded’.
- When Harry picks up the prophecy in the Hall of Prophecy, it immediately starts reciting the prophecy aloud. Since Lucius only needed to know what it said, he could have just sat in the shadows with his friends for two minutes, listened to it, and then either leave or straight-up kill the kids. And even if Voldemort wanted confirmation of the authenticity, there were multiple Death Eater witnesses to the event, and he has access to Legilimency (mind reading), truth serum, and probably a pensieve. I know Lucius isn’t the smartest, but this is a bit egregious.
Alright, that’s enough of that. I have other, smaller issues still, but those were the biggest ones that I couldn’t not mention. So yeah, final verdict, I don’t recommend this movie. Maybe find a way to watch the scenes in the Ministry at the end, but otherwise not worth your time. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, both on the movie and on this new format!