Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Ron Weasley is timidly making an interesting political statement for a kids movie.

Golden Mug

Visual Effects (John Richardson, Mark Webb, Chris Shaw)

Theatrical Release Date: 07/11/2007
Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman

Muggles everywhere will be flocking to theaters this week to get a look at the latest teen wizardry in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”.

Fans of the series who can ignore the increasingly noticeable age disparity between characters in the books versus the movies, are in for a more grim and dark film than even the last one, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire“.

This film continues the thread of Voldemort gathering his forces together and preparing to defeat our heroes. As such, all of the primary characters are back and while it’s not absolutely necessary, thanks to little hints and flashbacks, it’s still very much recommended that you have seen at least the last two films to fully appreciate this one.

I appreciate that the films have been shifting to much more adult and somber tones (PG-13 again and rated higher in some other countries), as it reflects the fact that the characters themselves are navigating themselves through puberty (some more than others … how old is Emma Watson again?).

With yet another new director (David Yates) at the helm, there are some stylistic changes to the film. Yates seemed to fall in love with using a swirling aerial shot whenever possible and, probably due largely to the screenplay, this is the shortest film in the series, clocking in at 2 hours and 18 minutes.

Helping this film keep its pace is the much higher level of action than in previous films. Since most characters have already been introduced and had some level of back story given, the filmmakers can now really concentrate on allowing the audience to watch the story unfold rather then get too bogged down in long, expositional scenes.

That being said, I will admit that this is really the first film in the series that made me think that whole chunks of the book had been left out of the screenplay. As the books are getting longer and longer, the filmmakers’ ability to convert them into movies becomes increasingly difficult.

The choice seems to have been made to keep the central story, damn the torpedoes and leave out the rest. While those of you who have been reading these books will find a lot to like in this film, you’ll probably also want to go back to the book to flesh out the side stories.

As with the other films, all of the performances are good and it was nice to see a slightly larger amount of Professor Snape since Alan Rickman is having so much fun with this role.

Also to be especially commended this time around are Imelda Staunton as the epitome of worst school administrator ever and Helena Bonham Carter as an evil, crazy witch (to no one’s great surprise).

Oddly enough, as I sit down to write about the film, I find that there really isn’t much to say. Like I said, the performances are good, the tone is just as, if not more dark than the last film and the pacing felt right.

The magic battles are on display here and the climactic confrontations near the end are wonderful to watch and enjoy. It’s also refreshing to see the series really gearing itself up for the upcoming finale.

Speaking of which, Yates is set to direct the next installment, helping to keep the proposed release date of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” currently set at November 21, 2008 whereas the last film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” has an uber-tentative 2010 release year.

I, for one, can’t wait to see the last two brought to life and will read the books upon completion of the films. I’ve always maintained that the books are better than the films and I’d rather enjoy them now and catch up on the side stories later for another round of DVD viewings to follow.

If you’re a fan, you don’t need me to recommend this and if you’ve somehow avoided these films up until now, I think you’re missing out. I’m pleased to say that I can give “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” a 4 out of 5.

It is missing some of the strength of story that the last two films have shown but it was so much fun to see everyone getting comfortable with their magical abilities and duking it out that I can overlook that.