While many movie franchises slide as they reach their later instalments, the Harry Potter films just keep getting better. The latest, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is easily the darkest of the series to date, and it’s also one of the best. For while it could easily have been little more than a holding film to set up the big encounters to come in the last two instalments of the series, it’s to the credit of British director David Yates that the end result is really very good.
It finds Harry coming under suspicion from his wizarding colleagues, who don’t believe his claims that the evil Lord Voldermort has returned. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix thus finds its title character on the backfoot for much of its running time, with a select band who firmly believe his story, and very powerful figures who don’t.
Where the movie of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix excels though is in its three trump cards. Number one is a far tighter script than we’re used to with Potter films, which, combined with trump card number two–the aforementioned David Yates behind the camera–cuts much of the slavish loyalty to the text away in favour of a film with real momentum. The third, and best, card though is the casting of Imelda Staunton as Professor Dolores Umbridge, who simply flies away with every scene she’s in. It’s a superb performance, and the film is poorer whenever she’s not on screen.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not a film without a few problems, certainly: it’s a fair criticism that not too much actually happens, and one or two bits feel superfluous. But it overrides its problems with ease, to emerge as a compelling, highly enjoyable family film, which will leave you salivating for the Christmas 2008 release of movie number six in the series. —Simon Brew