Directed by: David Yates
Written by: Michael Goldenberg
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane
Transitioning from being a child to carrying the responsibilities of adulthood can be somewhat telegraphed through age, but unforeseen circumstances can speed up that timeline rapidly. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the event happens to be the official arrival of the dark lord most individuals will not even name out of fear. It becomes time for the kids to step up and this film does a marvelous job in establishing it all.
Now with the dark lord back, the Ministry of Magic denies the assertion and begins to put in their influence at Hogwarts to teach more academically as opposed to practical magic use for the students. This leaves Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and others in a place where they need to teach themselves defensive spells in secret with the threat of serious punishment because of it.
With Goblet of Fire introducing death right before the eyes of Harry and the return of Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in a distinct physical presence, things have gotten real for this young group of students. Before their biggest concerns came from their schooling on top of some adventures thrown on top of it, but they must now prepare for the inevitable showdown with Voldemort and this film does incredibly well in setting up this transition. With the Order of the Phoenix, it shows Harry’s parents and many others banding together to create a group for the general good. For Harry and his classmates, it no longer becomes about looking up to them, but rather stepping into those shoes and going out in rebellion.
Standing as their immediate opposition is governmental control of education from the Ministry of Magic, who want to ensure they manage what these children get taught, which essentially forms around denialism. Based on one’s political outlook, this storyline could further confirm their bias about larger entities trying to control education, but the addition of Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) makes this film’s stance very clear. In a bright pink wardrobe but the heart of nothing but soot, her addition to the story and immediately becoming hateable takes some doing. Essentially a plant by the Ministry in Hogwarts, she institutes very conservative rules to ensure nothing weird occurs within the school. She reinstitutes a cruel method of corporal punishment and simply expresses hateful rhetoric in the school, which makes it integral for these students to figure out something for their own and allows Harry to step up as a leader. Imelda Staunton had a ball in this portrayal and effortlessly creates an infuriating antagonist.
The teaching sequences demonstrate just how much Harry has experienced in his years at Hogwarts and how pretty much everyone else has just been doing their thing. From the “Patronus” charm he used in Prisoner of Azkaban to a whole host of others he’s had to use to essentially survive the encounters he has found himself in. It matches up well with Hermione (Emma Watson) who has probably studied every spell there is in order to create a group of students with the ability to take on what is to come. Playtime is over, so to speak.
With things getting serious, the moments Harry shares with Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) in this feature really warm the heart. With the man still on the run from the authorities and helping Harry in this journey, it finally gives the young teen an opportunity to connect with someone proud to call him finally. Especially when concerning the way he gets treated back in the Muggle world. A small flicker of hope and light for what the future could be living with his godfather, Sirius, amidst the looming battle they will all have to take on. Certainly great in bringing back another character, but this feature also introduced my favorite character in the entire series, Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter).
Completely devilish and unhinged in her devotion to Voldemort, Bellatrix comes in like a wrecking ball and I’m so glad Helena Bonham Carter received the opportunity to portray her. This character’s kill count borders on the legendary with a major one occurring in this very film. She brings such an energy to the antagonist side not really present with the drab Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) and the humorless Voldemort. Bellatrix comes in like a firecracker and becomes a character you can easily love to hate but I just adore her presence here.
As the final building block for the final three films fully setting up the major war occurring, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix shows these students it’s time to step up much like their parents before them. No longer is acing their Potions exam the biggest worry and concern on their plate as stakes get raised in a momentous way. With this being the first David Yates directed feature, who pretty much takes over the Wizarding World films from here, his visual aesthetic gets set and takes off in style.