Harry’s 5th year on film is a rewarding one…especially for the readers.
Every time a new Harry Potter film is released we are told that it is darker than what came before it. The Order of the Phoenix is no exception; it’s probably the darkest of them all. In this film, director David Yates pulls us into the heart of the story, cutting away any unecessary details. The magical world is in danger, under threat from Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, but the Ministry of Magic is in denial, not wishing to believe that the evil wizard has returned. And so the Harry Potter series has begun to grow up. No longer is this just about Harry and Hogwarts. It’s about the wizarding world on a larger scale, but with Harry at the centre all the same.
David Yates’ eagerness to get down to the important details and convert a rather large book into a two (and a bit) hour film has both good and bad results. Fortunately for me, the good outway the bad. But this, perhaps, is because I read Harry Potter and have no problem understanding what’s going on. For non-readers however, the film must surely spell confusion. When a central character is killed by falling through a magical archway that leads to the afterlife, we are not told why such an arch exists. No explanation is given as to why he does not appear around the other side. Harry’s courtcase which takes place near the beginning is a rather hurried affair. If you were not listening properly you may wonder how he ended up there. I could further exemplify this argument, but you get my point. Films do not have to copy their sources word for word. After all an adapted film is just another interpretation of the original work. Yet some parts of this movie seem to nod and wink at readers and forget the rest of the audience. I advise anybody who has not read the book to at least watch Goblet of Fire again to refresh the memory: in The Phoenix even 10 second snippets contain plenty if u know where to look or who to look for.
For the most part, however, Phoenix runs as smoothly as the Hogwarts Express itself. One especially clever tactic for editing the movie’s length has been the use of newspaper pages to tell us what’s happening around Hogwarts and beyond. This might sound as old-fashioned an idea as any, but instead of twirling newpapers that pop out at us comic book style, the yellowing pages of the Daily Prophet with their moving pictures give us a good insight into the Ministry’s predicaments and those of the entire magical world, as well as moving the story along at a reasonable pace.
Lack of time might mean that some characters do not get as much of a look in as before, but Yates has allowed everyone some time to shine. Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman are brilliant as ever in their roles as Professors McGonagall and Snape. Emma Thompson, too, has her best moments so far as the batty Professor. Trelawney. But the scene-stealer this time round is Imelda Staunton as Professor Umbridge, a teacher sent in by the Ministry to take control at Hogwarts and put an end to Dumbledore’s alledged madness and his insistence that Voldemort is out there and hungry for power. Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson as Harry and Hermione are as hopeless as ever, but we know to ignore that at this stage and embrace the better aspects of the Potter films. Luckily in The Phoenix there are many; the movie is an enjoyable magical whirlwind. I’m glad there’s more to come.