Sunday, July 15, 2007 – Reviewed by Alex Meehan
Directed by David Yates, At cinemas nationwide, cert 12A.
Is there anything worse than not being believed when you’re telling the truth? For Harry Potter in the Order of the Phoenix, the answer is no. A plot exists to persuade the wizarding world that Harry and his champion, Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, are mistaken in their claims that arch-enemy Lord Voldemort has returned.
Instead, spin doctors at the Ministry of Magica re claiming that Dumbledore is intent on overthrowing the government and that Harry is exaggerating the truth to make himself look good. Concerned by Dumbledore’s influence over impressionable minds at Hogwarts, the Ministry sends the fantastically ruthless Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) to act as a defence against the dark arts teacher and to keep an eye on things.
Umbridge decrees that there is no threat and therefore no need to practice practical magic, so Harry is chosen by the students to secretly train them in defensive magic. Together, they form Dumbledore’s army, but things take a sinister turn when Umbridge discovers the training sessions and uses them to oust Dumbledore as headmaster.
The Order of the Phoenix is the fifth book in the Harry Potter series and it marks a change of tone for both the film and the book franchise. It’s darker, there’s less comedy, and Harry is at a difficult age where he is faced with ‘‘adult’’ problems. The trouble with casting children in the lead roles of a film franchise is that a cute child on screen in the first movie does not necessarily turn into a competent actor by the fifth instalment.
Nor are they cute enough to compensate for second-rate performances – and in terms of acting, this film is more demanding than its predecessors. Add to this the awkward fact that the supporting cast includes the gargantuan talents of Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon and Ralph Fiennes.