REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [2007]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 138 minutes | Release Date: July 11th, 2007 (USA)
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director(s): David Yates
Writer(s): Michael Goldenberg / J.K. Rowling (novel)

“Naughty children deserve to be punished”

**Spoilers Included**

For starters: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was by far my least favorite book in the series. Not much happens until the end—which is actually pretty good. There is a lot of repetition through the beginning of the story and Harry’s adolescent anger and temper just get plain annoying. After enjoying how the fourth book was adapted into film, I was hoping we’d get more of the same here with a distilled version where main plot is paramount and the detentions and acting-out immensely cut down.

At first I thought I was going to be very happy. The film starts off great with Dudley and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) in the London playground where the Dementors attack. Just having a sequence in a Potter film outdoors and not at Hogwarts was a welcome sight and everything pretty much went as planned. There were some exclusions when the boys arrived back home—most noticeably the absence of Mundungus—but I was willing to look past them. Even in the early moments at Hogwarts, Potter has one outburst of anger and it seems that would be it. I was ready to ease into the tale and enjoy the ride. But that comfort was betrayed.

I will say the acting is par for the course. We have a few new characters and as a result see less of those we have come to love. McGonagall is almost nonexistent—which means her attack is not used here—and she was the one person who stood up against new teacher Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton); Draco is a blink and you’ll miss him role; and the Order itself are hardly seen until the climatic ending. That’s a lot of decent paychecks for little work. Even Hermione and Ron have their roles shrunk in order to keep a big spotlight on newcomer Umbridge. She is the main antagonist of the story (and Staunton is wonderful in the role) so I understand the large focus on her. My problem was that she was made into an evil witch.

In the book—although misguided in her thought process—she was not as vicious a psychopath as she is shown to be here. Umbridge always did what she thought was right and allowed by the Ministry of Magic. Her cinematic counterpart, however, turns about halfway through once her power is increased at the school. She becomes a monster doing anything she wants—at one point physically abusing a child—and even proving willing to use the Cruciatus Curse on a minor (I don’t quite remember that one happening in the book, although I could be wrong). Maybe the reason I disliked the book was because she wasn’t evil enough and Potter couldn’t necessarily justify his anger. In that regard, maybe the filmmakers needed to up the ante. However, by seeing this new incarnation, I have to say her wrong decisions in the novel were more believable because at least she thought she had her mind in the right place and wasn’t just being a vindictive crazy woman.

Besides this tonal change with Umbridge, I was disappointed in all the differences from the novel. **If you haven’t read the book, there are spoilers in the next two paragraphs** This film was by far the least like the book and that should have been a good thing. Unfortunately for me it was not. Besides things happening out of order—Trelawney’s run in with the High Inquisitor occurs way too early (where was Firenze?) and Hagrid is gone way too long—many things were just changed all together. Cho Chang is used as a scapegoat when it was her friend in the book that blew in “Dumbledore’s Army.” This fact makes her relationship with Harry awkward and in need of some extra work in the film to iron things out. Hermione (Emma Watson) never enchants the sign-up list nor uses the magic coins as a meeting signal (something used again in book six).

We never find out who is giving the Weasley twins money for their joke shop, we don’t get to see Neville’s parents or Lockhart at the mental hospital, Harry doesn’t end up being the only one cutting lines into his skin which subverts the extra abuse he receives above the others, and there is no Quidditch so Ron (Rupert Grint) never became a goalkeeper. Also, Sirius does not get the chance to give Harry his magic mirror, (Which must play into book seven or why would it even have been mentioned?), and in fact dies from a curse instead of falling through the curtained archway. The most egregious error, though, is the treatment of the centaurs. We never learn that they are ready for war and no longer care if it is children they hurt in the forest. This fact causes their capture of Umbridge to not have the meaning it does in the novel, thus setting up their role for the following story. As far as that goes too, we never hear of Hagrid’s work with the giants and whether they will join Dumbledore against the Dark Lord. **Spoilers finished**

If I need to blame anyone, it has to be first time Potter scribe Michael Goldenberg. It seems as though he didn’t read the sixth book and decided to adapt this one without care for what he was leaving out that may be important later—not to mention how he treats some of the characters he keeps in. What was my least favorite book has now become my least favorite cinematic entry as well. Even when Chris Columbus gave us two paint-by-number films at the start, they at least stayed true to the source material. With this newest one the tone has shifted, most of the good parts are missing, and the next film will now probably need extra explaining to fix the continuity mistakes made here.

[1] DANIEL RADCLIFFE as Harry Potter and KATIE LEUNG as Cho Chang in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.’ Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
[2] IMELDA STAUNTON as Dolores Umbridge in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.’ Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
[3] DANIEL RADCLIFFE as Harry Potter and MICHAEL GAMBON as Albus Dumbledore in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.’ Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

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