Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix review
July 11, 2007
Written by James "Bo" Gorcesky
Expecto Patronum – Bitches
MAN! And I thought being a comic book geek with an undying love for Star Wars and Transformers was bad. You shoulda seen these people at the midnight showing – holy shit. I actually didn't feel bad at all to just scream out in the style of the Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds: "Nerrrrrdsss!" There were some people dressed up like your typical Harry, Ron or Hermione, an occasional Death Eater and quite a few little fat boys and girls striving to be little wizards, witches and even a Sea Captain. Aah, isn't youth grand?
Since I didn't know all too much about this series, I was fortunate enough to sit between two Potter Dorks: my girlfriend and sister JoAnna. Anything that I needed to know or understand they had to fill me in – because apparently as quoted by them: "It definitely helps a lot if you read the novel of Order of the Phoenix – if not, you just might end up becoming lost within the film." Some of that might have to go to blame considering that Order of the Phoenix was one of the largest of the books to be adapted into a film, and yet it has a much shorter running time than its four previous installments. Certain things had to be trimmed out of the script that may or may not create some questions and further plot holes in the final two film adaptations. Also, a new writer, Michael Goldenberg, was brought on to adapt the script and temporarily replaced Steve Kloves who had scripted the first four and already the sixth Potter films and worked closely in conjunction with Potter author J.K. Rowling.
So, whatever I could get out of my Dorky co-pilots I really ended up enjoying the film. Similar to how Transformers was, you will get sucked up into a timeless tale where you will feel young again. Although I feel Potter was far superior in scope, score, story and sequencing of some non-stop magical wizard dueling. The film has an overall dark feeling to it, as I'm sure these films have grown with its audience, their maturity has been growing with these characters. Harry is dealing with nightmares of the frightening Voldemort, visions of his loved ones being hurt and a world that he is being cut off from. The film's musical score is very reminiscent of the great master John Williams, so it has this universal appeal of a timeless story with some quirky magic within it. The special effects were pretty decent (as they normally are in the Potterverse), you can easily feel empathetic to the characters as they struggle through school and the restrictions on their freedoms and it is simple to see parallels to all out "war films" where it's the little under dogs amassing an army to combat evil. But not only does Harry and the crew have to go up against Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters – a new and yet, slightly bubblier on the surface threat has erupted – queen mega bitch: Dolores Umbridge.
Dolores, played by Imelda Staunton, comes off initially to be very concerned from the angle of the Ministry of Magic, its Minister Cornelius Fudge's hopes and prayers that Voldemort hasn't returned, and the actions of Harry Potter in the muggle world (Muggle is a regular human without the capabilities of magic.) Shit really starts to hit the fan over at Hogwarts, so the Ministry ends up sending Dolores to "keep a tight watch." Being a teacher myself, I felt closely connected to this section of the film. Where it is all about the bureaucracy of the educational system that wants you to teach students on how to take a test – not what they'll need to know in the outside world. With Dolores at the helm, teaching children defensive magic is forbidden – and instead, they should just know the implicated theories of magic (by utilizing much quite time and note taking) in order to pass their standardized test the O.W.L's (Ordinary Wizarding Level). When they do things she doesn't approve, she passes another rule that if broken, the students could be expelled – or she will have a private conversation with them that brings a new meaning to "write something over and over until it sinks in." In this way, you write a phrase with a magical quill tipped pen on paper, but the message becomes carved into your hand. Her methods are radical and sadistic, and even though she is bubbly, clad in pink and loves kitties – she is definitely the most hated villain in this story.
So we got the main scope of the film and an introduction to a new great villain that just gets you SO pissed off and engrossed in the world of the Potter kids. So here is the basic plot of the film in a nut shell: Harry does magic in the outside world to protect himself and his cousin from some Dementors. Image:Dementor Prisoner of Azkaban.jpgThe Ministry of Magic finds this out so they threaten to expel Harry from Hogwarts for using magic in the outside world. Albus Dumbledore stands up for Harry in his defense on his "expulsion hearing" where Dumbledore and Harry both plead to the Ministry of Magic that Voldemort has returned. The Ministry, in particular it's Minister Cornelius Fudge, believe the two are just lying so that Dumbledore could take over his seat as the head of the Ministry. Harry ends up getting cleared of such charges, but instead Fudge decides to instill his right-hand woman Dolores Umbridge as a spy, and the new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher and to make sure that magic is properly instructed at Hogwarts.
At this point, I could totally see the parallels of some of our educational systems: If you begin to show lots of low test scores and everything is failing – the state and government will take it over. And I feel that is what begins to happen with this film. The Ministry of Magic begins to take over Hogwarts with laws, audits and how Dolores continues to climb a ladder of success in the school and with each run, she achieves more power and more followers. A nice little montage showcases a lot of this, as Dolores tidies up the joint, permits boys and girls from being no more than eight inches closer to one another, and most importantly – no student should learn how to practice magic. Hell she even ends up firing anyone that she deems unnecessary for the cause of being a proper teacher over at Hogwarts and questions the very awesome Severus Snape.
Alan Rickman (who plays Snape Plissken……tee-hee) I feel is one of the finest actors in the series. You will probably recall him as Hans Gruber from Die Hard, the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or Metatron in Kevin Smith's Dogma.
He is very stern and it is hard to see his true intentions or what he is really thinking throughout the series. I understand that within the seventh and final book, some true exposure is going to happen to his character to find out what he is really all about. His character is a former traitor to the magic cause and primarily responsible for the deaths of Harry's parents. But in the film whenever he is questioned by the tight ass Umbridge, he just stares off into space with a cold exterior and emotionless. And yet, he pulls it off ever so cool and even slaps Ron in the back of the head with a potions book when Ron giggles at him. There could definitely be some tension between the Snape character and Umbridge, since she just finally got the one job he has been striving to get for years. But in the end, Snape is secretly an unknown double agent for Dumbledore and helps bring the cavalry to the rescue. Unfortunately, we never really get to see him in action, and even learn a bit of his sympathetic past. But it is the mystery that surrounds him that puts him in the realm of a Boba Fett of the Dark Arts for me.
Okay, I'm done with that lil' tirade now. So back into the film, Umbridge makes school definitely not enjoyable at Hogwarts. Harry is constantly trying to convince others that Voldemort has returned but it takes a very long time before he begins to get people on his side. A revolution begins to erupt within the school as the kids commit acts of Guerrilla education and end up secretly teaching one another Defense against the Dark Arts and enlist themselves as Dumbledore's Army, who along with the secret society of The Order of the Phoenix will be able to combat Voldemort and his henchmen of the Death Eaters. I really began to enjoy this part of the story because the turn of the events just seemed some fun, hokey and comic booky that I tried to put these characters into the shoes of the super heroes that I came to know and love and that I could feel a lot more connected to.
I saw Dumbledore's Army as the X-men. They had a secret little room with an android like wizard that they discovered within Hogwarts that allowed them to enter and commit their training without anyone knowing. To me, I called this training room, The Danger Room and the school became Xavier's school for the gifted and handicapped (isn't that really what it's called?) To combat their secrecy, Umbridge (who within this Marvel parallel could now be perhaps Senator Kelly) gains more power until she pretty much controls Hogwarts and Dumbledore is accused of treason against the ministry. He flies outta there in the form of a Phoenix like Merlin does in Disney's Sword in the Stone, "BLOW ME TO BERMUDA!" Rumors continue to go around that the students are training in their Danger room, so Umbridge deputizes the finest of assholes from the Slytherin house (like that lil' prick Malfoy) and they become her Sentinels.
During this time, more and more wizards and witches are getting rallied to one large amassing battle of magic to be called The Second War. Even though this War doesn't officially start until the very end of the film when Cornelius Fudge finally sees that Voldemort has returned, every wizard and witch is striving to obtain allies and make deals for the forthcoming battle. So first off you got the Order of the Phoenix, the pre-existing generation of Wizards and Witches (kinda like the Justice Society of America within the Potterverse) that included (at one time or another) Dumbledore as the Commander, Mad Eye Moody, McGongagall, Lupin, Tonks and the Weasley family. They all shacked up in Sirius Black's home where they conducted their meetings and tried to figure out on how to stop Voldemort from returning.
Voldemort and his Death Eaters are like the Secret Society of Super Villains. They were around for the first war and now they are in it to not only fully extinguish the good magic in the world, the half bloods but also they need to obtain something they never had before – a crystal ball that holds the prophecy for Harry and Voldemort's future. Since many of them were either destroyed or imprisoned from the last war, Voldemort is doing what he can to bust his old crew out of the super jail ( like Gotham's Blackgate Penitentiary) Azkaban. In particular, he busts out the very evil and sexy and the only female Death Eater – Bellatrix Lestrange (who you can see naked if you watch Fight Club J ). So, the Death Eaters are able to commit a massive breakout from Azkaban as they get the Dementors on their side. Lestrange commits a maniacal laugh and busts out and they continue to gather other alliances – such with the Giants.
While sides are being chosen, the Ministry of Magic (perhaps an analogy to them would be an extreme policing force of all things magical
– perhaps the Guardians of the Universe) is caught in the middle of it all, and are insistent that "he whose name can't be uttered" has returned. The main leader of that is Umbridge who eventually holds a firm grip over the entire school until she is carried away by those fugly half-bloods, the Centaurs. There is a small sub plot that you hear going on somewhere along the mutterings of the Ministry and passing by headlines of the animated wizard newspaper The Prophet. Apparently, there are some border disputes about where the Centaurs can migrate to as instated by the Ministry. Also, even though it is not seen in the film, one of the Centaurs, Firenze becomes the new Divination teacher once Sybil Trelaweny is fired by Umbridge for showcasing waaay too much incompetence.
Within the Ministry of Magic's HQ, one can find the Department of Mysteries that holds a crystal ball with a prophecy that Trelaweny fulfilled just prior to Harry's birth that basically states that one shall stand and one shall fall. After the Centaurs are able to get Umbridge out of the way, Harry and his X-men army are able to fly on out to the Department of Mysteries and retrieve the prophecy before it falls into the wrong hands. Although many people feel that Voldemort needs Harry to retrieve the prophetic orb and he is torturing his godfather Sirius Black in order to get what he wants. Harry doesn't care what is at stake, since his God father is the only family he has left, and so he and his D.A. crew (Dumbledore's Army) go to retrieve the ball.
Although the room and action sequences depicted in the book are much trimmed down and not as magical, I still found the climatic battle sequences very enjoyable. I don't want to TOTALLY ruin the ending for you, but the ending scenes showcase some great magical special effects, Voldemort controls Harry (which showcases some trippy and frightening editing) and Voldemort and his lil sexy Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrage are the only two to escape just in time for Fudge to witness the Dark Lord has returned. At this point, Fudge needs to confess to the world that Voldemort has returned, and in doing so, loses his seat as the head minister since he allowed so many deaths and mishaps as he fucked up. The emotional charge of the film falls short at the very end, but it keeps you on the edge of your seat dying to see what will happen next. I felt like the film ended on a dark note, similar to The Empire Strikes Back, where you are left with a grim ending and you know that it is only going to get darker and worse as this Second War goes into full effect and Voldemort strives to rule the world and rid it of the impure bloodline of wizardry and the Muggles.